The ability to communicate with cats allows young Duncan McKay to survive an abduction, rescue a lost princess, and triumph over a wily enemy.
Jonell’s smooth writing style and clever plotting, along with the inclusion of talking cats, elevate and enliven this fantasy despite familiar tropes. Readers won’t be especially surprised to discover that fatherless Duncan, raised by an overprotective mother on a small, quiet island in the kingdom of Arvidia (it’s called Dulle and apparently lives up to its name), is actually second in line to the throne. Nor will the revelation that the accepted version of the princess’s disappearance is far from accurate be a big shock. Still, Duncan’s naïve bewilderment plays well—rather than feeling frustration, readers will be sympathetic, rooting for him to realize the truth and fulfill his destiny. Some may wish that more time was spent on Princess Lydia’s unlikely survival, which is only briefly limned, but that’s not because Duncan and his companions, Fia the kitten and Brig the tiger, aren’t sufficiently engaging. Although initially duped, once Duncan catches on he displays appropriately heroic behavior whether he’s building a raft, battling a storm or confronting the evil Earl of Merrick.
Intriguing, well-drawn characters, evocatively described settings, plenty of action, and touches of humor combine to create an utterly satisfying adventure. (Fantasy. 9-13)