Soul of Kandrith by Nicole Luiken (http://nicoleluiken.com/)
One of Typing Slave’s writer friends seemed to think I’d purr over her fantasy romance Soul of Kandrith since it had more feline action than other stories I’ve reviewed. The author, Nicole Luiken Humphrey, kindly warned me the primary plot revolves around humans, Lance and Sara, but a secondary plot involves an oversized human-turned-cat (aka cat shandy) critter named Rhiain.
SoK is the second book about these characters. Typing Slave had no trouble picking this one up without having read the first (Gate to Kandrith), for those of you who worry about that sort of thing. The human Sara gave up her brain or something in order to do a spoilery thing in the first book. Lance feels responsible, like humans do. I mean, Sara seems like the kind of two-legger who wouldn’t even remember to feed the cat! She’s baggage, right? Apparently she wasn’t like that in the first book, when she and Lance got romancey, so I guess Lance isn’t a total sucker. Now Lance has to take her to the Wizard in Oz to get her brain back while defeating not just a witch and her flying monkeys but a land of militant and ass-backward two-leggers bent on destroying the country Lance comes from (Kandrith—which I didn’t know was close to Oz, but hey, I can’t read maps).
With me so far? We got Lance and braindead Sara, stumbling around in a forest in a daze after the events of the first book. This story picks up when Lance hears a “mew” of a four-legger in pain. Literally picks up — the first line.
Right off, you’ve either hooked me as a reader or pissed me off, depending on what you mean by a “mew”. Because there are meows, mews, rowrs, mewwww, miaows, grrrrs, snarls, miaws, mows, mirrrs, mrups, mahs, and all sorts of other clever feline utterances humans are generally too dense to understand. Each means a different thing, although we cats use them flexibly to ensure the humans remain too dense to understand. Otherwise they might figure out our plot to mrrrow mirr pirr purr rrr miawrow. See? You totally don’t know what I said there, do you? And our plot will continue undisturbed.
Anyway, Lance is ill and wants to lay in the bathroom floor like a rug whereupon a cat will promptly climb onto his ailing stomach or hack a hairball outside the bathroom door, forcing him to clean it or step in it, one. Either is hilarious to do to a sick human. Anyway, he’s sick due to the downside to his healing ability–he can heal with magic, but he’s always unhealthy because of it. He keeps hearing this animal cry for help and decides he can’t do squat about it because he’s so pitiful. Boo hoo. He thinks “it sounds like a cat being strangled.”
We’re only on the second screen of Typing Slave’s reading app, and I’m thinking, “How does this dude KNOW what a cat being strangled sounds like? Does he go around strangling a lot of cats?” I’m starting to be suspicious of the main character though he claims he’d prefer to help this so-called animal in pain. Is that really how you want readers to react? It’s not like it would amuse a CANINE audience because dogs can’t read. So you don’t have to cater to the mutts. CATER has CAT in it for a reason. Get with the program.
As if the author heard my directive, Lance does indeed haul his whiny ass to track the injured animal when he realizes the yowling is the shandy I mentioned, Rhiain. Lance and Sara end up healing Rhiain, getting into some adventures with a bad human, and returning with the baddie in tow to Lance’s home in Kandrith, which is a secret walled off country a bit like the Forbidden Zone at my house, aka the attic. I’m not allowed to go there. I’m pretty convinced there’s magical deliciousness inside, else why would the humans be so dead set on keeping me out? Kandrith is clearly awesome, and I hate that Lance gets to go there and I don’t. Jerk.
In Kandrith, decisions are made (nice in passive tense!) that result in Lance, Sara and others undertaking a mission to protect the country. While the humans are mucking around in a style my human says is reminiscent of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, in particular books 1 and 2, Rhiain is having adventures of her own.
Adventures in stupid.
See, she turned shandy when she was a young and dumb two-legger, and apparently the transformation INTO a giant cat doesn’t magically give shandies the high IQ of a cat. Rhiain is rightfully upset most shandies are wolves—the author does imbue R’s disdain and disappointment with very believable outrage—but she pulls a couple dog-brained stunts that often wind up with her being in trouble or making trouble. Might as WELL have been a wolf shandy, eh, you giant hairball? She gets obsessed with a two-legger readers will see from a mile off is… Well, I don’t want to spoil anything because my human liked this book and I’m trying to humor her, but I’ll remind you Rhiain doesn’t have a real cat’s IQ and leave it at that.
If you’re obsessed with…certain things, my cat friends, find yourself a brown, fuzzy blanket. Like Big D does at my house. That fatty is what humans call “neutered” and still they have to watch out for him and that damn blanket.
Now for a grade. I didn’t need to do a word frequency count on this book since it did have a feline secondary character and cat shandies were represented as superior to wolf shandies. It was nice that I didn’t have to resort to such contortions to explain what a horrific insult to catkind the story was. (Though it is a bonus that the word “dog” only appears 7 times!) This earns the author some points. But making the cat shandy have a dog-brain and giving me such doubts about the two-legger in the beginning? Weak. Very weak.
I give this book a 2 am yowling session for the positive and a trip to the vet that doesn’t result in an overnight visit for the negative.