Jacqueline M. Battisti’s new urban fantasy/paranormal debut, The Guardian of Bastet, had me from the very first word in the blurb. Her main character is a cat-shifter. Not a jaguar or a puma, oh no. At the full-moon, Trinity Morrigan-Caine shifts into a house-cat. The book might as well have jumped up and said “Here reader, reader, reader…”
The story made me purr with delight.
Trinity Morrigan-Caine is a half-breed. Her mother is a powerful witch of the Morrigan line. (Yes, that Morrigan. Morgaine. You know the one. She had a little something to do with a fellow named Arthur. Way, way back.) But Trinity isn’t a powerful witch like her mom. Because Olivia Morrigan went and fell in love with a werepuma, and that just isn’t done. So Olivia Morrigan got disowned and disavowed, and went to live with her husband, Ben Caine, in the Genesee Valley of upstate New York.
Which turned out to be kind of like Sunnydale in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Complete with demons and Hellmouth. Olivia Morrigan found herself the head witch of the Genesee Valley Society of Others (GVSO) because witches are just so much better than everyone else.
The only problem is that Olivia and Ben’s daughter, Trinity, isn’t quite what Olivia had in mind. Trinity isn’t much of a witch, and she doesn’t shift into anything fierce. Dad’s an alpha werepuma. When it’s Trinity’s time of the month, Trinity turns into good old Felis catus, otherwise known as an ordinary house cat. She even (ugh!) hunts mice. Very well according to her cousin and housemate.
Tracy’s other power? Well, since she turns into an animal, she can also understand them. Which makes her a fantastic vet. Her patients just adore her. And she does work miracles with the animals.
The other problem with being a were-kitty is that Trinity has all the morals of, well, a cat. She likes men. Frequently and often. And isn’t horribly particular. Which comes to bite her, and pretty much everyone around her, in the butt when Trinity brings a demon home on the worst booty call ever.
But at least Trinity didn’t summon the demon. She just didn’t pay attention when he started mesmerizing her. There’s a hotter place in hell for the ones who summoned him. Figuring that out and growing up and into her powers enough to take that bad boy out, is what makes this story sing.
This is Trinity’s story. She starts out as a damn good veterinarian, but a dud in everything else. Only one person believes in her, and unfortunately for Trinity, it isn’t one or both of her parents. (Dad did better than mom, but still…) The only one to believe in Trinity was the GVSO’s one and only resident vampire, Vincent. His last act is to gift Trinity with an ancient amulet, a powerful talisman that he has been keeping for centuries, waiting for the one person capable of meeting its potential.
That person is Trinity, the forbidden child of a witch and a shifter. Only she can be the true Guardian of Bastet. But only if she can accept herself and her own powers, powers that everyone has told her she does not have. She’s always believed she’s just a dud.
But only a true Guardian can send the demon back to the nether-realm he came from. And to do that, Trinity will have to accept that she is powerful and capable, and worthy of being the true avatar of Bastet.
Bastet was a warrior-goddess, the woman with the head of a lion. Her Guardian must also embrace the warrior within.
Trinity will need to be a warrior, and a shifter, and a witch. And powerful in all ways. Because that warrior within her will need to fight against a traitor who is way too close.
Escape Rating A-: The mother/daughter dynamics (and grandmother/mother/daughter dynamics) remind me a bit of Brave, and that’s a good reminder. A lot of what drives this story is the mother/daughter issue. Not just that Olivia makes no secret of her disappointment in Trinity, but also Gwendolyn Morrigan’s rejection of her daughter Olivia for marrying a shifter. And most of all, Trinity’s cousin Lily, and her feelings of rejection by her witch mother for also being an under-powered half-breed.
Trinity comes off as a bit self-absorbed at the beginning of the story (her mental dialog about turning into a cat once a month and playing with her cat-familiar as a cat is hilarious), but she definitely has reasons for where she starts out. And she certainly redeems herself.