Having been a cat-lover all my life, I'm always on the lookout for books that feature felines. I'm not sure why I passed up this series (begun in 1993) till just last year, but I'm glad that I finally broke down and bought it. Greeno images a lost Terran colony (probably settled by back-to-the-land pagans, since it has regressed to a pre-technological level in only 200 years and its people worship a goddess they call "the Lady"), where a major lifeform is the ghatti (a single male is a ghatt, a female a ghatta, and an immature of either sex a ghatten)--creatures which, whether through parallel evolution, genetic manipulation, or crossbreeding with Terran cats, look and behave very much like outsized versions of the latter, but are apparently sentient and boast a limited telepathic ability: they can "mindspeak" to each other and to selected humans, and can scan people's thoughts for lies and deception. They're also as loyal and loving as dogs: a ghatti bonds to a single human (it has long been thought that it *can't* bond to a second one, even if it loses the first, but in the course of the book we learn that this isn't true) in kitten- (or rather ghatten-) hood, and thereafter, following a period of training, the two become Seekers Veritas, circuit judges of a kind, one of two professions (the other is the "eumedicos," or doctors) that hold the society of Methuen together. The tabby ghatta Khar'pern (Khar for short) is Bondmate to Doyce, a woman who has already lived almost as many lives as a Terran cat: daughter to a weaver and shadowed sister of a cripple, eumedico-in-training, wife to Varon, stepmother to his son Vesey and mother to his daughter Briony, widow by fire, and unexpectedly, at the age of 27, Seeker. In the decade since the two have ridden their circuit faithfully and Doyce has slowly begun to heal from her loss, taking the Seeker Oriel as an intermittent lover (unaware that another of the male Seekers, Jenret, five years her junior, harbors feelings for her too), only suffering vivid nightmares which Khar shares through their link and tries to ease. Suddenly Oriel and his ghatt are found murdered and mutilated, and Doyce soon discovers that the crimes are part of a pattern: someone is apparently conducting clandestine medical studies of Seekers, their Bonds, and ordinary humans and Terran cats, trying to learn what makes the Bond relationship possible. Accompanied by Jenret and his black ghatt-friend Rawn, the mind-crippled ghatt Saam whose human Bond was one of the victims, and later by her former eumedico mentor Mahafny, the ex-priest Harrap, and the ghatt Parm who bonded with him after his first Seeker began to "change" mentally in frightening ways, Doyce sets out to follow Oriel's old circuit and try to learn what is going on. As the book proceeds, we learn that Doyce is in fact the key to the entire mystery. This is the first volume of (so far) four thick paperbacks, and you'll want to read them all, if only because Greeno leaves us, at the end, with a good old-fashioned cliffhanger.
Though readers may be distracted by mention of typical Terran wild animals (elk, mountain sheep, wolves, bears, foxes, owls, squirrels) in the woods of Methuen, the society of the colonists is well drawn, and of course the central pivot, the Seeker/ghatti relationship, is especially well done. Greeno obviously knows cats and has studied them closely: her ghatti behave just as we might expect a thinking, telepathic cat to behave. Among the most charming scenes is that on p. 244-7, where Parm tries to comfort the confused Harrap, who never expected to Bond with a ghatti: "I would wear a Lady's Medal for you, if you wanted me to," he says; "...I would do anything you wanted of me!"
This series is a perfect choice for the lover of both cats and sf/fantasy (I'll probably be buying a set for my girlfriend, who is both).