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Cat's Paw by L. A. Taylor
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Cat's Paw (1995)

by L. A. Taylor

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I really loved this book and it surprises me that it has received pretty low ratings so far here. I suppose the story was fairly simplistic, and occasionally almost frustrating as Miranda tried to solve the mystery of her missing husband, and certain elements were pretty obvious from the beginning (which made it all the more amusing when the protagonist completely failed to notice them). But... I love the idea of a middle-aged heroine, a house wife, more or less, who sets out on a mission - in this case to find her missing husband. At first she is treated as a bit of a country hick, like a jilted wife and more or less like someone who is more trouble than she's worth, but Miranda is nothing if not determined! The relationship between her and her husband was sweet - and I found it utterly engaging. ( )
  LemurKat | Sep 12, 2013 |
It's impossible for me to talk about this book without SPOILERS from the second paragraph on, so consider yourself warned. Cat's Paw is the story of Miranda, the provincial wife of a rural lighthouse keeper, Alexi, who disappears while on secret government work. At wit's end, Miranda resolves to travel to the big city to find him. She is accompanied by a mysterious cat with six toes, which superstitious locals believe brands her a witch--a crime punishable as treason, as the state has outlawed the practice of magic, even though everyone knows it doesn't actually exist.

Cat's Paw certainly starts with an intriguing premise, and the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell-esque setup of a just post-Victorian era non-England where early modern technology (steam trains, telegraphs, electric light) blends uneasily with belief in charms, spells, and the "old language" has promise. Unfortunately, the book fails to live up to it, precisely because Miranda's character stays so true to Taylor's depiction of her. That is to say, Taylor tells us that Miranda is timid, rural and unsophisticated, and practical, never once doubting the non-existence of magic. Usually, when characters begin with these attributes, it's so that they can grow during the course of the novel, becoming stronger, savvier, and perhaps even picking up a bit of magical ability themselves by the end. Much of the payoff for the reader resides in watching such characters mature and develop as the plot unfolds.

This does not happen to Miranda. She is certainly persistent in her desire to find Alexi, but that's about it. She remains something of a shrinking violet right to the novel's conclusion, by and large carried along by the actions of others as opposed to charting her path herself. While this is certainly realistic, it's the sort of realism people read books to escape. Compounding matters, although readers will spot the evidence of magic and political foul play as it is occurring, Miranda remains woefully oblivious right to the end, even in situations where even a country naif with a bit of sense should know better. In other words, she remains so rural and unsophisticated that it belies belief. The final blow comes when readers learn that Miranda has herself avoided the magical depredations of her and Alexi's enemies through the purity of her disbelief in magic. This could have been a clever twist on the typical fantasy fare--a protagonist protected not through the strength of her latent magical ability but by her complete lack of it. But magic is conclusively proven to exist by the novel's end, ironically leaving Miranda an even weaker character than when the book began. I suspect most readers turn to novels for the vicarious enjoyment of watching the main characters grow stronger and more capable and powerful as the plot progresses, which makes the conclusion of Cat's Paw, in which precisely the opposite occurs, ultimately unsatisfying. Taylor's realistic depiction of Miranda, in other words, is just a bit too realistic to make the novel work.
  Trismegistus | Apr 28, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
L. A. Taylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Austin, AliciaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441001815, Mass Market Paperback)

Miranda Glivven, part of a family that has tended the Gwynnhead lighthouse for years, seeks her missing husband--who disappeared while working secretly for the government--with the help of a strange golden cat and a little magic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:10 -0400)

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