Reserved for the Cat is another one of Mercedes Lackey‘s send ups of old fairy tales, still predictable and still entertaining. It’s a fine retooling of Puss in Boots, but as with all of the other Elemental Masters stories you can’t expect too much in the way of surprises. Well, that’s not quite true: it does diverge from the original story to offer the heroine a more decisive place in the final climax, but I’ve come to expect that from Lackey’s reworked fairy tales and can’t really count it as a surprise.
I doubt that Reserved for the Cat will win any particular awards, but if you’ve enjoyed the other entries in the series I expect that you’ll like this one too. In fact, you’ll probably like it more than some of the others; unlike in Shadow of the Serpent, the heroine here actually has a chance to take care of her own problems. And unlike the original Puss in Boots, the cat here creates nearly as much trouble as he solves and has to deal with the problems his own overconfidence has created. I find that altogether more satisfying than the alternative.
My thoughts on the book’s high notes after the break.
First of all, I’m generally inclined to approve of books in Lackey’s Elemental Masters series due to her pronounced focus on heroines. Some of her books do a better job of this than others, but Reserved for the Cat does offer an opportunity for the heroine to shine towards the end in a way that I find quite satisfying. Telling would be spoiler-iffic, but simply put I rather like how resilient and capable Ninette turns out to be. A little more on that later.
Lackey’s persistent use of the Elemental Masters series to address women’s experience of life in the early 1900’s is another mark in her favor. It’s not comfortable reading about a heroine’s struggle to find a way to make ends meet that doesn’t involve subjugating herself to the rule of often abusive men, but then again it shouldn’t be. And I’m glad for the reminder both of how far we’ve come and of the dangers of idealizing the past. There’s more here to appreciate, but I’ll leave it at that for the moment.
More specific to this book, I was totally won over by the hilariously smug characterization of the titular cat. I live with three cats and grew up with three others, so the perpetually self-satisfied and otherwise cocky personality of the cat is something that spoke quite convincingly to me. The fact that his cockiness results in a well-intentioned web of lies which the heroine must carefully navigate, and eventually lands himself in extreme danger, only adds a certain special cattish appeal to the character. There’s nothing quite like seeing a supremely confident character finally realize that they may be in a little bit over their head.
Speaking of which, how about some *SPOILERS*?
Ok, this isn’t quite a direct follow-up, but I swear it’s related. I found it extremely satisfying to have Ninette end up saving Thomas the cat by blowing away the troll with her revolver. It’s a nice twist on the usual end of Puss in Boots, and offered Ninette a chance to surprise both the villain and her erstwhile protector while simultaneously claiming a larger role in the course of the story. Similarly, while I was a little disappointed that the mind-warped mortal tool sub-plot changed direction so abruptly (upon the application of Ninette’s feet to said tool’s rear), I was quite satisfied to see Ninette kick her foe into submission. Perhaps it’s uncouth, but I rather like to read about the person that I’m rooting for thrashing the people that I love to hate. It’s very appealing.
*END OF SPOILERS*
As I’ve mentioned before, this book won’t win any prizes for originality. But Lackey yet again manages to bring easy fun to a predictable story, which I consider to be an accomplishment worth noting. If you’ve enjoyed the other books in the series, you’ll almost certainly like this one as well as it is one of the better entries. If you haven’t, don’t bother.