It was a few weeks ago that I first realised that I was failing you.
Yes, that’s right.
I, Jo, have been failing you, my readers.
You may have noticed that on my blog there are a few genres that have been grossly neglected.
Fantasy. Sci-fi. General… geeky things.
And I know that a lot of people who dabble in the YA genre love fantasy and sci-fi and general…geeky things and I feel that, by not reading/reviewing/giving them the time of day them, I am letting you down.
So I outsourced.
Catie from The Readventurer, is the biggest fantasy/sci-fi/general…geeky things fan that I know.
I’ve admired her reviews for a long time now and I have wished, oh I have wished, that I understood what the flip she was talking about when she reviews all these books that would be completely lost on me.
If you’re a regular reader of Wear the Old Coat, you will have to come to expect high-brow and intellectual posts that provide you with insightful information about Young Adult literature.
Over the past few days I have had lots of meetings, brainstorms and a thought-shower (but that was a complete accident) with Ms Catie to come up with a fascinating and informative post for my readers as an apology for ignoring these genres.
“Jo, Jo, Jo…” she said. “Leave it to me. I know everything there is to know about fantasy, sci-fi and general…geeky things. I can do this. I practically invented high-brow.”
Well, who am I to argue with that?
So grab a caffeinated beverage and prepare yourself for the highest of high-brow chats and I’ll hand you over to Catie.
What is it about these noble creatures that has inspired so many fantasy authors? Is it their tidily contained, silent mystery?
Is it that the ways that they show love: a head butt, a narrowing of the eyes, a sharp pair of claws kneading your midsection like bread dough, a bed made from the pages of your favorite book (while you’re still reading it) – all seem unsettlingly like disapproval?
Is it that the ways that they show disapproval: yowling at 2am, scratching your furniture, targeted urination attacks – all seem like sophisticated guerilla warfare?
Is it the way that their cool gazes can bore into your eyes and make you suddenly realize that you’re nothing more than a glorified monkey?
They’re bossy, aloof, and they like attention, but only on their terms. And when I say “their terms” what I mean is – whenever it’s most inconvenient for you.
Unlike dogs, with their paltry unconditional loyalty and devotion, these guys demand respect.
#5. The Cheshire Cat
From: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
One of the most iconic talking cats in children’s fantasy, this grinning fellow sets the bar high for all talking cats to come. His powers are mysterious, his advice is convoluted, and his method of avoiding the Queen’s execution order is clever – can a disembodied head actually be beheaded? Discuss.
Appears in the kitchen of the Duchess, after Alice has had a most eventful day:
“I didn’t know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.’
‘They all can,’ said the Duchess; ‘and most of ’em do.’
‘I don’t know of any that do,’ Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation.
‘You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess; ‘and that’s a fact.’”
Appearing and disappearing at will, making you question your own sanity.
“‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
Alice didn’t think that proved it at all; however, she went on: ‘and how do you know that you’re mad?’
‘To begin with,’ said the Cat, ‘a dog’s not mad. You grant that?’
‘I suppose so,’ said Alice.
‘Well then,’ the Cat went on, ‘you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.’
‘I call it purring, not growling,’ said Alice.
‘Call it what you like,’ said the Cat.”
From: Plain Kate, by Erin Bow
The youngest member of this group, but sure to become one of my all-time favorites. Taggle is one of the most genuinely “cat-like” talking cats I’ve ever seen in fantasy. He’s young and mischievous and he’s a true friend to Kate. His loyalty and sacrifice really got under my skin.
When a mysterious stranger offers Kate her heart’s desire in exchange for her shadow, she wisely turns him down. Of course, he doesn’t take no for an answer and soon has her entire village convinced that she’s a witch. When Kate finally accepts his offer, she’s a bit surprised to learn that her heart’s desire is that her only companion Taggle, a little kitten who she’s cared for since her father’s death, gains the ability to speak.
Loyalty, companionship, charm. He truly is the king of all the creatures.
“’I’m coming with you,’ he drawled. ‘Please wake me when we are done fleeing.’
‘You couldn’t follow?’
