"Cat’s Claw," Amber Benson

Pros: Incredibly imaginative and creative; silly & fun
Cons: Too slapstick & melodramatic for my taste; aforementioned material pairs oddly with more dramatic and adult moments
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.

 

Calliope Reaper-Jones seems like just another flaky, fashion-obsessed New York girl, stuck in a boring job and trying to make ends meet. But she’s far from ordinary. She’s Death’s daughter, immortal, magically-inclined, and bound and determined to stay as far away from the family business (Death, Inc.) as possible. Somehow, however, she keeps getting dragged back into it. This time, Cerberus is calling in the favor she owes him. And if she doesn’t pay up, little Hellhound-pup Runt will get taken away from her new happy family. Paying off that favor is going to be more than a little difficult, however, involving trips to Purgatory, Las Vegas, and Ancient Egypt… not to mention dealing with some very unsavory supernatural types.


 

I’ve wanted to read Amber Benson’s work ever since I heard she had a book out called Death’s Daughter (the prequel to this one), which just sounded cool. I rarely have the time to pick up and read books on my own these days, however, but I was more than happy to jump on it when her follow-on, Cat’s Claw, showed up on my doorstep as a review copy.

First the good: Cat’s Claw more than met my hopes & expectations in the creativity and fun departments. While I have gotten a little sick of fashion-obsessed heroines, Amber gives the trope some new life by curtailing her heroine’s finances so she has to buy things on sale (gasp!) and giving her an unlucky knack for getting her new fashion finds ruined in the hostile environs of the underworld.

The idea of Death as a corporation is hilarious, as are many of the details in this book. This is some of the most original and wacky paranormal writing I’ve encountered in a long time—with nary a vampire or werewolf in sight! Some of the dialogue is hilarious, and the characters certainly have plenty of personality.

Now for the parts I didn’t like as much, with a caveat: To me, some of my negatives read like an author who has incredible amounts of talent, but hasn’t entirely honed her craft. That said, they could also be read as elements of deliberately-chosen style that simply didn’t work for me as an individual reader. I’ll explain what bothered me, and you can decide for yourself whether it would matter to you or not.

Everybody screeches & hisses their words. Actions are melodramatic and wild. Prose is purple. In some ways it worked as a kind of overall slapstick, hilarious style. However, there are some moments in this book that are not meant to be slapstick—they’re dark, or adult, and the slapstick tone really undercuts that. If those clashing moments weren’t present, or the slapstick-ness was toned down a tad, it could make a really interesting deliberately melodramatic romp of a style. As it is, I had some difficulty with it.

There are also some really huge and blatant info-dumps in here. They almost half-work, thanks to the conversational, first-person style Amber indulges in. And that’s quite a feat, let me tell you. However, when you’re approaching the climax of the book and things come to a screeching halt so the narrator can say, “Speaking of immortality, I suppose since we’re already on the topic, now would be as good a time as any to explain how it works,” then you’re really derailing the pace.

I’m blown away by the originality of the material, so I hope to see a smoother and more consistent writing style in later books. Because while I enjoyed Cat’s Claw, it didn’t bowl me over the way I was hoping.

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  1. […] I’m gonna say up front this was not my favorite book of the series so far. I thought it was a bit slow moving and that a lot of plot twists were used instead of character development. Calliope is still whining and not wanting to face what it means to be Death’s daughter and caught up in the supernatural world. (Whining and denial are also a favorite of Anita Blake, which was one reason I disliked the last three or four books of that series. Well, and I’m not into furries.) Anyhoo, in Cat’s Claw Calliope returns to the world she fights so desperately to forget by bargain shopping for important brand names. But her favors offered in Death’s Daughter are called in and so Cali goes unwillingly to repay them. The three-headed Cerberus tells Cali that in order to pay off her debt to him she must leave his daughter with him for a while and go off to hunt down a missing architect. Along the way she is led around the nose by a cat spirit, finds out her missing lover may not be so missing, and finally figures out how to sorta save the day. The twists were interesting but not all the unexpected, I’m more suspicious of new characters than someone who grew up in the supernatural world is? The other tid-bit I don’t like is the characters propensity to act like it is still 1990 saying- Not! Ugh. I pushed through the book and was glad I did. It is not a hard read and worth sitting through as more of a lead up to the next book than just in its own right. Enough happens in this book that it makes up for lack of character development and I found myself rooting for Cali, if only because no one but Jarvis seems to be. Read a longer review here. […]

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