Malaisea, the unhealthiest town in the whole of Zamonia, is home to Echo the Crat, a multitalented creature resembling a cat in appearance but capable of speaking any language under the sun, human or animal. When his mistress dies, Echo finds himself out on the street. Dying of starvation, he is compelled to sign a contract with Ghoolion the Alchemaster, Malaisea’s evil alchemist-in-chief. This fateful document gives Ghoolion the right to kill Echo at the next full moon and render him down for his fat, with which he hopes to brew an alchemical concoction that will make him immortal. In return, he promises to regale the little Crat with the most exquisite gastronomic delicacies until his time is up.But Ghoolion has reckoned without Echo’s talent for survival and his ability to make new friends. These include the Leathermice, the Cogitating Eggs, the Golden Squirrel, the Cooked Ghost, Theodore T. Theodore the one-eyed Tuwituwu, and, above all, Izanuela Anazazi, the last Uggly in Malaisea.
As I read this book, I kept comparing it to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. But while Terry’s world is mostly comical, Zamonia is dark, gloomy and has all the misfortune of the world.
You have speaking cat which is our lead protagonist, you have a famous Alchemist who actually can turn lead into gold, vampire rats, ugly looking Soothsayers called Ugglies, Eggs which give you wisdom and many more strange things going on.
As the Izanuela Anazazi, the last Uggly in Malaisea, comments many times, our villain Ghoolian is actually a Man of many talents. Apart from a particular interest in creating taxidermy models of creatures like the Grim Reaper, Egyptian Mummy etc and an excellent taste in killing exotic animals and preserving their fat, he also excels as a Culinary master.
He serves Echo with a delectable plate of clear water Tuna fish which makes the Crat experience how it feels like to be a fish. Then he creates a breakfast and honey from Demonic Bees from Honey Valley which transforms Crat into a demonic bee. Then he creates a dish from Leathermice blood and voila Crat is a Vampire bat for a night. Sigh! and some of his dishes!! Roasted squab swimming in a lake of sweetened milk – Exotic dishes cooked to perfection and placed in a food garden formation – mousses – tarts – desserts – you name it you have it in here!!
That almost made me fall in love with Ghoolion. But his darker side – Shudder!! As you read on you realise he is the most evil person of all. He knows everything and plans everything so meticulously that you just want to kill him with your bare hands. I had a soft moment or two when I read about his history but then his present is way too evil to digest. And all this evilness for love!! Blah!
Crat came across as a weak protagonist no matter how many talents it may possess. It always had to depend on someone or something to get out of a situation. Not my type of hero! Would have liked a stronger protagonist.
I loved the illustrations that ran through the book. More than the prose, I was spending more time staring at these intriguing sketches.
Quite enjoyable book! Pick it if you are in a mood to be transported to an alternative world. It is not a oh-i-can’t-put-it-done type but comes very close to it.