It’s no surprise to anyone that I loved a book that stars cats and only cats. This novel is literally a crazy cat lady’s dream come true, and even better is the fact it’s a series. It wasn’t what I expected though; the cover made it seem as though it would be a literary walk through India on the back of a bunch of cats with lots of thought-provoking metaphors — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a fantasy novel. It’s like Lord of the Rings, but instead of hobbits and dwarves, there are all kinds of cats; feral cats, indoor cats, tigers at the zoo, rambunctious kittens, and battle weary hunters with their tails all scarred up.
It’s a story of an inevitable war between different kinds of cats, and they all communicate through their whiskers. Some can even transport themselves (image only) to different places by “linking” through their whiskers. And like any good fantasy novel, there is even a map at the beginning of the book so the reader can situate themselves within this new land. Humans do make brief appearances, but they are known as “Bigfeet”, and all animals can communicate in a language called “Junglee.” Also of note are the cat names. We may call our pets ridiculous things such as “Fluffy” but in this book they have regal names such as “Datura,” “Southpaw,” and “Aconite”. Clearly, we have been getting this naming thing all wrong as humans. It makes me wonder what Pearl and Smokey call each other when I’m not around… (¡PSST! Pearl and Smokey are Anne’s cats!)
There are a few main cat characters, and they are constructed as thoroughly as any human character would be. As I was reading, I came to prefer certain cats over others based on their behaviour; yet the kittens remained my favourite. The author is clearly a cat person because she lovingly details their unique nuances (like washing each other) frequently, and ascribes each action a specific emotion, which was a fun way to read the book. For instance, when the cats have their eyes closed but are moving in their sleep, Roy attributes this to their “linking” with each other. This is a fun idea to think about as cats nap.
There are a few cat fights (no pun intended) scattered throughout the book and many detail the honourable way cats are taught to kill their prey. The circle of life is readily apparent in this world and has generally made me feel less guilty about not being a vegetarian. The story then ends with an epic battle which leaves an obvious opening for the sequel The Hundred Names of Darkness. I’m going to be snapping up that book as soon as my Holiday reading is done.
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¡PSST! About The AuthorNilanjana S Roy is the author of two novels, The Wildings (2012) and The Hundred Names of Darkness (2013), and a collection of essays on reading, The Girl Who Ate Books (2016). The Wildings won the 2012 Shakti Bhatt First Book Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and the Tata First Book Prize. She writes a weekly column for the Financial Times’ Life & Arts section.
¡PSST! © 2016 Anne Logan of I’ve Read This. Repost © 2016 The Black Lion Journal. A Contributor Submission Shared With Permission. Visit The Submissions page to learn about submitting to individual sections or to The Wire’s Dream. P.S. Use the social media links below to share with others.