Review: Lion Boy

Lion Boy by Zizou Corder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is of both the book and the audiobook. In “Lion Boy”, the first book in a trilogy by Zizou Corder, we meet Charlie, the boy who can talk to any cat and whose parents have been kidnapped away. Set in a semi-destitute future, where asthma has become a dominating trait for most of the world and oil is no more, Charlie with the help of cats everywhere, sets off from Africa to find his parents. The future world proposed by Corder feels almost like a different world. While they have cell phones and motor vehicles, the story maintains a nostalgic feel to it from the 19th century. This feeling is only further encouraged, when Charlie joins a traveling circus and later on, and later travels by train with the King of Bulgaria.

The story starts off quickly as we are introduced to Charlie and given a brief glimpse at his life. The authors are quick to launch into the kidnapping of his parents and his subsequent transcontinental race to find them. Charlie is smart and cunning and often when he is lacking, the cats come to his rescue. But when Charlie joins a traveling boat circus, he finds and befriends a proud of six lions. These six lions are enslaved and kept timid by constant drugging by the lion trainer. As the boat travels further into Europe, Charlie continually gets word about his parents' whereabouts from various cats he talks to along the way. Throughout the story, Charlie is fleeing from a sociopathic classmate who seeks to capture Charlie and release him to the same party that holds his parents.

An interesting note about the author is that Zizou Corder is the pseudonym for Louisa Young and Isabel Adomakoh Young, a mother and daughter pair who have joined together to give us this trilogy. The story holds a child-like atmosphere to it reminiscent of Peter Pan and other great childhood adventures. Could this book be as much fun without both contributors? There are some fantastic scenes that amazingly capture what is going on around Charlie and what Charlie is going through. During a circus performance, the point of view switches back and forth between Charlie and the events of the circus. When we see the circus, it is through the eyes of a child, capturing all the wonderful details and excitement, which is juxtaposed with Charlie who at that moment is scared for his life and determining his options to flee.

The authors’ choice to not make every cat speak with a rolling R should be commended. Because cats can purr, it’s commonplace in novels that cats roll their R’s. In a book with a lot of cats talking, this could indeed become quite tedious. Instead, cats speak in the accents of the countries in which they are from, so a cat from Britain has a British accent. The cats then became more real and individualized, as they were distinct and not just defined by their ability to catch mice, land on their feet, and purr.

The hardest part about listening to Simon Peter was divorcing him from his most famous audio production: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and the BBC. And yet, by the second CD, you grow accustomed to his voice and realized that he is a fine choice for this book. He easily shifts through continuous word play and convoluted dialogue so easy the reader clearly comprehends the story as well as the subtle humor found throughout the book.

The only questionable decision about the whole production was its use of music in the background. Using a sparse musical background during key events in the story is acceptable and understandable. But background music is not even heard until half way through the fourth CD. The music is well chosen, but it only appears again three or four times through the rest of the book. It was so unexpected when I first heard it; I took off my headphones to see if the music came from somewhere else.

This first book satisfies the reader but also leads one to await the next addition with anticipation. “Lion Boy” held the suspense and excitement much akin to the “Amber Spyglass” trilogy by Phil Pullman. While it felt like a different world, it still resembled our world enough to be engaging for even the staunchest anti-science fiction fan.

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