Velcro: The Ninja Kat series by Chris Widdop
This spirited adventure centers on The Ninja Kat, a feline who's vowed for vengeance and justice against the Devil Corps, a military organized that's waged war against its own people. For what reason, only the Ninja Kat knows. In a bid to stop the carnage before it's too late, the masked vigilante thwarts their evil schemes and infiltrates nearby regions to make alliances with survivors and give aid to prisoners. The tale's sequels The Green Lion and The Masquerade ventures further along Velcro's journey as a reputation precede itself and the world becomes more aware of the Devil Corps' schemes. In this strange, new world, a hero and fellow inhabitants are pushed to join in the fight or succumb to evil.
Even though I'm not a seasoned reader of action/adventure, and couldn't remember the last time I've read a series with anthropomorphic animals, Widdop's trilogy (so far) was so engaging, it was easy to leave my bookish genre preferences behind. His cast of characters, who exhibit human intelligence and emotions as well as animal traits, are distinct from each other as they battle against an oppressive government and uncover dark, magical secrets.
That is most obvious with Velcro as the main character. The crusade to bring peace throughout the Country of Widows clashes with morals and others on how to do it. Obstacles along the way aren't just physical or during combat, they're emotional. Every book guides Velcro to keep to the course and also look within. Velcro is challenged to understand that being a warrior isn't just about combat, but coming to terms with a deeper meaning of revenge and justice, when to refrain or use the skills that's been learned, and the importance of family and sacrifice. Throughout discoveries of magic, infiltrating the government, and providing help to flailing survivors, a moral compass lends itself to explore compassion, regret, frustration, impatience, and most of all, ambition and determination.
War affects everyone, and each supporting character has their own personal battle too. Velcro leads the revolution in an animated world populated by hamsters, bees, spiders, dogs, and rabbits - to name a few. A variety of personable and fun supporting characters are delightful, creepy and whimsical like Honey, a sassy and determined friend of Velcro's, to an evil scientist Spider. The Devil Corps may be attacking their own people, and the damage they cause may be their downfall. The victims they manage to leave behind turns many into fighters or allies, each one having their own distinct personality and motives to their causes.
The enemies Velcro duels against are clever and fascinating. In terms of world-building, if there is something that could be improved, it might be the details of geography. I struggled with following or picturing the places Velcro prowled into with the second novel, The Green Lion, where the bulk of the expedition is making alliances and evading regions. Every place is notably different by its culture and how Velcro is treated by enemies or allies, but it was a bit difficult to grasp where Velcro is was at times or how to travel between locations without backtracking the story a little. But Widdop's use of world-building is decent, giving villages and characters enough contrasting personalities where all of his threads tie together nicely.
Widdop is an engaging writer who comes into his own and improves in every installment. One of his best skills is creating combat scenes where Velcro's bouts are exciting. He has a true keen sense of describing what his characters are doing in bite-sized details. His writing may be too simplistic for some, where perhaps the dialogue could've been a bit more polished, but I was thoroughly engaged to move from one book to the next to find out what happens. Every book is an expansion on what he previously built and grows to the next stage of the story.
Velcro: The Ninja Kat series offers thrills, humor, and heart. Widdop's adventure is perfect for readers looking for an enjoyable, short set of books to dive into. Each installment picks up where the last one ended and takes you on an action-packed, offbeat journey with unique characters. (And has inspired me to get a cat to call Velcro too.).