The Tygrine Cat

Title: The Tygrine Cat

Author: Inbali Iserles

Mati is still a young cat when his mother sends him away, hiding him on a ship that takes him to lands far from the ones he knows. She wants to protect him from the evil about to swallow up her life. As for Mati, he finds himself in a strange new land, with cats that distrust him. He wants to be accepted among them, but he needs to learn how to live as they do. And all the while, his mother’s killers are getting closer . . .

This book failed to capture me. Although I liked the premise, the execution was bland. There was the initial oddity of Mati introducing himself as having an agouti coat (which is not a word I expected to see, and it’s an odd thing to have to look up). Then the cats don’t feel like cats as much as people, such as having a ruling tom who is worried about the other cat’s opinions of him when he supposedly killed the previous tom to become the ruler. But even as people they’re off in subtle ways. Mati is rejected as long as it’s convenient for the plot to reject him, and when he manages not to get killed at the end suddenly everyone loves him, even the grouchy snotty cats.

I also disliked how Mati managed more heroism when he jumped into a flooding river to save another cat than at the climax of the book. He faces down his mother’s assassin with little more than a cute realization of his breed and his breed’s duties. And somehow that wins. There’s no sense that he earned what he got at the finish, because it felt more like he accidentally stumbled into it. The plot wasn’t about him looking for his own identity, it was more about him trying to live with others. Even the realization of what he is doesn’t follow up with a sense of responsibility for what he has to do (and as far as the plot is concerned, all he has to do is stay alive).

So, the focus felt muddled. Mati more or less drifts through life until someone tries to kill him, and then he wins almost by default. I never felt the stakes. I never felt, either, the essential cat-ness of the characters. All in all it wasn’t a terrible book, but not one I’m likely to remember. I rate this book Neutral.

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