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Reserved For the Cat: Elemental Masters, Book 5 by Mercedes Lackey
Cover Artist: Jody A. Lee
Review by Beth Slater
DAW Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756403621
Date: 30 October 2007 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Lackey returns us to the early 20th century England era, where the Elemental Masters are still maintaining their secrecy. In her 5th retelling of a fairy tale, this one fashioned after "Puss in Boots", we follow the happenings of young Ninette Dupond, a French ballet dancer with meager aspirations of survival. Unbeknownst to Ninette, she has a furry patron – a scrawny cat who has seemed to always be around while she was growing up. After the death of her mother, Ninette forges on with the Paris Ballet barely making ends meet when she is selected to replace La Augustine as the star of the show after the diva has sprained her ankle unexpectedly. But when Ninette's performance exceeds expectations, she is fired and out of money in order to keep La Augustine happy with the theater. Out of choices, Ninette has decided to attempt the Moulin Rouge when she starts hearing voices. Have the circumstances driven her insane?

In a world where magic exists, there are all sorts of creatures whom everyday people don't notice – like Brownies, Trolls, talking cats. So Ninette has some difficulty transitioning from her known world of ballet to trusting and believing a talking cat – even if said cat, aka Thomas, has made good on all his promises to help her and keep her from the streets. Thomas maneuvers Ninette across the channel to a small area in London named Blackpool. He's kept her fed and provided her with decent clothing so that she may passed unnoticed – at least until the right time arrives.

Setting Ninette up under the alias of a Russian dancer isn't a piece of cake, but the parts seem to come together – until the real Russian ballet dancer Nina – one who never wanders from her territory – is informed of Ninette's performances and comes to eliminate her competition. But Ninette is surrounded by Elemental Masters, and Nina turns out to be a little bit different from your average ballet dancer.

Magic is afoot in this fairy tale re-telling, and it is a might more creative than most you'll read. Some of Lackey's tales haven't quite been easily recognized, but I will have to admit that The Serpent's Shadow was my absolute favorite. I do wish there was a little more interaction amongst the characters, but that might be a little too much for the telling of the tales. Ninette herself is great, but I think that Aisle is my favorite, and wouldn't mind more of her story. I am certain that Lackey fans will enjoy her newest tale, although the beginning seems a little slow.

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