Meow argh

January 31, 2008

Stray, by Rachel Vincent

Stray, by Rachel Vincent.

‘Straying’ ever deeper into bit-lit territory, we have this 600+ page first novel from Ms Vincent which, despite its size, was a very fast read and a rattlin’ good’un too. I must confess that this one spoke to me, yea verily it compelled me on Amazon, and when its claws were sufficiently embedded I could do naught else but buy it. And I’m happy I did. I like cats.

Stray is the story of Faythe, a female werecat in a world that’s refreshingly free (thus far in the series, anyway) of other were-creatures or supernatural phenomena. Female werecats are apparently quite rare and thus much prized by the various Prides throughout the world which are differentiated as either the more civilized Western-styled Prides or the animalistic jungle-cat South American versions.

Faythe is trying to make a point, breaking away from her rather domineering Pride structure and family to try and make a life for herself rather than just becoming a breeding tabby: she’s at college and attempting to control her own destiny, but things don’t go according to plan when a jungle cat interloper shows up and tries to abduct her. The story roars on from there through cat/Pride politics, romance (hey, it’s bit-lit after all, just in fresher colours) and some very nasty, gruesomely described serial killer elements merging into parallels with white slavery and auctioning.

For a first novel it’s rather polished, the first hundred pages being the most awkward: Vincent settles into a groove from there on in and it sprints towards a rather graphic conclusion (cat justice is a bit like watching your own cat summarily deal justice to an evil rat that’s trespassed in its domain: you’ve all seen it, and it isn’t pretty, especially when it’s enormous black cats dealing selfsame justice to human-types). I quite happily found Faythe’s voice compelling and empathetic, and was cheering along inside when, at one point, she turned the tables on her really rather horrible kidnappers using a mixture of human guile and feline… appetites.

Well worth it, this one. Looking forward to the sequel, Rogue. I just hope she doesn’t overly expand her universe and throw in all sorts of other random supernatural creatures. The cats, their social hierarchies, loves and quirks all, are fascinating enough.

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