From Goodreads: For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.
But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?
A few days ago I had the extreme pleasure of reading the short story “The Search” by Susan Leigh Noble. Susan approached me through the World Literary Café, and asked if I would be kind enough to do a review for her. Seeing as her story was a YA fantasy, how could I turn her down?
Let me say I really, really enjoyed the story. It is a perfect story to introduce young readers to fantasy. It wasn’t difficult to read, and in no way insults the reader.
What I didn’t like about The Search.
I felt it lacked a definitive ending. I prefer short stories that follow a standard story line: meet main character, discover his plight, experience the conflicts, and resolve the problems. The Search fulfills all of them except for the last. There isn’t a firm resolution. The story isn’t ‘wrapped up’. Rather it sets up the next short story in the trilogy. While this is perfectly acceptable to do, I was expecting a stand alone. This isn’t bad; just not what I was expecting.
My second minor niggle is the story starts off at a breath-taking pace only to fall more into a quiet third person omniscient narrative. I was expecting more action, but none came that matched the opening scene. While this isn’t a bad thing, I felt slightly let down that the rest of the story didn’t keep up with the same pace as the opening.
What I loved about The Search.
The Search is an original story. The main character, Tosh, is a cat, but not any type of cat. He’s a STAC, a breed of telepathic cats determined to find the foretold Elemental – a human with extraordinary magical powers capable of saving The Land. While the theme is common throughout fantasy stories, the fact that the lead character is a telepathic cat is unique. Ms. Noble perfectly captures the essence of cat-dom and excels in portraying her protagonist with clarity, wisdom and humor. The reader almost forgets the protagonist is a cat until he stretches or purrs or swishes his tail. I am equally impressed with the other characters in The Search, from the wolves, to a sweet three-year old girl, to the wonderful Jonah Glade who rescues Tosh from a terrible, unfortunate incident. They are well thought out, none are extraneous, and their appearances all help Tosh decide what he wants and move forward in his personal quest.
The setting, the world in which we travel, is well laid out and easy to imagine. In most cases, the journeys take weeks, not days. There are thick forests, poor villages, posh towns, rushing rivers, blight, and danger lurking around every turn. We can smell the air, touch the earth. Every sense is awakened. Tosh’s trek is not an easy one and we feel every bruise, every sore paw and muscle as we tarry alongside him.
The plot is well thought out and carefully constructed. We begin the story with Tosh and his charge, Nolan, an Elemental, fleeing from some men that Nolan angered. Nolan is soon murdered, leaving Tosh alone. Tosh must set out on another search for another Elemental with the powers to save The Land, but Tosh is torn between taking on another charge or settling down and living the easy life of a cat. There is a lot of internal conflict as well as external and plenty of factors that could sway him to go either way.
Ms. Noble has a wonderful way with words that allows the reader to suspend belief. Never for a moment did I think “We have a talking cat. Cats can’t talk.’ Tosh’s journey, his internal conflict, his humor, his fears, all resonated deep within me. I felt his agony, his torment, his sorrow, his joys. I felt like I was right there with him the whole way.
I would highly recommend this short story for everyone, but especially for young readers who are not quite sure if they are interested in the fantasy genre. For those already fond of the genre, you will find the story both heart-warming, entertaining and an easy, relaxing read. If you like stories narrated in a fairy tale style, The Search is for you. I definitely want to find out what happens to Tosh so I will also continue on with the next short story in the series, the Summoned.
I give this short story a solid 4 stars. It would have been five had it had a solid resolution in the end instead of a set up for the next story in the trilogy. Again, the ending wasn’t bad; I simply prefer closure in a short story.
Susan Leigh Noble has always loved to read. She has been writing since childhood – anything from poetry, short stories, news articles and finally full length fantasy novels. She has always loved dragons, magic and cats so it is no wonder she put them all together in her “The Elemental” trilogy.
When she isn’t writing, Susan is an active volunteer in her neighborhood and at her children’s’ schools. She lives with her husband and two children in Texas.
Connect with Susan:
- So You Want to Write a Short Story (Part 1: Getting Started) (theartistrycollective.wordpress.com)
- Short story elements (slideshare.net)
6 thoughts on “Wednesday reflections: review of THE SEARCH, a short story by Susan Leigh Noble”
You write very complete, concise reviews, Jenny. I like that you don’t throw any punches and aren’t afraid to say when you have problems with a certain part of a story. All the positives seem to outweigh the negative and that’s great! It does sound like an interesting premise and if she’s pulled off her characterization as well as you’ve mentioned, this seems to definitely be worth the read. 🙂
I will never do a review of a story that I feel deserves less than 3 stars. Three stars to me means the book/story is good, it’s entertaining, but there is room for improvement. Anything less than that…well, let’s just say I don’t want to give bad reviews. Authors work too hard (most of them, anyway), for someone to come along and rip their work apart. Besides, I wouldn’t want someone ripping my novel to shreds, even though I know, eventually, it will happen. We can’t please everyone.
That is true and it’s good that your critiques are gentle with lots of positives to counterbalance a point or two that might be lacking or need improvement. 🙂
It seems we both like/ dislike the same things in books! Nothing erks me more than a iffy ending (unless it’s the kind that leaves me like: 0_o and thinking about it for days!)
I wouldn’t exactly say it was iffy, it’s just a lead in to the next story in the series…a continuation. Instead of (1) protag needs to find savior, (2) protag encounters xyz to keep him from finding savior, (3) protag defeats xyz and finds savior, we have (1) and (2), but (3) is more like protag finds someone who appears to be the one he’s looking for but we have to tune into part 2 to see how the relationship develops, if it develops and if found person is, indeed, the savior. We HAVE to read part 2 to find out what happens. While this is not bad, I, personally, wanted a bit more closure to the first task. Don’t let this distract you from reading the story, however. It is very good and I enjoyed it enough to want to read the rest of the adventure. That says a lot to me of an authors style and ability.
Sounds like something my daughter would like. I’ll have to point her that way.