This book is great. I read it cover to cover in one afternoon. If you like compelling story telling, intriguing characters that leave you wanting for more and ideas that make you think; then this is for you.
The story telling has the fine craft of someone like Phillip Pullman (must have been all those drafts) but also has the imaginative quirks of someone perhaps a bit more off beat like Neil Gaiman. The book draws on elements from the best of story telling in a coming-of-age way. Varjak goes on an inner journey from confused, insecure cat, who is uncertain of his place in the world (isn’t this all of us?) to a cat who has learnt to trust in himself and friends and that pain and joy are part of life.
On the way, he finds out that not all cats get food in a bowl, not all humans are friendly, that things (especially dogs) might not be how they first appear, and of course how to fight.
The illustrations also add to the atmosphere of Varjak’s world (as might be expected from such a highly respected artist as McKean) and are well worth spending time over. Without giving too much away, other moments I liked: Varjak hunting, the interactions of Varjak and Holly (might there be love in the air?) and the empathy between the fearsome black cats. Some readers may find the dream device to speak to Jalal (the ancestor cat who does much of the teaching) a bit “seen that too much already in other books” however it does work quite effectively
The book sets the scene for more Varjak adventures and I look forward to the next one. I’d like to know more about the other gangs of cats, the history of Jalal and where Varjak is going to next in his life as he continues to find out what it means to be Varjak Paw. Like how we all have to learn who we are and our possible place in the world.