Reserved for the Cat: A Puss in Boots story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsReserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey fantasy audiobook reviewsReserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey

Reserved for the Cat is the sixth stand-alone novel in Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS series of fairytale retellings. As the title might suggest, Reserved for the Cat is a “Puss in Boots” story and it’s actually recognizable as such (unlike some of Lackey’s other retellings that go too far afield from their sources).

Ninette, our heroine, is an orphaned ballet dancer who has lots of talent but is fired from her gig with a famous Parisian ballet company after inadvertently evoking the jealousy of the company’s reigning diva. Unable to get more work in Paris, she is about to prostitute herself when a talking cat appears and promises to make her a superstar. The cat leads her to a seaside town in England where she impersonates a famous Russian dancer and joins a local troupe of entertainers. Things go well until she attracts the attention of the real Russian dancer whose body has been absorbed by a shape-shifting troll.  Her new friends, including the cat, must defeat the troll.

Lackey’s best fairytale retellings are the ones that stay close to the source material. It’s fun to recognize elements from the original fairytales and admire how Lackey re-works them into a new, more modern, story. Reserved for the Cat is fun that way, but the characterization in this novel is weak. Ninette, while she is likable and easy to feel for, doesn’t exhibit much of her own agency. This is, of course, mostly due to the Puss in Boots premise, but it doesn’t make for an engaging heroine. Her personality is as small and delicate as her body. Unfortunately, the people in her supporting cast seem even paler and are nearly interchangeable.

The story includes a couple of Lackey’s over-the-top sadist villains, her usual man-hating cynical commentary about women’s roles in 19th century European societies and the deplorable state of orphanages, some sloppy plotting, and a quick and unsatisfying ending. I have no idea why all of the characters except Ninette are told who the cat actually is. And why, if the villain is such an awesome mage, is it so hard for her to kill Ninette? She’s like a James Bond villain; she keeps constructing these elaborate traps for Ninette instead of just finding and killing her. It wouldn’t be that hard — Ninette is on a public stage every day and the villain is a shapeshifter. Duh. And why are Ninette’s own powers inconsistent, random, and convenient? And why is the magic system never consistent among the ELEMENTAL MASTERS books? Oh well. I did like the cat.

The audio version of Reserved for the Cat is 11 hours long and nicely narrated by Mirabai Galashan.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Oh, what a disappointment. That is such a great title!

  2. This was my least favorite of the series. But I keep reading them. There are a couple anthologies with other authors writing in this world that are worth reading.

    • I keep reading them, too, Sarah. Despite the obvious problems, they’re still entertaining in a fluffy way, and I like that they’re stand-alones. I’d be interested in knowing about the anthologies.

      • One is Elementary and the other is Elemental Magic. Like most anthologies of this type, it was hit and miss. I don’t read this type of book cover to cover in one sitting, I just keep them around for times when I need a short read.

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