By Maureen Tai, 26 September 2022
In S.F. Said’s imaginative, engrossing and dark-ish middle-grade novel, Varjak Paw (ages 8+), the titular cat is no ordinary feline but a Mesopotamian Blue. This exotic, ancient breed is descended from Jalal, legendary adventurer and hunter. The stories about Jalal, legends in their own right, are recounted by Varjak’s grandfather, and they intoxicate the young kitten, so much so that the venerated ancestor starts appearing to Varjak in his dreams. When a strange, malevolent Gentleman and his two murderous black cats suddenly appear on the scene, ending Varjak’s life as he knows it, our hero realises that he will need to master the long-forgotten Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal in order to save himself, his family and his newfound friends. A compelling story about loyalty, courage, finding (and believing) in yourself. And obviously, a perfect read for cat lovers.