THE CATS OF SEROSTER by Robert Westall

THE CATS OF SEROSTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A murky, overlong blend of political intrigue, knightly mysticism, and psychiccal fantasy--all set in a vaguely medieval France. In the exciting opening pages, a provincial Duke, victim of a coup d'etat, is murdered during castle dinner with his twelve-year-old son. So the boy, with help from beloved royal cat Sehtek, kills his father's assassin, escapes--and takes refuge in a nearby mausoleum, where the elite of the Miw dwell: large, golden cats who communicate with each other by ""sending"" Tarzan-like dialogue back and forth. (""Why yellowcat go tell Horse? Why always yellowcat? Us good as yellowcat."") Meanwhile, as the Miw start plotting to restore the young Duke to his rightful throne, a wandering Englishman named Cam, something of a medieval hippie (""What was he looking for?""), has a fateful encounter with a blacksmith--who gives Cam a magic knife and a letter addressed ""To the Seroster."" And Cam, amid a series of reluctant-knight adventures, will meet up with one of the Miw, a cat named Amon who leads him to the grand mausoleum. Eventually, then, Cam teams up with the Miw in the battle against the usurpers of the Dukedom: in accepting this mission, it seems, Cam himself thus becomes ""the Seroster,"" a sort of warrior-saint and spiritual leader. (""Cam was gone. . . The Seroster faced the riders, his mind a red delight."") But, before the ultimate battle against the usurpers is won, Cam--who's ambivalent about sword-power--goes back and forth between his human self and his Seroster form; he gets unlikely support from ""Father Death,"" a priest who has given up God for swordplay; and, at the last moment, Cam/Seroster manages to triumph. . . without unleashing a full-scale massacre. Presumably, then, there's a theme concerning warfare and violence somewhere within this dense pageant. Unfortunately, however, the fuzzy mystical notions here are further blurred by Westall's mannered narration. (""Then the gray-creature was fleeing, or was-not. Gray-creature disliked the Wetness; only came desperate in winter, when the Wetness was rockhardcold."") And the pace throughout is sluggish--as the focus keeps shifting from Cam to the various Miw to the largely extraneous doings of the usurpers. Despite some vividly imagined cat-world vignettes, then: a dense, demanding fable with only minor rewards.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Greenwillow