Year of the Cat by Selah March

I should preface this by saying I won this book free (yay!) from excerpt day over on 

  blog. It’s taken me a bit to read it, which I apologize, due to the high volume of books to review these past two weeks. (Look at how many I’ve reviewed for RR and gah). Anyway, I apologize for how long this took but alas I finally got to read it and late at night too, the perfect setting for this tale.

 


Year of the Cat by Selah March

Blurb:

Sweet-natured Etienne LeFevre must give up his birthright and flee into the snow-covered forest to save himself from the murderous greed of his brutish elder brothers. When Etienne ends up alone and hungry, with a ramshackle cottage his only shelter and a feral cat his only friend, he believes himself doomed to a sad, cold death.

But out of the shadows of the night arrives a visitor who brings comfort. He presents himself as a servant, but the man called “Jacques” spends the long hours instructing Etienne in the cruel delights of a disciplined passion.

Jacques is gone with the morning light, but Etienne thinks he knows the stranger’s secret. Will Etienne tame the beast that lurks within his lover? Or will he find himself a victim of the bitter rage that rules Jacques’ heart?

Based on the classic French fairy tale, “Puss In Boots,” this story explores what happens when the servant becomes the master, and the master lives to serve…

 

 

Review:

This is the first book I’ve read of Selah March’s and I have to say I’m suitably impressed. In this dark twist on the classic fairy tale, March has written a clever and multifaceted story that is much more than meets than eye, as are the characters. With obvious stereotypes and a writing style befitting any fairy tale, the clever BDSM twist with dark and cruel subtext has created an entirely new take even as the plot parallels the original. In true fairy tale form, no doubt the impressions of the characters and their plight will differ with each reader, bringing something different with each telling.

Etienne is painted as the damsel in distress, albeit male damsel, when he’s cast out of his home with nary a survival skill to his name. He is only saved by his angelic looks and the interest of the cursed Jacques who decides to care for the boy at a price. It’s terribly easy to dismiss Etienne as simple, cowardly, or even weak but he is far from any of those things. Etienne may lack confidence and common sense initially at the start, but his strength and compassion are clearly seen repeatedly in his actions. While these actions may seem dim witted and stupid, I never interpreted Etienne as anything less than intelligent and clever, simply lacking ambition and force of will. His easy submission to Jacques epitomizes the very strength inherent in BDSM relationships yet also the desire to dismiss personal responsibility. Etienne is content to hand over his survival, care, and protection at the cost of his devoted and willing service to Jacques.

Jacques is depicted as the obvious opposite – sadistic, cruel, and demeaning. His hurtful actions and purposefully monstrous behavior reaffirm his self-image and learned cruelty of decades as a cursed half man, half cat. His obsession with Etienne shows itself in the loving care, careful protection, and even eventual dismissal of the younger man. Jacques is also written as a complex character yet it’s easy to see him as flat, evil, and without remorse. His harsh and often cutting (literally!) behavior is always double edged and with a deeper meaning than simply cruel for the sake of cruelty. There is no doubt that the years have formed an unsympathetic man while never mistaking he is more and less than a man at all times. The love and devotion of Etienne is not enough for the curse to break, but once gone, Jacques realizes the extent of his actions.

Each character is exaggerated, from Jacques and Etienne to the innkeeper, Etienne’s brothers and even Pierre. This style keeps the plot and story within the feel and rhythm of a fairy tale at all times, even as the author blends subtle depth into each personality. The ending was especially satisfying as Etienne finally finds his confidence just as Jacques finds his compassion. While these two characters don’t inherently change, they more so embrace parts of themselves they had previously ignored. The ultimate moral of the fairy tale is easily satisfying to romance lovers with the darker BDSM appealing to those who like an edge to their stories.

Well-written and engaging, this dark fairy tale shows the power and equality of love, with of course the necessary redemption. Surprisingly interesting and at turns fascinating, the story certainly has faults but I was left with the impression the author did each one on purpose, cleverly keeping within the imperfect structure of the fairy tale. Flat characters, exaggerated personalities, obvious amoral actions, and the redemption of love all figure into this story, but you’ll enjoy the ride through the dark side of a classic. I could be pretty far off in my opinion of this story no doubt, but that’s what I came away thinking about it. Perhaps the author will enlighten how far off I am? Either way – I recommend reading it for yourself and come up with your own opinions. 

Get it HERE!

 


var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));

try {
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-9211734-1”);
pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Year of the Cat by Selah March

  1. Great review! This part intrigues me: “While these two characters don’t inherently change, they more so embrace parts of themselves they had previously ignored.”
    The flat characters and obviously amoral actions sounds a little risky on the author’s part but still an intriguing choice. I think I’ll look into this. Thanks for bringing it my attention!

    • Thank you! If you check around on other reviews, which I did once I had read and written my own review I noticed that my take is different from others. So for me, I didn’t think the characters really changed as they had that confidence and kindness within them, just didn’t express it – whereas others felt the characters changed entirely.
      I definitely felt the characters were flat at times but that seemed deliberate on the author’s part. Perhaps not, but it’s how I read it. So for that reason, it didn’t bother me so much as it may normally have.
      I was actually thinking as I read it, that you’d probably enjoy it and have a great thoughtful take on it.

      • I’m definitely intrigued and I admire the author’s daring. I think the fairy tale reinterpretation genre is so hard to do — one of the most challenging types of fiction out there!

  2. Thank you!
    Kassa, thank you so much for such a thoughtful, insightful review.
    This novella was easily one of the most difficult I’ve ever written for the very reasons you mention – walking that fine line between creating engaging characters and keeping the structure and exaggerated tropes of a classic fairy tale. It required taking many more risks than I’m generally comfortable taking in terms of making the characters layered and likable, and I’m still not certain I was entirely successful. Writing outside the comfort zone can be so scary!
    You hit the nail on the head when you say, “…this dark fairy tale shows the power and equality of love…” as that is the story’s intended theme. I’ve long wanted to use “Puss in Boots” as the basis for a tale like this one, and I’m glad it worked for you. 🙂

    • Re: Thank you!
      Thank you for the comment! Well and for the book of course :D.
      I did enjoy reading it though at one point, I put it down and thought “i dont ever want to revisit these characters” but taking a moment to really think about the story I realized how curious I was and actually the ending definitely helped even out the lopsided plot.
      I think one of the great parts about the fairy tale is that elements don’t have to work perfectly to still combine to work in this particular instance. If this was say, an angst driven romance, I’d probably have more issues with it so kudos! I was certainly curious if I had understood it and I’m glad I got some aspects right.
      Happy Easter!

      • Re: Thank you!
        After thinking about it, I suspect part of the “flat” characterization you experienced might have come about due to my occasional use of a more distanced point of view in this story.
        Fairy tales from folks like the Grimm brothers, Perrault, and Andersen were always presented from the omniscient point of view. In all of my previous work, I’ve used deep third person point of view exclusively. In Year of the Cat, I experimented with blending the two, perhaps without complete success. 😉
        I want you to know how much I appreciate your very in-depth feedback. I consider every new story an opportunity to learn more about my craft, and every thoughtful review a chance to measure my progress. I hope you’ll do me the honor of reviewing my work again in the future. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s