Catacombs: A Tale of the Barque Cats
by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Review by Mel Jacob
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345513786
Date: 07 December 2010 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Threatened with extermination, the Barque Cats with the help of an aging feline from Mau, Pshaw-Ra escape their fate and travel to his world where cats rule. There, the wily cat sets in motion his scheme to create a breed of super cats to rule the universe.
Once on Mau the heat surprises everyone and supplies drop rapidly with so many cats to feed. Meanwhile, Chester explores Mau and learns what he can. He encounters Renpet, exiled sister of the nasty Queen Nefure, and her human servant, Chione, when Renpet steals the fish Chester caught.
Pshaw-Ra manages to produce the ceremonial procession he promised and the cats and humans are escorted to the city. There they meet the arrogant Queen Nefure who sees little of value in these newcomers. Pshaw-Ra assures her they are the key to extending her domain throughout the universe.
The cats are housed and assigned human servants to care for them. Cat physicians begin administering medicine to all the new cats. Soon the pregnant females lose their litters, but Chester assumes the stress of impoundment and the trip have caused it.
At loose ends, Chester begins to explore the underground city and finds Renpet and her servant. At one point they encounter a large snake or worm in the tunnels and barely escape. Mutual attraction arises between the two cats, and Chester and Renpet mate. She bears kittens with polydactyl feet.
When Nefure sees her own kittens, she orders them destroyed and wants all the Barque cats destroyed as well. Nefure demotes Pshaw-Ra and he plots to save the mixed kittens from her. Then, when a litter of Barque kittens goes missing, Jubal and Chester hunt for them only to face the worm.
By now, the humans who transported the cats and the cats themselves want to return to their own world. The longhaired Barque Cats, descendents of Maine Coon cats, find Mau too hot and they miss their Cat Persons. Pshaw-Ra has universal domination in mind, but didn't count on the worm.
As noted in the review of Catalyst, the tone here appears more suited to children and teens. McCaffrey and Scarborough wrap up the novel with an exciting, but almost unbelievable climax, featuring the mixed breed kittens. Even some of the bad humans come through for the cats. The authors leave plenty of room to continue the story of the kittens and Pshaw-Ra.