When I spotted the cover of this book on NetGalley, I knew I had to have it. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed enough with an AR copy of this book in exchange of an honest review, and I’m more than happy to comply.
Look at this cover. Isn’t it a beauty? I’m madly in love with the color choice. And look at that adorable cat!
Witch, Cat, and Cobb by J. K. Pendragon is the story of princess Breanwynne, destined to marry someone she doesn’t and would never be able to love. Faced with the prospect of spending her whole life stuck in an unhappy marriage, she decides to run away along with Fen, a talking cat with a big secret. Together, they run to the swamp where their real adventure begins.
See? A summary! Now people can guess what I’m talking about. I’m learning.
Disclaimer: There is one single spoiler in this review, and as usual is hidden behind white text and can’t be read on mobile.
Let’s start by saying that I loved this novella. It is the kind of book I would gift my teenage daughter with if I sensed she was struggling with her orientation or her identity. Actually, if only I’d been able to find a paperback edition, I’d have wrapped it and placed it under the Christmas tree for her anyway, because this story is too cute to pass by.
The way LGBT themes are talked about in this book not once feels forced or over the top. On the contrary, Brean orientation is normal in this verse (finally!), and in the end her mother is fine with letting her be free and happy with her new life as soon as she realizes Brean could never love her betrothed. Or men in general. Brean’s mother is accepting to the point that she adjusts her plans to accommodate her daughter’s best interest. Which is what a good parent would do, and it makes everything so right and sweet. And Mel’s pain for having a body that doesn’t represent her is so heartbreaking. Nobody should be forced to endure that kind of suffering, and I’m glad more and more books exist to show how it feels.
I loved Mel and Fen’s backstory, and I wish I could have read more about how magic works in this verse. And about the way elves live. I have so many questions about interspecies relationships between humans and elves, and I’d also have loved more court drama, something I tend to adore (and the main reason I got hooked on ASOIAF). Anyway, while I wish I had the chance to understand more of the rules of the world J. K. Pendragon crafted and I would have liked (a lot) more angst, I also get why there is no space for too much drama in this story: it is a fairytale, and fairytales are meant to be a slightly bumpy road to the main character’s happily ever after.
Witch, Cat, and Cobb ticks every possible box of the genre: from the right versus wrong theme to the way conflicts are resolved, from the setting to the presence of a talking animal, every element works perfectly to create a unique work that gives both timeless and very modern vibes.
Had this story been a novel, I’d have agreed that more conflict was needed. Since this is a novella and the space is limited, I’m more than happy with the way things are. Based on genre, themes and pacing, I’m going to rate it 9/10.