‘Dogs follow,’ he said, in such a horrified tone that she didn’t bother arguing.”
“I have business to conduct in the language of fur and claw.”
|Illustration by SeiraSky.|
From the Song of the Lioness series and the Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce
A black cat with deep violet eyes, Faithful is Alanna’s guide, companion, and savior. He is also her best advisor – he tells her hard truths and doesn’t let her get away with lying to herself. I haven’t read the Beka Cooper series yet – where he appears in a different incarnation, but I’m looking forward to it!
The manifestation of a constellation of stars, Faithful is sent to Alanna by the Great Mother Goddess in In the Hand of the Goddess. He appears as a little black kitten, but Alanna immediately knows that there’s something special about him.
He is a magical being but considers human’s magic to be “clumsy.” He can speak to Alanna but to everyone else he just sounds like a rather noisy cat. He also occasionally acts as a great wing-man for swoony good times with a certain roguish King of Thieves:
“’Where were you when I needed you?’ she asked him bitterly. ‘As chaperone you aren’t much.’
I’m not here as a chaperone, the cat replied. Besides, I didn’t want to interrupt. You seemed to be enjoying yourself.”
“Cats must always be cats, even when they are gods, or constellations.”
“You are taking a risk, Faithful said as Alanna searched her trunk for the new lock picks George had given her. If he catches you, you will be very dead.”
|Illustration by Sarah from Depleti.|
From the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix
Whiny and insulting, Mogget tests the patience of everyone around him. But he has hidden depths. And I mean, DEPTHS. Ocean, canyon, moon crater sized depths.
The Mogget is a dangerous and mysterious being who is bound as a servant to the Abhorsens – a powerful family tasked with maintaining the walls between the dead and the living – and their descendants.
Napping, complaining, eating fish, disappearing right when he’s needed. Oh and uh…you know that collar? It’s not just there to make him look pretty. Don’t ever take off that collar…unless you’re serious.
From Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
This is my favorite talking cat in all of fantasy. He’s so simply drawn, but he so perfectly epitomizes the talking cat – he’s insulting, proud, clever, and he comes through in the end. And he has all the best lines.
“There was something irritatingly self-centered about the cat, Coraline decided. As if it were, in its opinion, the only thing in any world or place that could possibly be of any importance.”
The cat appears as Coraline is searching for animals around her new home:
“There was also a haughty black cat, who sat on walls and tree stumps and watched her but slipped away if ever she went over to try and play with it.”
When she enters the other world, she discovers that it can speak.
Dry, insulting advice, brutal spy-catching and torture techniques, willing to go two rounds with your insane button-eyed other mother in a pinch.
“’Cats don’t have names,’ it said.
‘No?’ said Coraline.
‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.’”
“The cat wrinkled its nose and managed to look unimpressed. ‘Calling cats,’ it confided, ‘tends to be a rather overrated activity. Might as well call a whirlwind.’”
“The cat dropped the rat between its two front paws. ‘There are those,’ it said with a sigh, in tones as smooth as oiled silk, ‘who have suggested that the tendency of a cat to play with its prey is a merciful one – after all, it permits the occasional funny little running snack to escape, from time to time. How often does your dinner get to escape?’”
“’We…we could be friends you know,’ said Coraline.
‘We could be rare specimens of an exotic breed of African dancing elephants,’ said the cat. ‘But we’re not. At least,’ it added cattily, after darting a brief look at Coraline, ‘I’m not.’”
Honorable mentions: JiJi from Kiki’s Delivery Service (disqualified because he’s the star of a movie, not a book), The Cat from Red Dwarf (disqualified because it’s not young adult…and that whole human/cat hybrid thing kind of gives me the willies), Crookshanks (disqualified because he can’t really talk, even though I think that if he could he’d have a lot to say), Pantalaimon (disqualified because he chooses to be a pine marten at the end. Really? A pine marten? Wouldn’t that whole series have been so much better if he were a talking cat?).
Well that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, Catie.
I only have one thing to say about that list:
PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL WAS ROBBED.
[Thank you to the brilliant Catie for this hilarious guest post. Even I have been convinced by some of those books!]