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The Outlaw Varjak Paw    by SF Said order for
Outlaw Varjak Paw
by SF Said
Order:  USA  Can
David Fickling Books, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Two-color, pen and ink illustrations by Dave McKean sketch cast and settings of SF Said's story, continuing the adventures of silver-blue furred, amber-eyed Varjak Paw. After being raised inside as a pet, Varjak realized a yearning for freedom out-of-doors. Life in the streets is hard, with hostile gangs. At the edge of nightfall, Varjak and street-wise friends (cats Holly and Tam, and dog Cludge) tenderly traipse over shattered glass, 'hoping to find some scraps in the city dump'.

The reader is given glimpses of Varjak's nightly dreams, entering the land of Mesopotamia to meet his ancestor. Jalal Paw teaches Varjak his legacy of Seven Skills in The Way, and at times Varjak is afraid of releasing these inherited powers. These same skills are the strength of Varjak's nemesis Sally Bones, a thin, spotless-white cat with one ice-blue eye, her other eye a shadow. Sally is the leader of a feared gang of brawny cats that live in an old stone tower. Varjak has one more skill to learn from Jalal, that is the power to See. This is sensed by Sally Bones, and it makes her afraid.

Varjak had gained fame by saving many cats from the Vanishing. His reputation growing as a threat to Sally, she declares him outlaw, 'wanted dead or alive'. Varjak's following grows after meeting three haughty Siamese Scratch Sisters, who claim the 'fastest claws in town'; the brazen Orrible Twins Omar and Ozzie; and Mrs. Moggs, an old, gentle, marmalade tabby, who lives near the river's harbor. They form a partnership, naming themselves the Free Cats, with Varjak as leader. But will even his skills - Open Mind, Awareness, Hunting, Moving Circle, and Slow Time - be enough to rescue Mrs. Moggs' kitten, little Jessie?

For years, Mrs. Moggs had been telling the story of a safe city belowground (Cludge is aware of it and afraid to return). It is called Storm Drain, guarded by a family of dogs, and with an abundant population of mice. Going into hiding, Varjak and his followers soon must leave safety and face a showdown with Sally Bones and her gang. Fighting for what is right, tenacious Varjak wins friendships, and faces painful losses with hope and courage. The Outlaw Varjak Paw, whose characters have personality, is a suspenseful and enjoyable read.

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