Published by: Pan MacMillan, 7th July 2022
Middle-grade animal stories have been one of our highlights for 2022 so far. From The Lost Whale to The Girl Who Lost a Leopard to While the Storm Rages, these stand-out tales have warmed our hearts and kept us gripped and The Fire Cats of London is no exception. This is the first novel we've read by Anna Fargher and we highly recommend it.
When young wildcats, Asta and Ash are taken from their natural habitat and sold to a London apothecary, Asta is determined to escape. But further horrors lie in store - an horrific fighting ring and a deadly plot which is about to put the whole city in danger. How will Asta get out with her own life, let alone save her brother?
This is the perfect story for animal-lovers and history fans. However, although the publisher's website recommends it for 6-8 years, I would personally place it firmly in the middle-grade category. Gripping from the outset, the animal cruelty makes it a challenging read in places, leaving readers with a very stark question hanging over the actions of humankind. Yet, to counter balance this, there is bucketloads of bravery and kindness too, showing readers that there is always another way...
Asta is a wildcat to root for. Despite her fear and suffering, she remains selfless, tenacious and true to herself. Her love for her brother is endearing and her bravery, in the face of absolute terror, is awe-inspiring. We loved her relationship with Tilia - another wonderful character - and her uneasy acceptance of Miriam. In contrast, there are also some seriously nasty villains, both of the human and feline kind. Beauty was a particularly love-to-hate character and brilliantly written.
Our favourite thing about this novel is how fact and fiction are so cleverly interwoven. We learnt so much about the period - the lifestyle, architecture and the brutal entertainment - alongside the devastating impact of The Great Fire of London and the treatment of supposedly 'lesser creatures'. At the same time, we were gripped by a compelling, fictional story that uses both the era and the fire as a dramatic backdrop and which draws the readers' attention to the animals so often forgotten within human history. Now we can't wait to read more of Anna Fargher's work...
A big thanks to Netgalley and Pan MacMillan for allowing us a review copy. The Fire Cats of London is available to pre-order and is released on 7th July 2022.