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HOUSE OF CATS

I’m a dog person

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Sep 20, 2011: "House of Cats" has an interesting premise—there are cats who can magically transform into humans. If they use cats-bane herbs they can avoid turning back into cats.

Heather has been human for twenty-five years and avoids returning to cat society. Her friend Carlisle comes to get her because her mother, the Queen of Cats, has died and she must take her throne.

My biggest gripe with this interesting idea is in the way its executed. The story seems to be in a rush, and so I never feel rooted in the narrative or the world it’s creating. The ideas are good, but the details are glossed over, to the story’s detriment. The Queen has been dead eight years, and yet only now does Carlisle come looking for Heather. There’s no real indication of why now, or how he tracked her down after so long.

And once questions like that arise, there are more that follow: why do these cats have human names? It mentions "cat speak" and translates one phrase "have a nice day at work—which a cat would call ‘hunting or marking territory’" and then leaves the idea alone. I think it would be almost more interesting to see the cats discuss things in cat speak when in cat form, and develop entire conversations in a comprehensible but entertaining way, intead of just skipping past it for convenience.

Carlisle turns human just long enough to destroy Heather’s cats-bane so she’s forced to come home as a cat, and she howls about her lost human life—but we’re shown so little about it’s not like I can sympathize with the loss or the betrayal, when clearly she’s abandoned and betrayed her own people. And why she left isn’t clear, so I start wondering if this story started at the right point.

Overall, the concept is fascinating, and yet the way the story is structured impedes its enjoyment. The feeling I get as I read is that the writer wants to skip to the good bits, without realizing that slowing down and developing each bit would make it good. All the ingredients are here for a great story—concept, clear sentences, good description, showing action—yet the tendency to gloss over the details the writer is capable of showing means that what could have been great is instead unsatisfying, kind of like preparing a gourmet meal and then undercooking it.

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