Review: How to (Not) Train a Firecat by R. Cooper (Author), Erin Gamble (Illustrator)

How to (Not) Train a Firecat by R. Cooper (Author), Erin Gamble (Illustrator)
High fantasy M/M romance published by R. Cooper on December 26, 2018

The firecats of Dua are giant beasts with red-gold fur and lashing tails. They are also loving and loyal companions to the few they choose to serve. Every member of the royal House of Durii has a personal guard and a firecat to serve as a reminder of the greatness of their rule. After all, only the truly extraordinary would walk alongside a firecat. Only the truly extraordinary could.

Not River, obviously. River took the job of cleaning up after the noble beasts when he came to Dua years ago. He’s not any kind of soldier or guard, and he’s too mouthy to belong around royalty. All he wants to do is avoid some of the more resentful guard trainees, care for the very spoiled cats, and try not to get his heart broken by one maddeningly gentle apprentice wizard.

Apprentice Gavin is powerful, brilliant, and probably noble. He’s destined for greatness—and more than likely a guard and a firecat to protect him. He’s not meant for one insignificant little beastminder like River.

But firecats are not the only creatures who are fierce, loyal, and beautiful to behold. River is about to learn that the firecats and the guards who walk with them have more in common than he thought. And he will have to accept that he might be extraordinary as Gavin thinks he is.

I read this book because the cover is adorable, and also because I love a good “behind the scenes” book and a good magical creatures book, and this one combines both of those things.

River, who is the caretaker for the cats, is a scrappy fighter who’s not afraid to break a knee or two to defend himself. He’s very aware of being an outsider from a foreign culture and his low status and fully expects that Gavin, while currently his lover, will be expected to marry well and will eventually leave him. He’s also determined not to take any nonsense from any of the trainee cat wranglers / future guards of the nobility. River is also dealing with some culture shock, in the sense that he’s from a culture that doesn’t support same-sex relationships and still getting used to living in a society pairing off is required but the gender of one’s partner is not significant.

Gavin is the wizard. He’s kind of sweet, somewhat oblivious, definitely insulated by his privilege, and very powerful. River loves him very much and kind of can’t stand it. Gavin loves River, too, but he’s a lot less conflicted about it all.

I really liked the sweetness of it all, the quasi-Cinderella vibe. If Cinderella had ever been willing to beat the stuffing out of her step sisters with a poker, that is – River is pretty fierce. I also liked that while a lot of the conflict driving the plot was generated by poor communication, it wasn’t, like, unbelievable, obviously-for-plot-reasons poor communication. It was people assigning imprecise meaning to specific terms, or assuming their personal knowledge of a situation or individual or animal was universal knowledge and anticipating consequences accordingly but also wrongly, which are mistakes real people make.

Mostly I disliked that the book was not twice as long and didn’t cover what happened after River and Gavin got together. Furthermore I would like to know how the cats communicate with the people they bond with, since there didn’t seem to be a psychic connection. I’d also like to have gotten some idea of Gavin’s POV on the events of the story, though I can see how that would have ruined the flow of the story as currently constructed.

Overall I thought it was great read, the kind of thing that can be a balm on the soul after a long day. I have read a three book series by the author previously, and I’d pick up her work again.

Grade: B+

You can buy a copy here.

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