Mercedes Lackey’s Reserved for the Cat is a fun take on the Puss in Boots story starring a young ballerina named Ninette in the place of the poor miller’s son and Thomas, a magical talking cat, in the role of Puss. Set around 1910, this adaptation starts in France, but spends most of its time in England. Since it’s part of the Elemental Masters series, we have Air and Water Mages, Fire Masters, and Elemental Creatures of all kinds in our cast.

Once again, I enjoy Lackey’s heroine immensely. While not as spunky as others, she shows grace and courage in the face of crisis and is surprisingly quick of mind. Her ability to think on her feet keeps her from ever becoming a damsel in distress (despite being the target of a malevolent magical critter) and enables her to actively contribute to the other characters’ plans to protect her.

One of the best parts of the book is Ninette’s initial reaction to Thomas. She’s out of work and starving. When a talking cat provides her with money, her first thought is, “I’m going mad”, followed very closely by, “I’m hallucinating from lack of food”. She finally settles on, “This is a fever dream”, and so obeys the cat’s cryptic instructions and finds herself in England. As Thomas proves repeatedly that he is no figment of her imagination and that he has her best interests in mind, she begins to trust and rely on him.

I say that this is one of the best parts, not because it’s spectacularly written, or even because it’s particularly rare in such fantasy stories, but because it is so honest a reaction. That kind of realism causes  Ninette to be more relatable  as a character and makes readers’ suspension of disbelief all the easier, drawing us further into the book.

So, while The Fairy Godmother will always, I think, be my favorite story by Mercedes Lackey, Reserved for the Cat comes in a very close second. With the wonderful cast of characters, this book never fails to entertain me, no matter how many times I re-read it.

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