Mercedes Lackey’s “Elemental Masters” series: Reserved for the Cat

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Reserved for the Cat (2007)

[Based on “Puss in Boots”.]

The Puss in Boots character in this story is Thomas, the cat (although he does not wear boots). The person he is protecting is a young woman, Ninette, in place of the miller’s son in “Puss in Boots”, but as in the fairy tale, this involves deception and a false identity. And there is a Troll in place of the ogre of the original story.

Ninette Dupond is a dancer in the Paris Opera Ballet. One day, the star of the ballet, La Augustine, is injured, and Ninette substitutes in the starring role. But she does so well that La Augustine becomes jealous, and has Ninette fired.

Ninette tries to get another job, but fails. And then her cat starts talking to her mentally. The cat, Thomas, is apparently a magical being which had belonged to her father, an Elemental Earth Master, who had disappeared when Ninette was a child. And her father had made Thomas responsible for Ninette’s safety.

With the cat’s guidance, Ninette travels to England, to Blackpool. And also with the cat’s guidance, Ninette takes on the identity of the famous Russian ballerina, Nina Tchereslavsky, and sets up the appearance of having swum ashore from a shipwreck, on a stormy night.

Nigel Barrett, who is an Air Master, runs the Imperial Music Hall. He is assisted by Arthur Gilbert, the orchestra conductor, who is also an Air Magician, and by Wolf, an African Grey parrot, who is a composer, and claims to be the reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The three are out driving when Thomas, the cat, runs to them, asking for help with his mistress, who is stranded on the seashore. (Only people with Elemental Magic are able to hear Thomas’s mental voice. Ninette herself had inherited a trace of magic from her father.)   They rescue Ninette, and discovering her assumed identity and her dancing ability, Nigel decides to include her in the show.

Nigel contacts Jonathon Hightower, who is a stage magician, as well as being a Fire Master (and who secretly includes his Fire Magic in his illusions). Jonathon comes to the Imperial Music Hall, and they plan a production which will include Ninette’s dancing as well as Jonathon’s magic. In the meantime, Ninette performs solo dances, and assists Jonathon in his magic act.

The real Nina Tchereslavsky, who is doing a tour of Europe, hears about this girl taking her name. But in fact, this Nina is not the real Nina at all, but a Troll (an Earth Elemental) who had absorbed (consumed) the original Nina, and taken on her identity. The Troll had been conjured up by some Elemental Magician in the past, but the Troll had absorbed him, and continues to absorb other people. For each person she absorbs, she inherits their knowledge and intelligence, so has become quite clever, and she can take on the form of any person she has absorbed. Nina (the Troll) becomes angry that someone has stolen her identity, and travels to England to take revenge on the imposter.

Nina sets fire to the theatre, but Jonathon summons salamanders to put the fire out. Then she sends a disease-carrying homunculus to attack Ninette, but Ninette and her friends manage to defeat it. At this point, Nigel, Arthur, Wolf and Jonathon conclude that their enemy is an Earth Master, and make plans to track him or her down. And Ninette confesses her true identity to them.

Finally there is the confrontation between the cat and the Troll, but it is not resolved as simply as in the Puss in Boots story.

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