I have been reading more short story collections this year than I normally do. These collections have been grouped by theme and the latest one I've just finished for a book ring focuses on cats in fantasy, though a few of these stories I wouldn't class as fantasy.
The short story is by it's nature short and I prefer the "short shorts" and the stories in Constellation of Cats are all between 18 and 30 pages long, about the ideal length for me. They're long enough to keep me interested but not so long that I feel over committed to any one story.
The authors included are apparently fantasy writers, I didn't recognize any of the names beyond Andre Norton but I usually think of her as a science fiction writer. With the other authors, I came to each story without expectation. Some of the stories I enjoyed and some I hated. The ones I hated most were the ones that stuck most closely to the fantasy genre with castles, wizards, kings, and the like.
The thirteen short stories in this collection revolving around cats run the gamut from mediocre to entertaining. I found the most disappointing stories to be the high fantasy ones. The best ones take place in more mundane and recognizable locations.
Here is a breakdown of ratings by each story:
"The Stargazer's Familiar" by Mary Jo Putney: 4/10
It starts with the cliché of all clichés: "It was a dark and stormy night" and goes down hill from there. At least the ending is vaguely clever.
"Three-Inch Trouble" by Andre Norton: 9/10
It's a shaggy dog story with a cat as the narrator.
"Purr Power" by Jody Lynn Nye 7/10
Can some worshipers of Bast stop a battle with an army of pussy cats?
"Star" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch 10/10
"Star" was my favorite of all the stories. It's a heartwarming tale of reunion, recovery and renewal.
"Under the Sign of the Fish" by Karen Haber 5/10
A stupid woman uses magic to learn that fish and cats can't be friends.
"Every Life Should Have Nine Cats" by Mickey Zucker Reichert 7/10
A woman with cats tries to stop a long standing witch hunt.
"Once, We Were Worshiped" by Diane A. S. Stuckart 9/10
A vain cat learns her place in the world the hard way.
"Praxis" by Janet Pack 1/10
It was fantasy but I'm really not sure what happened.
"Death Song" by Bill McCay 7/10
An old cat makes the ultimate sacrifice to prevent the spread of evil.
"A Light in the Darkness" by Pamela Luzier 10/10
Another Bast/Bastet story but set in Colorado where the focus is on a mother who desperately wants her daughter back.
"Mu Mao and the Court Oracle" by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough 8/10
Um -- how can a calico be of "undistinguished markings"? Anyway, it's a story of a missing cat king, oracles and reincarnation.
"Star Song" by Nina Kikiri Hoffman 7/10
A single mother with two kids tries to find herself after leaving a Commune. She has help from a local cat.
"Ecliptic" by Von Jocks 1/10
Another all MEN are evil and all WOMEN are good story involving witchcraft and witch hunting. Yawn.