ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Prince of Cats was an enjoyable new beginning to a planned trilogy with a self-contained story that worked absolutely well as a standalone.
Honestly, The Prince of Cats by Daniel E. Olesen was never in my radar at first. When the author asked me to review this book, I wasn’t completely sold yet and the pressing mountain of books to read and review made me certain that I won’t be reading this anytime soon. However, when an early impression by Mihir from Fantasy Book Critic—a friend and one of the very few professional SFF reviewers I trust—stated that it was “The Lies Of Locke Lamora in an Arabian Nights setting with a solid dose of mystery and espionage.”, it immediately got my attention; I accepted the book, read it in two days—could’ve done it in one day but The Haunting of Hill House ruined my schedule—and here I am.
In order to save his own life, Jawad must do what nobody has ever achieved: catch the ever elusive Prince of Cats. In the midst of Jawad’s hunt for the Prince of Cats identity, purpose, and finding a way to stop him, he also has his own agendas to execute. This is a small book, it’s only 302 pages, and I highly appreciate that despite the small length, Olesen didn’t rush the story. The author took his time juggling both the character development and the plot and although it didn’t wow me at first, roughly around 30% I was fully immersed by the story, pacing, and character. The Prince of Cats is a character-driven book about a thief and more than anything else, I found Jawad’s personalities and the author’s simple and accessibly well-flowing prose to be the most dominant factors in influencing my enjoyment of the novel. Jawad as a thief was smart, devious, and quite charming. The story was told solely through Jawad’s perspectives and my attention was captured by his espionages, his determination to execute his schemes, and the unlikely friendship he built with Salah that were gradually developed and well-written.
“Do not presume you know me,” Salah scoffed. “that’s how a thief thinks. I am a warrior. You’re only motivated by coin, whereas I am motivated by honour.”
“Of course,” Jawad grinned. “We are all driven by what we lack in life.”
“You little rat.”
I must also say that it’s always refreshing to read a non-Eurocentric fantasy; the world-building of the book was highly inspired by Arabian setting. The entire story of the novel took place in the city of Alcazar and the city reminded me a lot of the desert cities I occasionally found in the role-playing games I played. Reading Jawad traversed the city of Alcazar kind of made me reminisced about those games and also, the efficient details put into the places, buildings, clothing, and character names were a nice touch that made the city felt more vivid and believable.
Picture: The City of Alcazar by Kim Ji Won
My minor con on the book was that the mystery aspect was predictable. I managed to predict the identity of the Prince of Cats and what his motives were since the early chapters of the book and I was proven right. Don’t get me wrong, reading the mysteries gradually revealed was still enjoyable but when mystery aspect is in play, I want it to keep me guessing and surprise me; alas, it wasn’t the case here. Despite the minor issue I had, it didn’t change the fact that I found the book to be enjoyable; especially in the second half.
With this book, Olesen has achieved a great balance of lighthearted tone and well-placed tensions; enhanced with escalating intrigues and charming characters, I imagine that readers who love reading non-Eurocentric fantasy with a great thief as the main character will find The Prince of Cats worth their time.
Official release date: November 26th, 2018