The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy
Series: The Wildings #1
Publication: July 7th 2016 by Pushkin Press
Format: Paperback Pages: 326
A small band of cats lives in the labyrinthine alleys and ruins of Nizamuddin, an old neighbourhood in Delhi. Miao, the clan elder, a wise, grave Siamese; Katar, a cat loved by his followers and feared by his enemies; Hulo, the great warrior tom; Beraal, the beautiful queen, swift and deadly when challenged; Southpaw, the kitten whose curiosity can always be counted on to get him into trouble… Unfettered and wild, these and the other members of the tribe fear no one, go where they will, and do as they please. Until, one day, a terrified orange-coloured kitten with monsoon green eyes and remarkable powers, lands in their midst—setting off a series of extraordinary events that will change their world forever. – Goodreads.
If you’re going to read just one book this year, make it this one. I don’t know where to start with The Wildings, reading this book was such an amazing experience. But, I’m going to try to write a detailed review anyway, as hard as it is.
The Wildings is a story about cats living in Nizamuddin, a neighbourhood in Delhi. The neighbourhood is divided into territories and the cats observe ‘cat law’ which allows them to live alongside one another as peacefully as possible.
The story begins when little Mara, a fluffy ball of orange, makes an entrance and wreaks havoc (unintentionally). Animals in The Wildings are able to communicate with one another (usually only between the same species) via a telepathic ‘link’ referred to as the Nizamuddin Link. Mara is called a ‘sender’ because she has the ability to broadcast her thoughts far and wide (and very loudly) to all the cats and other animals in the surrounding area. Mara’s sending causes disturbances, senders are generally perceived as being a threat and the Nizamuddin cats’ initial reaction is to eliminate Mara, stat. Mara’s existence and the brewing tension in the Nizamuddin neighbourhood form the basis of the plot.
The characters in this book are incredible. I felt more emotionally attatched to the cats in this book than I have ever felt towards a human character in any other book. Each cat has its own personality and individuality. The cats are so distinct that they’re identifiable through their choice of words, the way they flick their tail, or how they lick their paws without the author telling you which cat is present. I loved so many of the characters (they’re KITTEHS how can you not?), Beraal the expert huntress, Miao the wise sage with the best stories, Southpaw the kitten of the group who is super cute and curious (which gets him into a lot of trouble), Hulo who is Beraal’s match in muscle power, and also Katar who is sweet and gentle with Southpaw. There are other characters just as fascinating and well-developed as the main pack of cats like Kirri the mongoose, Rudra and his parents the tigers that live in a nearby zoo, and Stoop the cheel who lost his mum at a young age. I was impressed by the characters in The Wildings and think Nilanjana Roy did an excellent job at forming these beautiful voices. Even the evil feral cats led by the twisted white and fuzzy Datura are deliciously complex and interesting.
The story is written in the third-person past-tense so there’s an omniscient feel to the narrative. Roy’s writing style is captivating, I loved how she sprinkled some humour into her story and how she set each scene. The action scenes were gripping, I couldn’t take my eyes off the page every time a cat got into a fight or as soon as I sensed trouble stirring. The way Roy describes cat behaviour is exquisite, I kept looking at my own cat in wonder, you know just in case Roy is the cat whisperer and she’s actually onto something with this book. The pacing is excellent and my overall reading experience was enjoyable.
The Wildings has been nominated for the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year award under the ‘Older Readers’ category (think Young Adult). But I’d actually recommend it to anyone at any age because it’s a book I can see being enjoyed by both a young adult and adult reading audience. The Wildings is one of those books you can read and love at any age.
My copy was published by Pushkin Press and it features a map and gorgeous illustrations by Prabha Mallya in the beginning and above each chapter. A quote on the back from the Sunday Guardian claims The Wildings ‘Could well become a classic in its own time.’ I have to agree, this book gives me mega this is should be a classic vibes. I’d recommend this page-turner in a heartbeat. Stick it on your TBR if you haven’t already, and if you’re not a cat-lover, be prepared to fall in love with Southpaw and the gang anyway.