Thursday, December 16, 2021

Book & Audio Review: Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey

Reserved for the Cat

Mercedes Lackey
Narrator: Mirabai Galashan
Series: Elemental Masters (Book 5)
Publication: DAW; Reprint edition (October 7, 2008); Audible Studios (October 20, 2009)
Length: 388 p.; 10 hours and 41 minutes

Description: Mercedes Lackey's magical Elemental Masters series recasts familiar fairy tales in a richly-imagined alternate Victorian world

Ninette Dupond was a dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet. She had been very lucky—if she had not been pretty, and a natural dancer, she could only have become what her mother had been: a washerwoman.

But Ninette’s good luck ended the day that the lead dancer sprained her ankle and Ninette was chosen to dance her part at a matinee. Her reviews had been very good—too good. Shortly thereafter, Ninette had been fired in an attempt to soothe the wounded ego of the ballet’s primary soloist.

Alone, unemployed, and filled with despair, Ninette had returned to her apartment to find a thin, rangy, tabby-striped tomcat sitting on her windowsill. He seemed like just another stray, until abruptly he spoke to her, mind-to-mind.

Ninette though she was going mad, but the cat offered her an alternative to a life of destitution, albeit a very odd one. He proposed that she impersonate a renowned Russian ballerina, Nina Tchereslavsky, and go to work in a specific music hall in Blackpool, England. The cat also told her that he would take care of her in every way—he would somehow convey the English and Russian languages to her, supply her with money, and guide her every move. With no other option open to her, she place her life in his paws.

What Ninette didn’t know was that the cat was an Elemental Spirit sent to protect her, and that the music hall in Blackpool was owned by an Elemental Master. But she also didn’t know that the real Nina Tchereslavsky no longer existed. For the real Nina had been “absorbed” by an Elemental Spirit of the darkest kind that was now bent on Ninette’s destruction….

My Thoughts: This is the fifth book in the Elemental Masters series and veers away from the upper class Elemental Masters of the earlier books. It stars a young French ballet dancer named Ninette Dupond who had been raised by her washerwoman/artists' model mother after her English father disappeared. Ninette's mother didn't see any future for her pretty, talented daughter except to attract the attention of a wealthy man who would keep her. 

Ninette thought that finding said wealthy man would be her future until she filled in for the star one matinee and danced too well. Her fine reviews made the star jealous and led to Ninette losing her job. With only days left before the rent came due on her apartment and no other job offers, Ninette is disposed to listen when a cat comes to her window and speaks into her mind. 

The cat has a plan to get Ninette to Blackpool, England, where she could work in the theater owned by an Elemental Master. The plan requires that she pretend to be the Russian survivor of a shipwreck named Nina Tchereslavsky which will give her an edge up both with the impresario and with the public in Blackpool.

Unfortunately, the real Nina Tchereslavsky who is actually an evil Earth elemental hears about Ninette and is determined to have her revenge on the girl who has stolen her name. It will be up to her cat, her new friends from the theater, and her own strength and courage to win the day.

This was an engaging story with just enough magic to add luster. The setting of Blackpool in 1910 was well-developed. Ninette was an engaging character whose strong work ethic and kindness made her a favorite of all who met her. The narration by Mirabai Galashan was also excellent. 

Favorite Quote:
"I'm not used to failing."

Jonathan snorted. "Then you aren't trying things that are challenging enough."

To his surprise and Alan's obvious chagrin, Ninette nodded. "The more and harder things you attempt, the more you will fail. You are only guaranteed not to fail if you do not try. C'est las vie."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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