Review of RESERVED FOR THE CAT by Mercedes Lackey (see her website)
THE ELEMENTAL MASTERS BOOK FIVE
DAW, November 2007
Ninette Dupond isn't a star, but she's good at her ballet--good enough to make the Paris Ballet. She intends to parlay her skill into a comfortable fortune, earned from older men who love having a dancer on their arms--and in their bed. An accident on the part of the ballet's star seems to be Ninette's big chance--but instead, jealousy gets her fired, with no chance for a job elsewhere. That's when a mysterious talking cat shows up, convinces her to take a chance on him, and persuades her to move to England where she is to impersonate a famous Russian ballet star--and become a success with a variety act.
The cat's ideas work like a charm. Best of all, she's 'rescued' by a pair of elemental mages--men who don't mind the idea of a talking cat and who just happen to be in the theater business. Unfortunately, the cat didn't plan on the real Russian star getting word of the impersonation, taking offense, coming to England to track Ninette down, or, most especially, being such a powerful mage that neither the cat nor her Ninette's new friends can stand against him.
Author Mercedes Lackey (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Lackey) does a wonderful job describing the life of a dancer in early twentieth-century Europe. The glitter and the filth both come out well, and Ninette makes a charming character. Retelling the puss-in-boots story sounds farfetched, and naming the cat 'Thomas' is a bit much, but the character of Ninette makes it work.
For me, Lackey's digressions on the theater, poorhouses, and orphanages added to the story, helping paint a picture of England at the height of Empire, yet stricken with its class consciousness and the extreme poverty that paralleled extreme wealth.
I would have liked to see a bit more motivation for the real Russian dancer's anger and willingness to give up everything she had in Russia to track Ninette down. And the middle of the book slowed down a bit as Ninette's new friends followed various leads in their attempt to track down the mysterious force attempting to destroy their theater and Ninette. And even a confirmed cat-lover like me got a bit overwhelmed by wonderful catness.
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