Reserved for the Cat
An Elemental Masters Novel
Daw Books, 2007
Ninette, a young dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet is let go for being too good and upstaging the company’s star dancer. Destitute in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris could only mean prostitution for unless she can go to work for another dance company. Unfortunately she is unable to find work, so having nothing else to lose, she follows the instructions of the tabby cat she has been looking after. The cat, Thomas, is able to communicate with her through thoughts and guides her to Blackpool, England where, through a series of magical events, hard work and a bit of lying, she becomes known as the Russian prima ballerina, Nina Tchereslavsky. Unluckily for her and the magicians (aka Elemental Masters) she attracts the attention of the real Nina Tchereslavsky, who comes after Ninette with a pure evil vengeance.
This book has a lot going for it – sympathetic protagonist, talkative cat, handsome magicians all around and a thoroughly evil enemy. So I thought I would love it – but I didn’t. It feels as if the book—the story–,wants to be special, wants to be amazing and wants to be outstanding but doesn’t quite meet the mark. I’m not quite sure why – maybe it’s all the extraneous detail of some characters and virtually no detail in others. Maybe because the villain tries too hard to be evil. Maybe it’s the magicians, supposedly masters of their craft, are duped by the evil all the way through the book and spend most of the time talking about how they’re going to get the villain without ever having actually doing it. Maybe when the magicians perform their magic, the reader is in another room with Ninette for her own safety. And maybe it’s when Ninette actually defeats the evil – with virtually no help from the magicians, she gives all the credit to Thomas the Cat, because, “What knight in shining armor likes to turn up to discover the princess has rescued herself and slain the dragon?” That really bugs me. I could understand that statement if the book was published in 1957 but it was published in 2007, for goodness sake!!
Anyway, I really want to give the book a rating of 2 out of 5 daisies, but it wasn’t that bad. The story was a good one, and the author did try. Instead, I’m giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 daisies. Middle-of-the-road score for a middle-of-the-road book.