[Halverstadt Book Review] Pangur Ban, The White Cat by Fay Sampson



[This book review is presented here on FlyingFaith in proud partnership with H. Halverstadt Books {link}]

The book opens in that brief moment when Pangur Ban is watching a mouse hole in a room where monks are copying manuscripts, “He lay low and still on the floor, but he was not asleep. Under his half-closed eyelids a narrow line of green showed, pierced by a black slit. He was watching. Every muscle was stretched tight, like a bent bowstring, an instrument of death.” A shy, quiet monk is sketching the cat onto a page of the Bible that he worked four years on. He promises to kill the cat if he moves.

The cat moves. Not only does Pangur Ban move, he chases a mouse and in the process upends a bottle of ink, spoiling the page the monk was working on. Four years of painful work gone in an instant. Full of fury, the monk seizes a stool and throws it at the cat. He misses the cat and hits a prince who has been staying at the monastery. Now the monk and the cat must flee to escape the King’s wrath.

Later on, Morwenna the mermaid and Finnglas the princess fight an epic battle, one to feed the monk to a sea monster and one to save the monk:

“Swift as a swordfish, she swooped on Finnglas from behind. Finnglas struggled to turn her sword on her. White arms locked around brown, twisting, straining, fighting. Like a bee and a wasp, they closed in mortal combat. Their whirling anger sent the sand buzzing in spirals, flying upwards like a tornado. A hail of tiny shells spun outwards, stinging, bruising, striking against the rocks. Pangur dodged further back and hid behind the curtains of sea-lettuce.”

All the people in the book are exquisitely human and different from each other. The monk is a meticulous artist and wants to survive long enough to repent adequately. The princess wants revenge for the death of her beloved brother. The cat wants a warm, dry spot and lots of fish to eat. The mermaid wants to catch enough people to satisfy the sea monster’s hunger. When the princess needs rescuing, Pangur Ban the white cat must face his deepest fear to save her.

Who doesn’t love a Celtic fantasy with mermaids and monsters? There are also monks, a princess who is quick to swing her sword, and a talking cat who is selfish, self-absorbed, complaining, and utterly adorable. There are adventures, deep danger, and green Ireland. The writing is lyrical without being hard to understand. Also, the beautiful language does not slow down the adventures. I should add a warning though. The book begins with the cat accidentally causing a terrible death. If you have a sensitive child who would weep for days after reading such a scene, you might want them to wait until they’re an adult to read this lovely book.

My Recommendation

This would be a good book to accompany a study on Ancient Ireland or Celtic myths. I found the yearlong process of illustrating and hand copying of a single page of the Bible fascinating. I don’t know how the author was able to cram so much adventure and description in such a short book. Even an allegory of a dolphin was exciting adventure. Short enough for a child to master and lovely enough for an adult to linger over. I would recommend this book from fourth graders up to those many decades old.

Content Ratings

Genre: Clean Fantasy

Heat: None

Language: Beautiful and clean

Violence: There’s a sudden, shocking death which shows blood, threatened violence, and a frightening monster.

This book is available on Amazon.

About the Review’s Author: Lelia Rose Foreman has raised and released five children. Everyone survived. She also homeschooled fourteen years with similar results. You can find her Christian science-fiction, A Shattered World in English or Spanish. She writes science fantasy adventure, Tales from Talifar, with her oldest son, a video game artist, under the name Rose Foreman. You can contact Josh Foreman at breathoflifedev.com.

About Heather Halverstadt: H. Halverstadt is a Christian science fiction writer. Her site, H. Halverstadt Books, has reviews of clean and clean Christian books for the whole family. The site leans toward action and adventure books, so men and boys will be sure to find something they like. Her first novel, Gemini's Key, will be debuting next year.

{Link to H. Halverstadt Books}

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