She’s Cat Royal – four foot four, with long red hair, green eyes and not a penny she can call her own. But she does know a secret – where a treasure is hidden in the theater that is her home. The problem is, she isn’t the only one looking for it. One adventure leads into the next, taking Cat – and readers — through the colorful streets of late 18th Century London.
The first book, The Diamond of Drury Lane, is an excellent start to a series. It’s rich in details and characters and adventure, and it’s so satisfying as a whole I couldn’t wait to start the next book.
For sure my favorite part was Cat herself, who is everything I want in a book heroine. She’s strong, clever with words and action, fun and energetic, and she has an interesting life that makes for good reading. She does suffer from some self-worth issues, especially in regards to how much her guardians like her (and if they like her enough not to kick her out of the theatre), but I think that just adds realism to the story. She’s a kid, after all, and has a life that could go from good to bad in a snap (it tends to do that a lot, actually, but it always goes back to good again– if not as quickly and from good to bad).
The other characters were wonderful as well, though I wasn’t entirely sure of Cat’s new friend and violin genius (as well as ex-slave), Pedro Hawkins. In the first book he seems a little too willing to sell others out if it’d help his own self, but, again, that seems to fit well with his character. I understood him; I just didn’t trust him.
The story is multi-layered and incredibly full for such a small book, and the setting is small (only one part of London) but detailed. I’m not as familiar with 18th century London as much as I am with 19th century London, so learning what it was like, especially through the eyes of a child with no illusions about her city, was a wonderful experience.
The second episode in the CAT ROYAL ADVENTURE series plunges readers into the underbelly of London in a mission for justice. Pedro’s old slave master wants him back, but his friends on Drury Lane won’t give him up without a fight. Disguised as a boy, Cat enters an aristocratic boarding school and scales the heights of London society before joining a street gang to probe its depths, all to secure the freedom of her friend.
The second book, Cat Among the Pigeons, was just as good as the first if not a little bit better. The tensions are just as high as the first book, the plot is just as exciting, and the ending is just as rewarding, but I do think that the storyline was a just a smidgen more meaningful.
Though it deals with such sobering things like slavery, abolition, and individual freedom, it’s not depressing. It’s mostly just matter-of-fact, with empathy and sensitivity running throughout. The way it’s handled reminds me of some of the American Girl books and how they deal with heavy issues. It’s informative and seems very true to life.
Because the subject matter is heavier than the last book, it wasn’t as much electric and exciting as tense and cloak-and-dagger. (I hope that makes sense.) I often felt frustrated with Cat and Pedro’s situation and how others were treating them, and it made me so glad I’m living when and where I do. It’s a very different feeling from the first book, but it’s still wonderful and a very good read.
I already love Avi‘s historical YA fiction, and this series is very much like his books (except maybe less violent). If you liked The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle you’ll definitely like the Cat Royal series. If you haven’t read Charlotte Doyle but like historical YA fiction, definitely check these books out. You won’t regret it!
Read: August 2009