Ninette Dupond is a dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet. Her father disappeared not long after she was born, and her mother has recently died. She is lucky to have a job as a dancer, and even luckier when she gets an opportunity to fill in as the leading dancer in a matinée, after one of the star ballerinas has an accident. Unfortunately for her, she catches the eye of a wealthy older gentleman - who happens to be the patron of the dancer she's momentarily replaced. Despite her good reviews, Ninette finds herself kicked out of the ballet company, alone, with no income, and rent due in three days.
The choices of a woman like Ninette in turn-of-the-century France are few - and when the Folies Bergere and the Moulin Rouge reject her, she becomes desperate. So desperate, in fact, that when the tomcat who's been hanging around her apartment and neighborhood as long as she can remember suddenly speaks to her, right into her mind, she listens to him. She follows his advice because he offers her an alternative to the inevitable fate of prostitution that is all that stands between her and eventual starvation. He offers her money - a purse of coins he's "found" - and a plan: to go to England, impersonating a Russian prima ballerina, and find work in the town of Blackpool. Nina agrees (not without misgivings) and sets off for her new life.
Nina doesn't know that the cat is an Elemental Spirit sent by her father, an Elemental Wizard, before he died. And she doesn't know that her innocent deception has set into motion a destructive force bent on her demise...
Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters novels are always to be counted upon for an enjoyable, gripping read with interesting settings, well-developed characters, and unexpected plot twists. Her writing style tends to be straightforward, and this series is not overly complex and would definitely appeal to teens branching out from YA to adult books. I find it particularly interesting to see the creative ways in which Lackey adapts each particular fairy tale to her retelling. This one, obviously, is based on Puss in Boots, but - as with the others in the series - it is a very loose adaptation. It is not strictly necessary to read the series in order - the books all stand alone - and I think I enjoyed the more recent ones more than the earlier books.
Books in the Elemental Masters series:
1. The Fire Rose (Beauty and the Beast)
2. The Serpent's Shadow (Snow White)
3. The Gates of Sleep (Sleeping Beauty)
4. Phoenix and Ashes (Cinderella)
5. The Wizard of London (The Snow Queen)
6. Reserved for the Cat (Puss in Boots)
Reserved for the Cat (#6 in the Elemental Masters series) by Mercedes Lackey (DAW Books, 2007)
Also reviewed at:
Fantasy Book Blog