The Cat in the Cradle (Loka Legends #1)

Title: The Cat in the Cradle (Loka Legends #1)
Author: Jay Bell
Publisher: Self Published
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Gay Fantasy Young Adult
Length: Illustrated Novel / 270 pgs
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

A guest review by Kassa


THE BLURB:

“An interesting and intriguing novel with many original ideas.”~Piers Anthony, author of the Apprentice Adept and Xanth series


The Cat in the Cradle is Jay Bell’s debut fantasy novel. The novel takes the reader on an exploration of the Five Lands and the different realms of the strange and fantastic Oligarchs. Each Oligarch possesses a different colored loka that enables them to wield a unique style of magic. Dylan, aided by his talking cat Kio, must prevent the lokas from falling into the hands of a power hungry killer before the Five Lands is brought to its knees. The print version of The Cat in the Cradle features 25 original illustrations, one for each chapter.

Loka Legends Series

THE REVIEW:

Maybe it’s just me but I had the Harry Chaplin song “Cat’s in the Cradle” in my head EVERY single time I picked up this book. While the title is fitting to the book, it also evoked a catchy song that drove me insane when it wouldn’t leave my head. Despite the whole “little boy blue and the man on the moon” mental repetition, The Cat in the Cradle is an utterly delightful, whimsical fantasy filled with a creative imaginative plot, great characters, solid writing, and eye catching art work. While not perfect, the first foray into the publishing world for author Jay Bell is a great step and one not to be missed.

The story immediately introduces us to the main narrator Dylan, the son of the Blue Oligarch. The Oligarchs are a group of ten magic wielding men and women who rule their lands with powers denoted by the color of their magic. Dylan’s father controls most things water as denoted by the Blue loka – or gem that concentrates and focuses magical power – yet poor Dylan can barely conjure enough liquid to drink. His weak blue magic skills are offset by a spoiled and indulgent childhood with a father that loves him deeply and compensates for a missing mother. Dylan longs for adventure and settles upon a crackpot scheme to run away to a friend’s house with only his long time companion Kio, a talking cat. Together the two embark on a journey with no plans, no food, no map, and only the vague hope of the other boy. Unwittingly the two step into the middle of a complicated and sinister battle for power among the Oligarchs. Dylan may only be 17 but he throws himself into the mix with all the hubris and excitement being young and on your own can bring.

The plot itself is strongly action driven but well written and compelling. The story follows Dylan on his adventure that soon turns into a complex plot for power among the head magic users. The twists and turns feel natural and organic, without any forcing or obvious manipulations. There are some mistakes and stupid actions by the characters but they are young, insecure, scared, confident, and fully realized characters so the mistakes and missteps they make are understandable and work well within the story’s context. The plot uses a mixture of action and character development so the pace is not always even. There is somewhat of a hurry up and wait aspect as there tends to be spurts of exciting, almost frantic action and then longer periods of introspection during traveling times. This doesn’t hurt any reading enjoyment and in fact keeps things lively and interesting, but it won’t always work for those readers that prefer an even pace and tone throughout.

Part of this unevenness is due to the complicated and truly intriguing world building. The fantasy world crafted is intricate, complex, and fascinating. The author does a really great job in incorporating the new world with all its wonders without overwhelming the story and allowing the fantasy aspect to be the main focus. Here the characters and solid plot are equally, if not more, important than the world building. The light touch with interesting details allows readers who may not be huge fantasy fans to be drawn into the story while those who enjoy fantasy stories will revel in the creative imagery. But the combination of action, world building, and character development makes for some slower movements offset by quick action. I was totally absorbed in the story and couldn’t wait to find out what happens next so I wasn’t bothered by the up and down nature but some might be.

The characters themselves are very charming and endearing. Dylan is the main third person narrator and his youthful inexperience sets the tone for the eventual rag tag group of characters. The majority of them are also young, such as Leli and Tyjin, so the characters tend to make a lot of mistakes. This helps show young adults, even fantasy magic users, as likable and even relatable. These characters go through the same problems as any others with worrying about popularity, their future, sexual identity, not living up to family pressures, and so on. The incorporation of these timeless themes makes the characters instantly understandable and sympathetic. Dylan especially shines as an insecure, confused young man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and his place since he lacks the real magical power to take over from his father. His sexual acceptance is important and perhaps even more so because he faces the same fears and concerns as many young adults coming out.

