Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine begins its rather impressive world-building with its first expressive page, and it doesn’t stop until four lovingly crafted journal pages after the narrative of the book ends.
It doesn’t do this aggressively, as some fantasy novels can, burying readers under an avalanche of hyper-specific lingo, names, and mythologies. Rather, it invites the reader into a cozily glowing candle-lit home, and very shortly they find themselves enamored with a vibrant, pleasant, and funny world.
The book follows monster tamer Suri, a young girl whose role in her nomadic camp community is more hopeful than factual; armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of the details of all the local monsters, she may be more knowledgeable — if much less experienced — than the recognized monster hunters who seek bounties on the monsters they claim to have hunted and killed.
The book sees Suri begin to gain that experience when hearsay concerning the local sighting of a creature called a caitsith—a sort of anthropomorphic cat person. What’s more, there’s a mysterious wagon in town said to contain a large monster, as well.
The world feels rife for exploration, and while this first volume does little to expand the scope, it does away with the trope-y fantasy roles and pitfalls that might make that world predictable. Suri is no fated warrior, there are no glum steward wizards to guide her on her plot, and there isn’t a whiff of the standard orcs or goblins.
Like many YA graphic novels, Cat’s Cradle moves at a steady clip — the whole thing can be read in one sitting, and by its end, it feels only as if it’s covered the same amount of ground as the first two chapters of a prose novel might. The book gets the narrative moving but leaves the reader craving the next volume.
Luckily, Suri and her world are worth waiting for; Jo Rioux’s artwork is memorable and striking, so that even the most forgetful of child readers might be moved to seek out the next book in the series, the forthcoming The Mole King’s Lair.
Cozy, sweetly funny, and packed with character, Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine marks a compelling new force in YA Fantasy, one more interested in fun than fads. It further bolsters the already impressive catalog of the Macmillan’s First Second imprint; more importantly, it spotlights a major talent in Rioux.
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