The characters in this novel were endearing and worth investing in emotionally. The clockwork calico cat has been modified by the inventor Lionel Cogg to have several super qualities. But her most compelling qualities are her loyalty and compassion. This is a little superhero everyone can love. She even comes with an adorable sidekick, a mouse she spared named Emmitt who risks his life several times in her service.
When her friend (cats don’t have owners), Lionel Cogg, is kidnapped by his arch enemy Jameson Morcroft, Cali and the mouse rescues him. This is where the story really takes off. Cali discovers a plot to steal the golden owl from the museum. However, the thieves are nasty, clockwork spiders with super qualities of their own and she must face them alone.
There are wonderful moments of suspense where the reader cannot put the book down until he or she knows the resolution. There are also lovely moments of friendship, without becoming saccharin.
Lana Axe creates a believable and interesting world. Kelly’s modifications and the clockwork inventions are explained in detail without becoming tedious. However, I was surprised to suddenly learn that in this steam punk culture, the bank’s alarm system was powered by electricity.
Axe is a polished writer, however it would be advantageous for her to avoid using so many clichés such as, “the clock released with an audible click, music to Cali’s ears.” As well, she tends to overuse sentences beginning with “as” or “ing,” which can be wearying to the reader.
There are some very funny moments, especially with the mouse. Axe delivers with perfect timing.
I wish Axe had explained why Lionel surgically modified the cat. It is obvious in the story that both the cat and mouse are highly sentient beings able of interspecies communication. Although Kelly cannot speak to humans, I would be more comfortable if this intrusive procedure was consensual or as a result of repairs done to her damaged body from an accident or disease. Cali condemns Jameson Morcroft on suspicion that he would operate on other animals but gives no reason why she is affectionate and loyal to the inventor who risked an innovative and dangerous procedure on her. Maybe I missed this. But experimentation on animals makes me cringe.
However, there is much to recommend in this story. Middle grade readers and up will enjoy it.