The writing and dialogue often is humorous and quirky. The talking cat Kio is a total delight with his observations and steadfast loyalty to Dylan. In fact he almost outshines many of the other characters and together with Tyjin, forms a compelling trio to watch. One that I can only hope will have future adventures and stories even as this offering stands on its own with no hanging threads. However the wealth of potential and creativity in the story, characters, and the world itself begs for a sequel. Or perhaps that’s just me begging.

One final note of mention is the illustrations. The story comes in both illustrated and non versions and I highly recommend getting the illustrated version. Each chapter offers a drawing fitting to the chapter and the artwork is skillful and interesting. It doesn’t have an incredibly polished feel but more so, they feel like sketches and glimpses. I found myself looking forward to each new chapter to see what the artist would come up with and how it would fit with the imagery the writing creates. For example, living in a flying windmill created by magic. I loved it.

The Cat in the Cradle is an incredibly fun and delightful read. The characters and fantasy world come alive with an energy easily translated across the page. The solid plot helps smooth over any questionable aspects even as the numerous twists and turns sometimes overshadow the book; yet the well crafted characters and their journey will draw you into their world. For those fans that like young adult fantasy books, this definitely delivers well. For those readers that are looking for something interesting, creative, and different – this is a great choice. The light touch and entertaining dialogue will keep you interested even if fantasy isn’t your first choice.

16 comments

  • Hi Kassa, thanks for this thorough review. Although I’m not particularly fond of the fantasy genre – it usually doesn’t work for me, which I think is a pity – I will put this on my TBB list. It may not be my favourite genre but this book sounds intriguing.

    (Is there a blooming romance between Dylan and Tyjin? That’s always a special incentive for me to venture into the fantasy genre… ;))

    • There definitely is a romance between the two. It’s still in the beginning stages (it is YA after all) but it has some great moments. Both Dylan and Tyjin are gay but Dylan has to come to terms with this more than Tyjin so their romance is a bit in fits and starts but very sweet and endearing.

  • I enjoyed reading your review, and this book really sounds like something I would love to read.

    • I know!! I *loved* the talking cat Kio. He almost stole the book for me, especially when there’s a scene of Kio in his version of heaven with endless food, places to chase rats/mice, accessible doorways, and no humans! He’s really such a great addition.

  • Jay and Andreas are giving away a free e-book containing all the illustrations from his book. Enjoy.

    • Thanks mrb! I’ll have to find the link so hopefully lots will head over and enter the give away.

  • 🙂 I follow Jay’s blog and have been looking forward to the release of his first book. He is an American living in Germany with his artist husband, who is responsible for the amazing illustrations. I think I will send him a link to the great review.

    • Hi mrb, I checked out Jay’s blog, too, and liked it very much. His musings about “Weird Germany” are especially amusing. 🙂

  • Hi Kassa
    >>For those readers that are looking for something interesting, creative, and different – this is a great choice< < Fantasy was the first genre I ever read so this book has all the elements that I would enjoy and clearly you did as well. You review gave me a bird's eye view of the characters and Dylan's Leli's and Tyjin's adventures. The Cat in the Cradle sounds really delightful and I must include it in my ever expanding TBR. Jay Bell's world building is quite surprising since this is his first book. BTW I can understand the song in your head - I would have had the same problem since I have listened to the Cat Stevens CD many times. 🙂 Thanks very much Kassa for your usual wonderful job.

    • Thanks Wave! I hope if you do get the chance to read this, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I found the young adults to be at times frustrating and wanted to thump them upside the head but then I remembered they’re only 17-19 with great responsibility on their head while they just want to be young still. It’s a book I think both adults and especially young adults can relate to.

      Also Jay is a gay man living in Germany with his partner, who did the illustrations. His website is pretty fun and cute with a clear bent to fantasy so you can see his influences.

      As a first book, I’m blown away and hope others enjoy this as much as I did.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: