Claws, by Mike and Rachel Grinti

There are hundreds of YA books that tell of the Girl and the Fey/Angel/Demon/Vampire/Whatever Dude who fall in love. They are written for teenagers, and there is often Smoldering.

Claws, by Mike and Rachel Grinti (Chicken House, Sept. 1, 2012), is not one of those stories. Rather, it's a story for girls who still love their cats more than any boy, girls for whom Smoldering is few years away. Emma, the central character, is the little sister; it is her older sister, Helena, who's gone missing into a world that has been over-run with magical and mythological creatures. And Emma's parents have spent everything to find Helena, and so now they must live in a dingy trailer park, right on the line between human folk and magical.

Emma's new neighbors include a hag and a coatl (a serpent/human cross)...and a black cat who had been using her new room as his own. He's a cat who's lost all his magic...but he can help Emma take advantage of a treasure trove of cat magic that will not only give her the power to transform herself, but to draw a whole pride of magical cats into her quest through a land full of strange and often hostile creatures.

But now that Emma has enough power (perhaps) to save her sister, what will she do if her sister doesn't want to be saved?

Give this one to the eleven or twelve year old girl who loved the Warriors series who is only just starting to look with interest at the YA Paranormal Fantasy scene. It is a sure winner for that girl. It is also quite possible that a boy in similar circs. would be interested, as neither the story or the central characters are boy-unwelcoming. Emma isn't a girly girl, she's not thinking about boys or make up--she's just exploring new powers, meeting strange creatures, and saving her sister. Likewise the cover is nicely gender neutral.  Still I just can't help but feel that "adolescent cat-loving girls who are readers of fantasy" are, in this case, the quintessentially perfect audience.

(And following on from that thought, this isn't one that I personally as an adult reader took my heart. It didn't quite have the subtlety/emotional tension/shear wonder that makes a mg fantasy book appealing to grown-ups).

Bonus for those looking for diversity in mg fiction: Emma's parents are Vietnamese. It is a fact of her life, not an Issue; it's firmly there in the background as part of who she is. (And I just realized that this is the one hundredth multicultural sci fi/fantasy book for my list! Must add more.)

Here's another review at Ms. Yingling Reads

And here's a picture of our own little black kitten, who goes very nicely with the book:

Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. I promptly placed this on my wish list, because it sounds right up my alley. Would you say it is appropriate for fourth graders? I'll be teaching fourth graders and will need some good recommendations.

    1. I think that this would be a good one for the more conident readers...the Warriors reading type, say. I am tempted to start listing all the books I'd put in my own fourth grade classroom, but will just quickly recommend one series--my own rising fourth grade has recently found R.L. LaFevers' Nathaniel Flood, Beastologist, series, and is loving those. With good reason. Also, unable to restrain myself, The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas, is another we both love...

    2. Great! Thank you for the recommendations!


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