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Ratha's Creature by Clare Bell

First book in "The Named" fantasy series by Clare Bell

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Tested by fire . . .

  • May 18, 2009
  • by
There are plenty of cat stories out there in the publishing universe. I can honestly say I've never read any cat story that's quite like the work of Clare Bell. Don't look for cuddly bright eyed kittens here! Part Clan of the Cave Bear, part Jungle Book, Clare's prehistoric feline fantasy takes us into the world of a clan of sentient cats called the Named and one spirited yearling named Ratha. Back in print after many years, these works are back on the shelf and in the hands of eager readers again.

This first book is Ratha's story, her journey in discovering her own strength as she changes roles from herder, to rebel, exile and heroine. When a spirited Ratha discovers ways to handle the fire that so terrifies her people, she doesn't realize that her actions will lead to exile, and a loss of all she's ever known. As Ratha is forced to grow up and struggle through hardship to find her way, she must learn what road to travel, despite the price she pays to walk it. When the Clan who exiled her is threatened with being destroyed, she must decide if she will be the key to their survival against the attacks of the Unnamed.

Reading this again after so many years I was pleasantly surprised to find this book has lost none of its impact and strength. Ms. Bell has created a harsh prehistoric world that her cat clan lives in. This is not a land of magic or easy choices. Each choice leads to inevitable consequences, even when it may be the right choice to make. The author's deft handling of her characters allows for readers to suspend their disbelief and really visualize this band of sentient cats that herd animals for food. The cats still have to contend with the lack of hands and the demands of their nature, but the personalities and societal pressures are very familiar and all too human.

While the tale moves quickly and is relatively short, this is not a light story--there are extremely poignant moments, and triumph is often mixed with tragedy. The author manages to pull the reader into the world without lengthy scene setting or world building detours. The book moves fast--but the tale never stumbles over itself in the telling. It's a powerful story. It's the story of what makes a leader and what kinds of roads they often travel. It's the story of love and loss and betrayal. It's a story of big cats in an unforgiving wilderness and how they survive.

This is not a cute or cuddly story. It's a serious adventure and coming of age tale that will likely appeal to young teen and young adult readers. Given some of the mature elements in the story, this may not be as appropriate for younger readers: the complex characters and mature relationships make for demanding reading! If you want to read more about Ratha and her clan, take heart! There's more to the The Named series. "Clan Ground", "Ratha and Thistle Chaser", and "Ratha's Challenge" are all back in print! If you like cat stories like these, you might want to check out "Tailchaser's Song" by Tad Williams and the "Catfantastic" story anthologies edited by Andre Norton.

Happy Reading! ^_^ Shanshad

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 Twenty-five million years in the past, a society of intelligent cats pushed close to extinction meets an enemy band of raiding predatory cats in a decisive battle which will determine the future for both.
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ISBN-10: 0142408433 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780142408438 (pbk.)
Author: Clare Bell
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Firebird
Date Published: July 19, 2007
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