by ANNA FARGHER
An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Literary Cat ©
Hello, and welcome to my Thursday Book Review featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction!
One of the many joys of this blog, in fact the main joy, is sharing adventures and things that we like and read. When it comes to books, there are so many fine examples out there, it is incredibly hard to choose what to read first. In fact the palace bookshelves are rapidly filling up and I am thinking I may have to comandeer the fridge for Mrs H’s collection of spine tingling chillers, sorry, thrillers!
Just this week Mrs H sent me 3 new books to read. These are by David Michie, the famed author assistant to the the Dalai Lama’s cat, respectfully announced as HHC (His Holiness’s Cat). I have duly set to reading these fine accounts and can honestly say they are highly amusing, and quite insightful as to Buddhism and how it affects our everyday feline (and human) lives. So, if you can hear Buddhist monks chanting in the palace grounds, you’d be right, as I’ve got them in to improve the soil karma and productivity of the rose beds!
But it was the fourth books title, sent to her courtesy of Macmillan Childrens Books, that just called out to my sense of history as well as adventure and wrongs being righted. We have read the other two books by this author, which naturally piqued our interest because they feature a very plucky mouse character who takes on the German army during WWII. That is a massive simplification of those fine stories and I do recommend them to you. But today we focus on time in London’s past that we never really thought much about bar the fact that there was a lot of property in need of renovation!
So, without further ado, it is our pleasure to present, The Fire Cats of London by the hugely talented Anna Fargher!
The Fire Cats of London, by Anna Fargher
Artwork by: Sam Usher
Published by: MaMillans Childrens Books
Publication date: 7 JULY 2022
Paperback ISBN: 978 1529 046 878
Cover price for Paperback £7.99 Available on Kindle.
Age range: Middle Grade (8-12 AND upwards) Do NOTE my comment at end of review.
Any dogs or cats? Lead characters are wonderful wild cats. An antagonist is a British Blue cat. Many other talking creatures play key parts in this story too.
Yes. We have given basic plot outline and it is necessary to mention some aspects of the plot. See also my cautionary note at end of this review.
We were lucky enough to be approved by Macmillan Childrens Books to review this book for you, via NetGalley.
It is England, 1666. Two wildcat siblings, Ash and his sister Asta, live on the edge of a woods on the outskirts of London. One day, when no more than kittens, they are torn from their mother’s side by huntsmen. Carted off with other animals, they are sold to London apothecary Mad Rather. He plans to keep them alive and take blood and whiskers to make his saleable remedies.
Rathder’s cat, Beauty, a British Blue cat, sets about persuading the wildcats that they are better off as captives than loose in the wood where they would likely be killed. Ash succumbs to Beauty’s wicked wiles, but Asta doesn’t and remains antagonistic to the apothecary and his cat. Time passes, and when Asta fails to be tamed, only one course of action is open to Rathder and his horrid business partner, Moore. In debt and needing money, they send her to the city’s Bartholomew Fair and the baiting arena. Like so many wild animals, big and small before her, it likely means certain death!
One beacon of hope is Miriam, a Dutch widow who is also an astrologer and herbal medicine practitioner. She knows of Asta’s and Ash’s plight but is reviled by Rathder and Moore because she does them out of business and is a foreigner. She also tries to rescue animals from the arena.
I can’t say much more than this, but suffice to say that the story weaves its way skillfully through the events up to and during the Great Fire of London.
So, what did we think?
Anna Fargher’s adventures always have a great sense of place, time and emotion. This is no exception. Gritty, shocking, and yet wonderfully steeped in the sense of the people, prejudices and place. The story is as addictive as it is eye-opening, saddening and hopeful. It will open a window onto a life long lost to time. Here they will read and see the chaos of the fire of London wrapped around the characters’ plight and adventure from beginning to end.
The artwork for this story, which appears throughout, is terrific and fun. I think it certainly adds to the whole feel and acts to temper the story for the younger reader.
I MUST ADD that we have deliberately not mentioned the beginning scenes. As I have said, Anna’s books are gritty. The underlying subjects make them so. While the subject matter, the key moment within this book’s opening chapter is dealt with from afar and without glorification, such was my instant and genuine involvement and attachment to one character in the opening pages, I was stunned at what happened and had to put the book down. It took me quite a while to get over the shock/upset. Sensitive younger readers may well, therefore, need some help with this.
So . . . .
I am a sensitive reader myself, I admit it. But, I can appreciate that this is an excellent, powerful, well-framed and pitched book that will please readers.
Based on true accounts, this will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Anna’s ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ series. Comparable authors might be Michael Morpurgo and Emma Carroll.
A 5 Star book and recommended as advised above.
Want to buy a copy?
To get a copy, please do scorch a metaphorical trail only down to your local independent bookshop.
There are plenty out there, and each is just waiting to serve up a treasure of literal magical resource, fun and adventure with a personal touch.
If any authors or publishers wish us to review their books, please do get in touch. Details are listed on our book review page.
I shall leave you with a picture of me checking if the stripes on the sofa really do make a girl look slim. . . .