Review: The Marquise and Her Cat

After reviewing a somewhat mediocre book last week from fantasy author Shari Tapscott, I was pleased to find that I thoroughly enjoyed her retelling of the fairy tale "Puss in Boots". The Marquise and Her Cat is by far the best book I've read by Shari thus far. It remains faithful to the original fairy tale while offering a gender-reversed protagonist along with several other fun twists. Before reading this book, I never realized how much I wanted a fully fleshed out adaptation of "Puss in Boots." Though Puss appears in Shrek 2 as well as other spin-offs and sequels from the franchise, the fairy tale itself is still pretty obscure. Even though I had read it a long time ago, I forgot most of the details and never realized how entertaining it could be with just a bit more imagination.

The Marquise and her Cat is the story of Etta, a miller's daughter with two brothers. True to the fairy tale, her brothers inherit very nice possessions from a recently deceased relative while Etta is left with the cat. She thinks she got completely screwed over by her eccentric aunt until she learns that Puss can talk, and he begins concocting a convoluted scheme to bring Etta great fortune. Changing the main character from male to female was a clever notion since the "rags to riches" concept tends to be more popular with female leads such as "Cinderella," which is also why most versions of "The Prince and the Pauper" tend to be gender-reversed. Puss's schemes are borrowed directly from the original fairy tale, but it feels fresh and new to read about Etta pretending to be a marquise and wearing fancy clothes that she is not used to because she would never even consider doing anything like that if not for her talking cat. She often finds herself questioning her own sanity, but she goes along with it in spite of everything because she can see that Puss only has the best of intentions for her.

Shari Tapscott also incorporates a love triangle into the story. She does this in a bold way by alternating the perspective of each chapter between Etta and Beau, one of Etta's suitors. This is not the first book I've read that switches perspective between the two main love interests. In fact, I've written a book like that myself. The technique can be hit or miss depending on the author's intentions. In this case, I'm not so sure it was the best idea. Even though there was a love triangle between Beau and Kerrick, we only see Beau's perspective of the romance, which makes it extremely obvious which one Etta will end up with. There are also certain details that get revealed early on in the Beau chapters that would have been more of a fun surprise if we didn't learn about them until later from Etta's perspective. Despite that, the love triangle was a fun twist on the original tale that added some suspense and intrigue.

After reading how well "Puss in Boots" translated to a novel in The Marquise and Her Cat, I'm surprised there aren't any other popular adaptations of the tale. It has everything you could possibly want from a classic fairy tale--fun animal sidekicks, clever schemes, romance, a fearsome ogre, and a noble protagonist achieving happiness and fortune. Shari Tapscott did a wonderful job of fleshing it out into a full-length story that accentuated all of the humor, fun, and fantasy of the fairy tale. This is the first book of her Fairy Tale Kingdoms series, in which she retells classic fairy tales. The second book, The Queen of Gold and Straw, is a retelling of "Rumplestiltskin."

I'm so happy I decided to give Shari Tapscott's writing another chance with The Marquise and Her Cat. This book gave me a new perspective on a classic story and made it more appealing to me by making the protagonist female. It was a fast read that was full of humor and fun. Even though I didn't think Beau's chapters were necessary. it was nice to read about Etta through his eyes instead of only seeing her perspective. Every time Puss said something, I wanted to smile and laugh, especially when the characters reacted to hearing him for the first time. His schemes got so ridiculous that it was amazing that Etta and Beau continued to reluctantly follow along when they secretly wanted to torment the cat for putting them in such embarrassing situations. Of course, it all works out in the end, and a good time is had by all.


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