This was was a book that attracted me from the very start.
Full disclosure : I read an ARC kindly given by Pushkin Press, a publisher that specialises in stories from overseas for children and Young Adults.The cover is arresting and the premise intriguing.
Set in a cityscape in India it was bound to beguile me! Here we behold Fakirs, birds of prey, Tigers,Monkeys and of course the heroes of the piece ,the cats!
The idea of all creatures being connected, but most particularly cats is so attractive.
This is really the story of two kittens trying to create a place for themselves within the hierarchy of the Wildling cats who live in the parks, cemeteries and under bridges by the River.
They are not feral cats(as they love to stress), but free; not curtailed by an indoor life with humans or Bigfeet.
Mara is an Orphan, her mother lost in a fight with Dogs, her powers as a “Sender” ( a kind of mystical security system and telepathic telegraph ) are untapped and unguarded much to the chagrin and despair of all the cats and other creatures in the locality.
Southpaw is a mischievous little kitten whose ability to get into scrapes and danger is prestigious.
Both little Cats are closely supervised, mentored and protected by older cats who are adamant that their way of life be protected and that neither kitten become imprisoned by domesticity or warped into the feral lifestyle that is an ominous threat emanating from the dark dank, evil place they call the Shuttered House.
When the precarious status quo is unbalanced and the Feral cats enter the Wildling Territory their world is tipped into chaos.
Some very deep themes are explored here about the value of Friendship, the pain for parents as children grow up and away, all wrapped in a story that couples the truth of the ferocity of the natural order with the morality of a “merciful killing”
This is not fluffy stuff or childlike in the least, it is mythical and in the best traditions of myths and legends, it has a edge that modern tales for children often lack and the violence and menace in parts is not , I would suggest for small children.
I enjoyed the book immensely as an adult and think older children in the 10 to 14 age bracket are best suited as it’s core audience. Parental supervision might be advised for younger readers, but it will definitely prompt some youthful discussion.
Fans of the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques and the seminal Watership Down will get immense pleasure from this story and I wholeheartedly long to read the next instalment, The deliciously titled:
The Hundred Names of Darkness..