In an alternative world where humans are considered pets and felid and canine species are at the top of the food chain, Ewan is in the pound once again, with no hope for a new owner. He’s too old, no longer desirable, and he despairs that he will spend his last days in his small cage. He’s a mutt, not a purebred that is so highly desired. But then Master Jiat shows up and takes Ewan home. Jiat cares for him in a way that no previous master has and Ewan finally feels safe. He’s very careful not to do anything wrong, and doesn’t quite understand the freedoms that Jiat allows.
It turns out that Jiat is a part of a secret underground organization working to free the humans from their enforced slavery. While he must put on a front in the outside world, he’s tender and caring with Ewan at home. His plans are to secret Ewan away to a small hidden community outside the city where humans can live freely. He’s done it with his two previous pets. But Ewan is different, and before long, Ewan and Jiat fall in love. Relationships between humans and their owners is strictly forbidden and they have to do everything they can in order to not rouse suspicion.
But it seems that they are not as careful as they think. Their relationship is discovered and Ewan is ripped from his master’s house and sent back to the pound. Ewan has no idea what is going to happen to Jiat, and he’s scared for his master. When Ewan is taken to the back room to be put down, he thinks it’s the end. But it just might not be.
I’m going to be honest here. I wanted to like this one more than I did. There’s some really fascinating world building going on here. I loved the way the author took what we know in our reality and flipped it on its ear. The dominant races in this world are humanoid felines and canines, with humans on the lowest rung and kept as pets. Humans are thought to be unintelligent and weak, made to be pets and nothing else. I think Armstrong did a really great job of giving us a detailed and believable world. I loved the underground organization working for human rights, and thought that, overall, this story was a great social commentary.
Ewan was a heartbreaking narrator and I felt for him. He was downtrodden and resigned to his existence. And then came a ray of sunshine in the form of Master Jiat. Ewan was so earnest and determined to be a good pet for Jiat, and I did identify with his struggle. But I just didn’t feel his connection to Jiat. I couldn’t believe the love that he claimed to profess. Perhaps it was because Jiat was his savior, but it felt like hero worship to me, and nothing deeper.
At the same time, Jiat had a heart of gold and he wanted nothing more than to liberate humans, and was working quietly to do just that. When he takes Ewan home, he has every intention of setting him free. From him, the connection was a bit more believable, because there was something about Ewan that struck him, something that he’d never felt before for his previous pets. I could believe his love for Ewan a little easier. And I did love the way he catered to Ewan’s needs.
I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. The fascinating world structure went a long way for me, but the characters fell a little flat at times. The ending felt a little too pat and predictable. It was a good read, but I wanted more from Ewan and Jiat. I think that if there had been more of a connection between them, I would have really loved this story.