Written by Diane Duane
Published by Aspect
Set in the same universe as Duane's young adult fantasies (but absolutely not just for teens), The Book of Night With Moon follows the adventures of four feline wizards: wise Rhiow, Saash the engineer, Urruah the wily tomcat, and young Arhu, who seems to be developing oracular powers. Certain cats, it seems, are in charge of protecting Earth from metaphysical dangers, using various transit gates to other times and realities. One of these gates is malfunctioning, and it's up to Rhiow and team to fix it in a dangerous journey across dimensions to battle the Children of the Serpent. Along the way, they research ancient Egyptian spells, dinosaurs, and the villain behind it all, the evil Lone Power, whose only desire is to destroy the cats, the world, and all that is good. It seems that the ancient war between Set and Bast is alive and being fought today.
Duane's world is as detailed and interesting as you would expect from a world created over several novels. In creating a culture and even language for the cats, she never succumbs to the preciousness that sometimes haunts animal-protagonist fiction. Don't be afraid you'll see dancing rabbits and sweet unicorns - instead, you'll see raptors trying to rip your head off and angry deities. The religious-magical history of the cats is interesting; Duane draws primarily from Egyptian myth for her metaphysics. Duane has a good hand with detail; she neither overwhelms the reader with unnecessary information, nor underwhelms us with spiritless prose and flat circumstances. The plot is deep enough to satisfy adults, but the action is constant enough and the story interesting enough to hold the attention of older teenage readers - the plot is possibly too dark and complex for any younger readers.
Her characters are similarly strong, having as much of an understanding of sacrifice and true heroism as many a human hero - Rhiow's Oath will bring tears to your eyes. The personalities of the various humans and cats are distinct, their lines suited to their unique selves. While anyone who has ever had cats may recognize their feline companions in parts of Duane's cats, readers will also recognize themselves in the feline culture and will have no problem getting into the action. The use of cats is surprisingly non-alienating; you don't have to be a card-carrying ailurophile to like the characters and enjoy the book. Cat-lovers won't be angered by her cats, either; too often, writers who don't really know cats, or dogs or any creature, try to use them as characters. Duane actually knows what she's talking about and avoids anthropomorphizing the cats too much.
Egypt-lovers and fans of New York City will be pleased by the complexity and relative accuracy of Duane's fiction; the liberties she takes are always interesting and creative. Ailurophiles, of course, and anyone who enjoys mythological fantasy will enjoy this addition to their fantasy library. There's even a little bit of science fantasy here to interest those who want to know how gates work.
Definitely a good book for adults, The Book of Night with Moon will leave you wanting to know more about Duane's world and the cats who hold the line to protect it.
Review submitted by Dindrane
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