Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
OK, I have to admit it. I love retold fairy tales! I love how an author can take a recognizable skeleton plot and add, change, twist, and fold it into something entirely new. I discovered them when my kids were in elementary school (East by Edith Pattou is one of my all time favorites), and have been reading them ever since. And I was so happy to find that they are a fairly popular sub-genre of M/M romance (Brute by Kim Fielding is my favorite here!)
The other fun thing about retold fairy tales is when an author will weave in elements of other myths, other folklore from other cultures, and combine them with a fantasy world, or, like in this one, with the contemporary world. Ms. Martinez combined the European “Puss in Boots” with the Japanese Kasha, or cat demon, but then she created her own background for why he was in present-day small town Pennsylvania. And when a book sends me to Wikipedia to look up the references and find out where and how the author departed from canon mythology, I call that successful!
The book starts when the unfavored third son, Willem, inherits only $300 and the family cat when his father dies. Although he thinks this was just his father’s last jab at him, he’s going to make the best of what he has, and after all, he’s always liked Puss. He’s been laid off from his job, lost his apartment when his boyfriend cheated, and is essentially homeless but doesn’t want to impose upon either of his brothers, even though winter is setting in (this was the only part of the story that bothered me – if Willem is such a good and reasonable guy, why does he let something like pride drive him to the streets?) He is shocked when Puss starts talking to him, but is so low that he’s willing to believe in magic if it finds him a warm place to sleep. The cat informs him that “Puss” is a terrible name, insists that Willem call him Kasha, and sets out to help him get back on his feet. Kasha is a demon who has been exiled to the human world, and is moved from one master to another in order to help them find what they want and need. When one mission is accomplished he moves on to the next in an endless circle of servitude, so he’s learned to take what joy he can from that life, but he’s been burned enough times by cruel masters to be guarded about his purpose and abilities.
Willem is different, though. Despite his past mistakes, he is a good and generous man who doesn’t accept or want Kasha as a servant/slave and still feels that it is his responsibility to take care of Kasha. Kasha can also manifest as a man (with some cat parts that makes the sex both funny and kinda kinky) who is conveniently gay and Willem is just his type.
The rest of the story is the classic sacrifice and redemption that makes any good fairy tale work. I enjoyed it, but was never able to really get behind either who these characters were before they met, or what it was about their connection that made them worthier of blessing in the end. There was a little punishment kink introduced that was both gratuitous and unconvincing. Kasha’s personality was a little more fleshed out in terms of what made him into a somewhat jaded and suspicious man in the beginning, but I just wasn’t convinced of the love between the men, and certainly not that it was responsible for either of them making the grand gestures that a fairy tale requires.
I really like this author though, and I’m going to be reviewing another of her fairy tales in this blog here soon, and I’ll be hoping for a little more!
Cover art by Posh Gosh is perfect for the book (except that Kasha had green eyes, not yellow!)
Published November 8th 2016 by Pride Publishing (first published April 16th 2011)