This book combines two of my favourite elements: cats and wizards. The striking cover art catches the eye immediately, and the story synopsis completes the allure. My previous familiarity with Duane’s work is limited to her Star Trek novels, but I consider her contributions to be a high point of the series. All these things combine to make this a novel I would want to buy at first glance.
Chalk it up to my love of cats, but I find it easy to step into their world. Or maybe it’s the writing. Either way, the transition is smooth. The plot unravels slowly, building to a climax that is well worth the wait. Duane’s attention to character development pays off. The reader cares what happens to the four feline wizards.
The fact that most of the characters are cats could have been reduced to the level of gimmick. This is an area where Duane’s skills as a storyteller are quite apparent. She invites you into a willing suspension of disbelief, and you happily accept. While the cats seem as "real" as people, one never forgets that they are cats. Body language, indeed. Every movement, every reaction, is true to feline behaviour.
Each of the cats has a distinct personality, which keeps the reader's interest even through the slower parts of the story. Urruah is the most entertaining, with his sardonic attitude toward just about everything. Saash is the ultra-professional, despite the fact that she has the most to lose. Rhiow functions well in her central role, giving the reader an accessible heroine. Arhu is the most riveting of the main characters. He undergoes the broadest changes, which serve as a benchmark for the developing plot.
As much as I like Ith, I find it difficult to take him seriously. Maybe it all comes down to the image of him casting spells with his stunted arms. I realize Duane must have meant to make him exceptional, to break the "stereotype" of the dinosaur, but he is the weakest part of the story. In the midst of the climactic scene, along comes Ith and the tension is blown.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. Duane has created some wonderful characters. Their interactions ranged from hilarious to poignant without ever losing realism.