The Cat

Jean Johnson
2008, Paranormal Romance
Berkley Sensation, $14.00, 362 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425221490
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

In The Cat, Jean Johnson builds upon the world created in her earlier Sons of Destiny books and delivers the tale of the fifth of the eight brothers creating the kingdom of Nightfall. Though Johnson's world-building is unique and shows promise, the characters feel a little hackneyed and the result is a rather ordinary paranormal read.

Trevan is the fifth of eight brothers whose fate has been foretold by the Seer Draganna. A misreading of Draganna's prophecy apparently led the brothers to be exiled to the island on which they are currently building a new foundation. Prophecies foretell how each of the brothers will find a wife, and as his four older brothers are now wed, Trevan waits impatiently for his destined bride. When the lady whose destiny is to be his washes up on shore, Trevan is surprised to learn that winning her will take more effort than he had imagined.

Amara of the Shifterai is one of the most powerful shapeshifters of the past two hundred years, a talent that set her apart from her people. From an early age she was groomed for the possibility of becoming queen, but the need to protect her sister from mages causes Amara to be forced into giving up her own future.

When Amara meets Trevan, she does not immediately fall into his arms with delight at the prospect of being his destined bride. Instead, she wonders at the arrogance of this man who presumes she will be his. In addition, upon learning that he and his seven brothers are all mages, she fears for her sister. Though Trevan assures her that his family means no harm, she still does not trust him and keeps her sibling hidden as long as she can.

Determined to win Amara's heart, Trevan shifts into the form of a housecat and spies on Amara. As a cat, he can win her trust, something he also hopes to do as a man. Though Amara suprises herself by actually starting to like Trevan, she is very slow to trust him. This causes problems within the romance because even after it becomes readily apparent that Trevan is trustworthy, Amara remains haughty and standoffish with him and his family. Though her anger at the turns her life has taken is understandable, her attitude can become tiresome and seems immature at times.

Though she can at times annoy the reader, Amara is also refreshing. She is no perfect, saintly heroine determined to give all for the sake of another. Instead, she struggles with loving her sister and feeling fiercely protective of the mysterious ability that makes her sister vulnerable to exploitation by others while at the same time resenting the loss of the position for which she spent her life preparing herself.

In addition, while the world-building is complex and obviously builds upon pieces that seem to have previously been detailed in earlier books, the tone of the writing undermines it in places. Some of the touches of humor make sense and fit well within the story, however, the author tends to describe all of her characters with a similar style of humor, and this makes family events within the book have a somewhat corny, "sitcom writing" feel to them. As a reader, I found it off-putting, and it prevented me from immersing myself in the fantastic world in which the story is set.

Though The Cat has some promising touches to it, the weaknesses kept me from fully investing in the story. The writing style detracted from the better aspects of the book for me and made this feel more like an ordinary read. While I did enjoy it in places, ultimately I do not find it memorable and it is not one that I recommend, especially at the trade paperback price.

-- Lynn Spencer

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