‘Varjak Paw’ was a book that I owned when I was a lot younger, read it but didn’t remember any of it. Leena from justkissmyfrog on Youtube talked about ‘Phoenix’ by the same author and mentioned this so she inspired me to seek out a copy of ‘Varjak Paw’! I found a second-hand copy in a charity shop for 49p and definitely couldn’t leave it there.
This is a children’s book and so the print is on the large side and there are illustrations throughout. I loved the illustrations and will do a separate blog post about the illustrator, Dave McKean. The story follows Varjak Paw, an outsider in his own family, who leaves home to learn a secret martial art for cats. It is written in third person but focusses on the cats so it is a unique perspective compared to other things I have read.
As an older reader I do find it difficult sometimes to read children’s books so I read this slowly as and when I felt like it. Having said that, I did get really hooked into the story and read most of it in one day in the end, after days of just reading a few pages at a time. The illustrations and the production of this book was definitely part of that. The pages are all black and white but there are variations within this book; most pages are the usual black text on white paper, but there are pages with white text on black, black text on grey and shaped text around images. It makes it a lot more enjoyable to read and although the majority of pages are full text, some are mostly illustration with only a few lines of text. This definitely highlights different parts of the plot and plays with the reader’s emotions more than it would without the images.
“There are Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal,” whispered the Elder Paw, “We know only three of them. Their names are these. Slow-Time. Moving Circles. Shadow-Walking.”
I found the lessons that Varjak learnt to be very interesting and even though the characters in this are mostly cats, I think that a few of the lessons would translate to people too.
Overall this book was beautifully written with illustrations that really bound it all together well. Although it is a children’s book, I would thoroughly recommend it to older readers too, especially if you like reading children’s fiction. ‘Varjak Paw’ unfolds slightly like a martial arts film but with a coming-of-age twist that I really enjoyed. The ending was unexpectedly dark and a little creepy but definitely tied in well with the rest of the novel and wrapped everything up nicely. I didn’t realise until I finished it that this is the first in a series but I think that I will definitely be looking out for the second, even though, thankfully, this would still make a great standalone.