A uniquely gifted cat at a Southern women’s college tells the story of her vampire companion’s struggle in Stein Ross’ debut supernatural novel.
Independent Kikki is not like other cats: She’s a timeslider who’s more than 6,000 years old, with rare time-traveling and telepathic abilities. Her human companion, a young history professor named Renata Beaumanoir, is feeling the pressure to publish and gain departmental approval. But she, like her cat, is anything but typical: She’s a vampire who has been struggling to maintain her humanity ever since her death in plague-stricken medieval France. She does so with the help of thanadoxicil, a drug that suppresses the effects of vampirism. The powerful Vampire Council disapproves of Renata’s use of the drug and her association with its creator, the Doctor, and they sentence her to annihilation. Kikki must use her powers to delve into Renata’s past and save her beloved companion. Stein Ross delivers a gripping story with a well-developed cast of characters in her debut, but her biggest accomplishment is the novel’s unique and captivating world, as seen through the eyes of a cat. Kikki’s outsider perspective into human (and vampire) customs allows her to find meaning in the seemingly mundane. It also paves the way for a candid analysis of human social structures, as when Kikki astutely and movingly classifies humans into categories such as “Bully” and “Teacher.” However, when Kikki speaks directly to the audience, as when she assures readers that the story is nothing like the Twilight saga, it disrupts the otherwise compelling narrative. At its best, the novel, and its unconventional narrator, provides poignant insights into the human condition in a manner reminiscent of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2006). Overall, it’s quite successful in setting its story apart from others in the vampire genre, although some readers may find the ending rather saccharine.
Cat lovers and vampire junkies will find a special kinship with this genre-bending novel—but other readers may also find themselves eager for the next installment.