One of the more enjoyable aspects of reading a new writer’s first couple of novels is experiencing the writer’s growing skills, as you read each novel they publish. In the case of E.E. Knight, his growth as a writer parallels the growth and evolution of David Valentine, the protagonist of Choice of the Cat, the second installment in Knight’s darkly entertaining tales of The Vampire Earth. Though this novel directly follows the events of Way of the Wolf, whether by design or not, Cat is very easily accessible to those unlucky enough not to have read Way of the Wolf. That said, many of the characteristics giving The Way of the Wolf high marks are vividly on display here: strong characterization, excellent pacing, believable depth in world building, and a true strong balance of these three elements. Each contributes to the overall quality and strength of this novel.
The war between the humans and the Kur continues to mar the Earth. In the background, assisting the human resistance are the Lifeweavers, the progenitors of the Kur. The Lifeweavers are ancient beings, both on the individual level and in the general sense of the race. The Kur are an offshoot of the Lifeweavers, more sinister and covetous of life, knowledge and power. Through the millennia, the Kur have evolved into the Vampiric rulers of Knights apocalyptic Earth.
Though most of the large-scale battles occurred prior to the first novel in this saga, the volatile skirmishes are characteristic of the current tides of the war. Valentine leads his company of wolves through many of these conflicts with varying results. After one devastating battle, David finds himself in the favor of the Cats, another of Humanity’s highly skilled militaristic divisions. Though similar to the Wolves in that they receive heightened sense training from the Lifeweavers, the methods and general philosophies of the Cats are a bit different than the Wolves. In that sense, David must go through some training to acquaint himself with his new Cat abilities. Accompanying him on his initial mission with the Cats and assisting him in his training is Duvalier, a young woman scarred by the life the Kurs have posed on the earth, much in the same way David has been scarred.
In the interactions between David and Duvalier, Knight shows possibly his most impressive growth as a writer. The two characters are mature, strong but they both have their faults and weaknesses. With such strong characters of the opposing sexes, there is no doubt sexual tension will be in the air. They both to acknowledge it, but to Knight’s credit, where they both could have fallen into more stereotypical and predictable behavior patterns, he does not give in to the easy way out.
Another commendable aspect of this novel is the sprinkling of hints Knight drops of where the saga may lead. While Way of the Wolf and Choices of the Cat both illustrate dark aspects of this Earth; in Cat, elements of a greater story begin to simmer to the surface. While there are some plot surprises in this novel, Knight also takes some of the plot strands to their next logical step. As readers of both novels may not consider some of the events that occur in Choices of the Cat predictable, these events do make sense and are satisfying logical steps. While this is neither an opening nor a closing novel in a grand saga, Choice of the Cat does not suffer from the slightest hint of middle-book syndrome. As I stated, you get a sense of larger events in motion rather than simply a novel holding the proverbial place until the next novel appears, as is the case with many of the multi-volume sagas littering the speculative fiction shelves.
My only problem with this novel is a somewhat rushed climax, one thing that was built up throughout the novel came off as almost insignificant when marked against
the build-up Knight invested into it. That said, perhaps this event was more than it seemed and will be played out to a more full consequence in the subsequent novel(s).
Minor complaint aside, Knight again succeeds in blending all the elements of an entertaining story, a well-thought out world, and believable characters into a gratifying stew of a novel. Though the novel was rather fast paced, there was also a sense of build-up balancing this out. Again, the sense that a greater picture was being painted, despite the brisk pacing. I highly recommend both of the novels Knight has penned thus far. To get a better sampling of the tale Knight is telling, visit his Web site www.vampireearth.com.
Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford
© 2004 Rob Bedford