The Wildings, by Nilanjana Roy

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‘In this circle, for this time, may the winds hear my rhyme; all the laws of host and guest shall hold fast and be blessed. Safe from talon, safe from claw; I’ll harm neither whisker nor paw. Enter then and have your say; you are my honoured guest today’

I went out of my comfort zone with The Wildings. Animal books aren’t my thing as a general rule, and the statement on the back cover that promised this to be ‘a feline Watership Down‘ (Lovereading) was not encouraging. I also tend to stay in the ‘younger readers’ age category, as ‘older reader’ and YA books are often a bit miserable. But there were three things about The Wildings that won me over:

  1. It’s about cats. I love cats. A book about cats would have to really make an effort to be truly bad, in my opinion.
  2. It’s set in India. I’ve always wanted to visit India, as a child I was obsessed with the country, and the magic my mind associated with the place still lingers.
  3. There’s a map in the front. I realise I go on about maps in books quite a lot, but they really are very important as far as I’m concerned.

I bought the book for these reasons, and it was great to read something outside my usual area. It’s not a story for the faint of heart, as the realities of feline life are not dumbed down: these are hunters, through and through. But the politics and details of their lives are fascinating nonetheless, and raise important questions about the relationships between predator and prey. The cats, and other creatures, have beautifully developed characters that show a range of perspectives on the issues they face. The Wildings is the first in a series, and the ending (while dramatic and satisfying in it’s own right) feels like a beginning in some respects. But this isn’t a disadvantage – particularly given that the sequel (The Hundred Names of Darkness) has already been released!

All in all, The Wildings was an excellent read that I enjoyed immensely. It’s place on the 2017 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize shortlist is well deserved, and I recommend it to anyone who isn’t squeamish about hunting a few rats.

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