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The Wild Road
Gabriel King
Avon Books, 432 pages

The Wild Road
Gabriel King
Gabriel King is actually two authors -- Jane Johnson and M. John Harrison. Jane Johnson is Publishing Director of Voyager and Tolkien for HarperCollins UK. In her 14-year tenure, she has bought and helped to develop the careers of authors such as Raymond Feist, Katherine Kerr and Julian May. M. John Harrison is a lifelong writer and author of many novels, among them: The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings, The Centauri Device, and The Course of the Heart. Married for ten years, Johnson and Harrison began working on The Wild Road in 1995 and credit the book for "...[keeping] us on very good terms, despite the inevitable aesthetic wrangles!" They are working on a follow up to The Wild Road, The Golden Cat, which will complete the story cycle.

ISFDB Bibliography: Gabriel King
ISFDB Bibliography: M. John Harrison

Past Feature Reviews
A review by S. Kay Elmore

The Wild Road is a sweeping tale of a young cat called Tag. He is drawn out of his comfortable home by an enigmatic one-eyed tom called Majicou, a magpie, and a street-wise fox. Through the world of dreams and helpful agents, Majicou prepares the young Tag for his destiny. Our feline hero embarks upon a quest to rescue the King and Queen of cats and bring them safely to Tintagel. He meets companions on the journey who are not all that they seem, learns to trust what he once feared, and becomes more of a cat than he ever expected.

Pursuing Tag and his companions is the merciless Alchemist: a human bent on capturing the essence of feline, who seeks to travel the wild roads. They are highways visible only to the animal world that carry travelers over vast distances in little time. Such roads can be treacherous for the novice. When the Alchemist discovers how to travel them, they're deadly.

It's tempting to compare this novel to such classics as The Plague Dogs or Watership Down. The two authors are very different. Where Richard Adams infused his novels with moralistic overtones tuned to human experiences, Gabriel King gives us more animalistic morals. This is a story about the overwhelming instinct to survive against insurmountable odds. The characters grow, mature, and realize that the survival of their best and brightest -- perhaps even their whole species -- depends on completing their quest. Aside from the villain, humans, as "dulls", are almost secondary to the plot, providing foils and fortune for the animal characters.

I highly recommend this book both to cat-lovers and fantasy lovers. The intricacies of cat behavior are crouching behind every bush and stalking every beetle. I found myself stopping to glance up at my cat as I read, suddenly aware that her actions were mimicking a character in the novel. It reads like a forgotten mythology, including all the elements of a classic hero story, but it is by no means formulaic. The characters are dynamic and richly described and the story unfolds so naturally that I never felt leashed by the plot. However, the language and voice of the author put me off just a little. The language is very English and, spoiled as I am by American usage, it was at times difficult to decipher.

Copyright © 1998 S. Kay Elmore

S. Kay Elmore is a graphic artist, writer and corporate wage slave. She edits The Orphic Chronicle, an online magazine, and tries to make ends meet by writing and developing corporate newsletters and web sites.

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