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The Golden Cat    by Gabriel King order for
Golden Cat
by Gabriel King
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

'Legend tells of a Golden Cat, a creature of great and mystical power, sought by humans through the age.'

Its tale is the sequel to King's marvellous feline fantasy The Wild Road, in which Burmilla kitten Tag came of age while apprenticed to the Majicou and serving the beleaguered Queen of Cats. The old Majicou died, defeating the evil Alchemist, and Tag inherited the job. Queen Pertelot Fitzwilliam gave birth to three kittens at Tintagel - 'Leo the dancer full of subtlety and life; Isis the singer, whose voice speaks to the unseen ... Odin the hunter, closer of the circle' - it appears that one of them is the legendary Golden Cat, but no-one knows which it is.

In a small seaside town along the coast, Mercurius Realtime DeNeuve (Tag to his friends) and Cy (the little, brave tabby who had a sparkplug in her head) have settled down together. When Tag asks if she is happy she describes their new life as ... 'a fall-on-your-feet life ... sunshine every morning. It's boats and cream and, I mean, there's even mice here. I seen this life in dreams. How can you ask?' She especially loves the oceanarium and her new friend, the Great Ray.

The cats' carefree existence in Cornwall is rudely interrupted when first the male kitten Odin, and then his sister Isis, disappears. Odin was plucked out of a gorse bush by a human hand and Isis disappeared from a church while searching for him. Their spirited sister Leonora looks for them, falling in and out of trouble, to Tag's dismay. Pertelot is distraught and she and Ragnar Gustaffson, the King of Cats, take on their own quest as far as Egypt and back again.

A parallel tale shows cats cruelly abused in some sort of research lab, and the reader wonders about the history of Animal X, bereft of his memory. Soon after a golden kitten appears amongst them, the lab blows up and they also go adventuring. Overseas, Southern belle Sealink has sought her own origins and her long lost kittens, and discovered that home is not the place the Delta Queen left so long ago. Her New Orleans has turned into an evil city where cats are dominated by the gross Kiki la Doucette and kittens disappear. Sealink becomes a cat with a mission.

The story includes other familiar faces from The Wild Road and some new ones, like the Reading Cat and Kater Murr. The old Majicou's fox helper Loves a Dustbin shows up, heartsore but wise as ever and always ready to help Tag against evil. The roads are still there though badly damaged ... 'The wild road is a dream ... Every time you disembark a little of the dream flows out into the world around you ... something is changed.' Finally the adventurers come together along with their adversary and the Great Cat is revealed - 'They knew her by that endless rumbling purr that is the sound of the world'.

The Golden Cat makes a superb sequel, full of magic and mystery, darkness and delight. King does not anthromorphize the story's feline characters, but portrays them in the same way that the best SF writers do their alien species, by seeming to get under their skins and to see the world through their eyes. Read these two books and you will wonder about the next cat that you see; what is its appearance on the wild roads and when did it last walk them? They certainly left me anxious to revisit the fantastic world of the felidae again soon.

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