Friday, June 27, 2008

A cat with a hidden agenda

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

8 comments:

  1. Oh. My! I absolutely loved the first three books in this series! I read them when they first came out and haven't read any Lackey in a long time so I didn't even realize there were more . This one sounds great!

    Everytime I see someone review a Lackey I keep thinking I've *got* to start reading her again.

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  2. I know what you mean - I went back to reading her books after a bit of a hiatus. Part of it was all those different collaborations and series - I just couldn't keep up with them all and didn't know where to start. But when I do read her books, I always enjoy them. I know you'll like this one!

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  3. I really need to try this series. I've only read one of Lackey's books, and while I enjoyed the story and liked the characters, I found her writing a bit too romance-ish. But that was just one book, and you said it's straightforward, which sounds fine by me. One more for the wishlist!

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  4. That's it. I'm going to have to start this series. I have The Fire Rose here, and I guess I'm just going to have to start!!

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  5. Nymeth - Which book was it that you read? I do think you'd enjoy this series, particularly with the fairy-tale twist.

    Stephanie - it's sitting right there? What are you waiting for? :-) I'll be curious to see what you think of it.

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  6. Darla, it was "The Black Swan", a retelling of Swan Lake. I really did enjoy the story a lot, but the writing took some getting used to.

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  7. hmm. fantasy novels based on fairy tales. that sounds really cool.

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  8. Nymeth - I don't think I ever read that one. Was it as tragic as the ballet story?

    Molly - this is the book I was talking about the other night, the one I think Virginia Gal would enjoy. Although the romance isn't as fully developed as she'd prefer, I think.

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