I’ve read a lot of books where the main character is accompanied by an animal of some sort, be it cat, dog, horse or dragon. But it’s been a good long while since I’ve read a story where the main character was wan animal and in the case of Jeff Chapman’s The Great Contagion, I am all for it.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Merliss, a human who has been cast into the body of a cat. Over the centuries, she’s attached herself to the cunning men (healers and mild sorcerers) of the region. This particular set of cunning men might be in more trouble than they can handle when an unknown plague begins to spread. Merliss must get involved, using all her feline wits and her connections with the magical world to help where she can. But the consequences are more than she could possibly anticipate.
I really liked this book, both as a fantasy novel in its own right, and as a story where the main character was not what you would expect. The plot itself was well crafted, with enough danger and escalating stakes to keep you reading. And the fact that a cat, possessed of a human spirit or otherwise, was the instigator of change made for fun reading.
2. Thoughts on the characters
As a cat, Merliss is a fun one. She’s got enough human characteristics to make her relatable and entertaining, but enough feline aspects to add that element of unknown and mystery which all cats love to cultivate. And I think the wide variety of characters in this book does quiet well in the story craft as well. Slynid is exceptionally fun, Fendrel just this side of a silly fool with the potential for greatness, and the others equally entertaining. I am curious to see how the characters will interact in book two.
3. Favourite part
Probably the gradual chance in Fendrel’s perspective of Merliss. That was just fun to read.
My only real critique for this book has to do with a bit at the end, where the cats are making their way off into the yonder (all I can say without spoilers). I think this bit was good, and it fit well with the rest of the story, but it felt a little rushed and sudden compared to some of the other parts of the book. Not the events leading up to this journey, but the journey itself. Still, I liked the concept.
Overall, I would say that The Great Contagion is an excellent fantasy adventure and I’m off to read the next book!