The Fire Cats of London Review - does this tale of two kittens leave you feline good?
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Written by: Anna Fargher
Published by: Macmillan
Historical Setting: The Great Fire of London, 1666
Recommended reading age: 10+
’m a sucker for any story - be it told in a film, book, or video game – that stars anthropomorphic characters. Anthropomorphic is one of my favourite words – it’s up there with philtrum - which is a fancy term that refers to talking animals who have human characteristics. Disney’s Robin Hood was my film of choice as a kid, whilst Brian Jacque’s Redwall series of books were absolutely my bag.
There’s a common theme between these two stories, of course, talking animals. So, it was with some eagerness that I sat down to read ‘The Fire Cats of London’ by Anna Fargher. This book brings together talking animals and a historic setting and should be everything that I love in a story, unfortunately, I have mixed feelings about this cat’s tale.
First off, plot synopsis time! Every review has to have one and this is this one’s: ‘The Fire Cats of London’ follows the adventures of two wildcats, sister and brother, Asta and Ash. After the tragic death of their mother, our two intrepid felines must learn to survive for themselves. Matters are made rather more challenging in this regard, when they are kidnapped and brought to the city of London. This being 1666, there’s about to be the Great Fire, but as our cat duo is about to discover, there was nothing great about it. What follows is action, adventure, and no small amount of daring-do.
That all sounds terrifically exciting, and eventually it is. The thing is, to get to the good stuff, you’ll have to read through a plodding opening that has all the pace of a glacier. In the first 50 pages of a 272-page book, Asta and Ash haven’t even made it to London yet. Instead, Asta will effectively traipse back and forth in a lethargic sequence that would have benefited from being cut entirely.
Once brother and sister are reunited and embroiled in nefarious plots in London, things pick up. They meet an intriguing and varied bunch of talking animals, which brings proceedings to life immeasurably. This section of the book is far more engaging but still suffers from a slow pace, stilted dialogue, and a pair of lead characters that lack charm.
However, when the eponymous fire gets started, ‘The Fire Cats of London’ becomes a genuine page-turner, and will keep the reader engaged until the thrilling conclusion.
An obvious highlight is the sumptuous artwork by Sam Asher. These gorgeous illustrations are full of character and were a delight to behold. There are also some beautiful descriptions to be found in this book, Anna Fargher proves skillful at painting landscapes with words. There are some wonderful chunks that really capture what it must feel like to be a cat, making this an essential read for cat lovers. However, there are some really tricky words to be found here, and I couldn’t help but feel that the suggested reading age of 8+ is far too low. Certainly, if you are buying for an eight-year-old, make sure you are on hand to help out deciphering the text.
All in all, The Fire Cats of London is not an easy book to recommend. There are some great moments, shame that they are too few and far between.
A huge thank you to Macmillan Children's Books for providing us with a review copy of The Fire Cats of London.
The Fire Cats of London will be released on 07/07/22.
If you'd like to pre-order the book, then please click here to head to Macmillan Children's Books.