Orphan Cat Royal, of the Theater Royal on Drury Lane, has recovered from her adventures and her stint in jail (The Diamond of Drury Lane) but just when she believes everything has gone back to normal, the unthinkable happens. Pedro, the young musical prodigy, former slave, and Cat’s good friend, has become a star on stage, but his stardom has brought his presence to the attention of a very evil man, Mr. Kingston Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins is Pedro’s former slave master, and he claims that Pedro was sold illegally and must return with Hawkins to the plantation. Hawkins wishes to make an example out of Pedro and show all of his other slaves just what happens to Kingston Hawkin’s “property” when they misbehave. Cat and her friends are appalled and frightened. Cat, her crew, and a group of abolitionist fight tooth and nail to save Pedro, but will their efforts be enough? And can Cat stay out of trouble enough to be of any help to Pedro? Before it’s all over, Cat will have made a pact with the devil for the chance to save her dear friend’s life!
Reaction: What better book to read by candlelight while the electricity is out that a historical adventure, and Cat Royal did not fail to deliver. I was a bit worried when I picked up the book for two reasons. 1) It is way shorter than the first but this turned out to be a positive. In the first book, I thought part of the ending was unnecessary and felt more like an addition rather than a cohesive part of the tale. This did not happen in Pigeons. The book was exactly the right size and ended right when it should have. 2) Slavery is a huge and heavy issue, and I was worried it would dampen some of the fun, adventurousness of the Cat Royal stories. This was not the case. Cat still found time to run from the law, dress like a boy and attend an all boys boarding school, take on the role of a pious Quaker girl, and have a few run-ins with the Billy “the Boil” Shephard, the sinister gang leader who has a special interest in Cat. Not only did Cat still have her fun, I thought the issue of slavery was portrayed very well. While reading this book I even thought that Cat Among the Pigeons would be a great way to introduce middle schoolers to the views of slavery in Britain in the late 1700s. My only complaint (and its minor, especially considering the intended audience) would be that slavery vs. abolition was portrayed as a very black and white issue — i.e. all slavers/plantation owners were bad (they played the roles of bullies as well as the evil antagonist) and all abolitionists were good. I don’t think the issue was necessarily that cut-and-dried but it did work for the story. Overall, Cat Royal is a fun read and I’m looking forward to her next adventure.
Cover: Much like I did for the Diamond of Drury Lane, I like the UK cover (right) much better than the American cover. Again, the American cover isn’t bad but the UK cover just has so much more flair!
Previously: The Diamond of Drury Lane
What’s Next: There are several more books in the series. Check them out on Julia Golding’s website. I’m not sure which one’s have been published in the US but I’m keeping an eye out for them.