Book Review – Cat’s Maw

Book Review – Cat’s Maw
Fourteen years ago, three kids living in the wilds of North Vancouver came together and changed the world. One of their number, Brooke Burgess, had a vision that he called Broken Saints, and with the help of the other two he fashioned one of the first online animated graphic novels. It was beautifully rendered and lovingly told, the final chapter released online twelve years ago with two subsequent DVD releases.


Make no mistake – Broken Saints pushed edges for the way it interacted with fans and presented its media. It was a brilliant piece of art and writing, with carefully chosen music, but the writer behind it all has faded from the public eye. He’s surfaced periodically here and there to do a short film or two, or even the occasional comic, but he left the world to go on a bit of a walkabout. Seems he had a story stuck in his craw, and he needed time to find the right way to tell it.

Lo and behold, he has returned. His story is called Cat’s Maw, and it is brilliant.

Cat’s Maw is a young adult novel, one of those tales marketed for kids that somehow holds a host of mature concepts. The story is a third person tale based around the doings of a young male child with a curious lack of luck that almost gets him killed every now and again, yet never seems to finish the job. He’s an adopted orphan, living in a foster home with parents that love him but do not quite understand him or the situation he lives in, which does not help things.


Then he finds out he is cursed. There are powers at play, invisible and ancient forces at work in his life. He is not alone, however – his luck’s last attempt to kill him shattered his leg but left him with a friend, a small cat that seems unnaturally wise, even if no one notices that wisdom at first.

They will. So will you.

I utterly refuse to spoil this book. There’s a host of secrets to be explored, subtle meditations of loneliness and death and agony, followed by more thoughts of friendship, faith, and healing. It’s a heady mixture handled with deft grace. The prose is lyrical and deceptively complex, seeming simple at first glance but holding up to multiple readings.

Brooke is a man well-versed in writing complexity, though his previous works suffered when he decided to indulge in being overly wordy (I know, I know, pot, kettle, black). You can tell that he’s come a long way since then, or perhaps he’s being mindful of his intended audience. Either way, the word choices and structure are crisp and concise, favoring emotive leanings and a dream-like sensibility. Few authors can match this one when it comes to grounded surreality, a description I can defend only by asking you to read it.

This is a powerful book, but also a pretty quick read. It is the sort of thing you’d want to give a thoughtful or precocious child, but would also suit thoughtful and precocious adults. A damn good start to the first book in a series of them called the Shadowland Saga.


Cat’s Maw, by Brooke Burgess

278 pages,

Living Myth Magazine
Originally Published: NOVEMBER 18, 2014

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