Tor, Oct 2003, 25.95, 316 pp.
Princess Harueme was the half-sister of the deceased Emperor Shirakawa; aunt to also dead Emperor Horikawa; and great-grandaunt to Emperor Sutoku. These connections enabled Harueme to live a luxurious life at the emperor's court for the past fifty years. Now she recognizes that not only is she old, but she is dying in spite her great grandnephew's efforts to provide the best medical care available. Harueme knows she must leave the court before she dies in order to avoid a stain her relative's rule. While packing for her move to a convent, Harueme finds several unused notebooks that demand she fill the blanks with words.
Harueme scribes the story of a tortoiseshell cat living in a ramshackle estate until a fire destroyed her home and killed her relatives. The sole survivor is a feline who feels lonely as she also lost her FUDOKI, for there is no one to share the chronicle of all the female cats who resided in her home. She sets out on a journey to find a home for her Fudoki and a name for herself.
Kij Johnson's second fantasy based on Japanese myth is as good if not better than her delightful debut, THE FOX WOMAN. The themes of this powerful tale are life, dying, death, and love, but these subjects are deftly placed in two potent subplots. Harueme's story contrasts with that of the nameless cat as both face death and a loss of home with dignity and courage. The two stars enhance this fabulous thought provoking fantasy that deserves strong readership. With a fox and a cat in her menagerie, fans will wonder which animal from Japanese myths Ms. Johnson will star in her next novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner