Cat O’Nine Tails

Written by Julia Golding
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Ella McNulty

1791. In this fourth Cat Royal adventure, Cat, dressed as a boy, is kidnapped and taken on board HMS Courageous under the vicious and manic Captain ‘Barmy’ Barton. With her are her friends Pedro, ex-slave and brilliant musician, and Frank, the heir to a dukedom. Something smells fishy to Cat. She suspects that they were lured there to rescue their press-ganged boxer friend, Syd. But why? It’s possible that someone wants the wealthy Frank out of the way. But who? And who has had Cat framed for the murder of Frank’s gentlemanly cousin, William Dixon?

Cat must learn the ropes — literally — and not only survive in this hell on earth but also protect her friends. The purser, Mr Maclean, who has discovered the secret of her disguise, has sworn to kill her if Syd, Frank, or Pedro stirs up trouble. If Cat can escape without implicating them, their position should be safer. When the ship lands in Georgia to repair a broken mast, Cat seizes her opportunity and escapes, only to find herself taken by Creek Indians. Will they hand her back to Mr Maclean — or do they have other plans for her?…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The pace is fast and furious, and the glimpses into the various worlds Cat passes through — elegant 18th-century Bath, the horrors of life on board ship, and the traditional ways in an Indian tribe — all have a ring of truth without, as is so often the case, the author ramming her research down the readers’ throats. Cat has things to learn from each world. The supposedly savage Creek Indians, for example, are far more civilized than the white men who have taken their land, and courage and kindness can be found in unexpected places.

For boys and girls of 10 plus.

–Elizabeth Hawksley


In this — the latest Cat Royal adventure — there is a change of setting from the back streets of London to a Royal Navy ship bound for America. We’re introduced to some new characters, including some treacherous sailors Cat Royal has several very tight scrapes to escape from, and all is not what it seems with her friends and allies…

The book is fast paced and fairly gripping, but I found the writing in this, the fourth book in the series, a little repetitive despite lots of new settings including Cat’s temporary life amongst Native American Indians. Julia Golding could have made this book better by introducing new main characters and perhaps changing Cat’s attitude to certain things, like people she knows, etc.

It would be interesting to see what Cat’s original home, the Theatre Royal, which was being rebuilt in 1791 and is not featured in this book, is now like.

–Ella McNulty (age 13)