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January 5, 2016

Book Review || The Cats of Seroster by Robert Westall

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Robert Westall is known for his novels revolving around cats as some of the main characters. I have read his acclaimed ‘Blitzcat’, which I enjoyed, so expected even more from a novel that fits into my taste for fantasy and adventure and also has cats in a starring role.

The novel starts off interesting and excitingly enough: an unnamed city set in medieval France sits silent and safe on a cliff until its Duke is assassinated. The Duke’s family pet is a large, golden cat, which is really a special kind of cat - a Miw - that has psychic powers and happens to be the queen of these kinds of cats. She helps the Duke’s son kill the assassin and escape, and decides to take a hand in rescuing the city from the usurpers. In order to do so, a mythical being needs to be summoned: a friend and defender of cats, the Seroster. Luckily, the man who is to become the Seroster is already on his way, having come into contact with a magical knife that always hits its target, has a thirst for blood, and bears a strange magnetic attraction to the man meant to be the Seroster, meaning Cam cannot escape from the knife, nor from his destiny as the Seroster. 

Throughout the story, the Miw aid their less powerful Brethren, who are being relentlessly tortured and killed in the city because Small Paul dislikes them so and aid their human consorts and friends of cats in reclaiming their city with the aid of the Seroster.

It is a very ambitious story. The Miw are intriguing and so is their representation as an ancient sect of cats that hark from Egypt who worship the Sun God and Cat Goddess. I like the idea that they’ve had a part in the doings of humanity and made right the wrongs against their own kind, recognising the kindness of those who love them and standing up for them. They are also unusually represented as being loyal to a fault, with many giving their lives in aid of rescuing their loved ones or aiding the Seroster. I read a criticism of their manner of speaking, but I applaud Westall’s representation of their language and see it instead as an attempt at translating into English how cats communicate with each other through ideas and images.

I also liked the creation, purpose and destiny of the Seroster as an immortal energy that is summoned when needed. Cam’s battle to be himself instead of the Seroster is convincing, and this battle between fate and choice is one I enjoy thinking about.

However, I feel that somewhere along the line, the intricacies of the politics and the plot became all too much to take in. The last quarter of the novel seemed to be filled with a mash of plot-lines and intrigue and the reader was required to fill in a lot of empty gaps with assumptions and guesses to make the story work. I get the feeling that at this stage in the book, too many ideas came together to create chaos instead of climax.

Regardless, if you enjoy political intrigue, battles, destiny, and cats, and don’t mind clearing your schedule to really concentrate on some of the parts of the book, I think you will enjoy the story.

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