Monday, April 07, 2008

I write an awful lot on this blog about television. Partly, it's because I do watch an awful lot of television, unashamedly. It's also partly because it's easy. I don't like to talk a lot about personal stuff here, because it's private. I also don't have a lot of personal stuff to talk about. But every night, I usually see something new on TV, and that gives me something new to talk about here, when I get around to writing new entries.

Lest my faithful readers (both of you) think I do nothing but watch TV, I have decided to start talking about the books I'm reading as well.

Right now, I'm pretty close to finishing Den of Thieves, the third Cat Royal book by Julia Golding. Sadly unavailable in the US, I ordered the first book in the series, The Diamond of Drury Lane as a result of one of the very rare instances of making a useful recommendation. (Generally, their recommendations seem along the lines of, "You ordered a book with pages and a cover. Here are other books with pages and a cover.") Set in the 18th century, the books tell the adventures of Cat Royal, an orphan growing up at the Royal Theater in London, and her adventures through a cross-section of London society, from the gangs of thieves running the streets to an aristocratic family she befriends. The second book goes further into the complex morality of the time, as she struggles to rescue her escaped slave friend, Pedro Hawkins, from the clutches of his cruel master.

In this third book, faced with the closure of the Royal, Cat finds herself acting as a spy in revolutionary Paris. At the same time, she has entered into a dark bargain with evil Billy Shepherd (which, it seems to me, can't possibly be wrapped up in this book, and may be setting things up for the next volume). The closest thing I can think of to these books are Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books, although Pullman's books are set in a different time period, and his plots are a bit more melodramatic and fantastical. The Cat Royal stories are gripping adventures that pretty much show her struggles with the problems of her ordinary life, without the addition of mysterious jewels and treasures and secret weapons.

For what it's worth, the first book won the Nestle Book Prize, something it has in common with other favorite books of mine, like Varjak Paw by SF Said, The Fire-Eaters by David Almond, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, and some books about some kid named Harry Potter.

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