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S.F. Said Books In Order

Publication Order of Varjak Paw Books

Varjak Paw (2001) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Outlaw Varjak Paw (2005) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Phoenix (2003) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

S.F. Said is an English author of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books. He was born in Beirut and spent a few years in Jordan before moving to London where he spent his childhood in the Iraqi diasporic community. He graduated from the University of Cambridge and worked as a speechwriter and press attaché for the Crown of Prince of Jordan in England for more than five years.

His debut novel, Varjak Paw, published by David Fickling Books, was illustrated by Dave McKean. The book tells the story of a cat named Varjak who leaves his home to explore the city. The book won Nestle Smarties Book Prize in 2003 and Blue Peter Book of the Year in 2007. Said’s third book, Phoenix, is a longer novel for older children. Its mostly referred to as a young adult sci-fi rather than a fantasy book. It was shortlisted for Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2014, and the judges recommended the book for ages ten plus.

Varjak Paw

The Varjak Paw is a compact, cleverly woven emotional novel that promises to grab your attention right from the word go to the last page. The story is narrated through the eyes of a cat. Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamian kitty residing in a big house on a hill on the town with a person named Contessa. Varjak lives with his family, his grandfather, his brothers Jay, Julius, Jerome, and Jethro. His cousin is Jasmine, he also lives with his mother, father, and aunt Juni and Varjak is often seen as the kid.

Being seen as a kid irritates him, but Varjak doesn’t know what he should do about it. One day, his grandfather, the Elder Paw tells him the story of Jalal, a cat of their kind who the Way- a unique set of skills that elevate whoever masters it beyond the level of a normal cat into a whole new different sphere of existence, one that allows them to walk and stalk silently between shadows. Unfortunately, the time has eroded the Way, and his grandfather can only recall the fragments of this skill set.

One day, men arrive at the house and carry Varjak’s owner on a gurney. Varjak and his grandfather immediately discover that something is quite wrong. However, the rest of the family refuse to allow anything to destroy their comforts and informs Varjak and his granddad that they imagine danger in a place where it doesn’t exist. Then a man arrives and with him is two strange black cats which attack Elder Paw and Varjak is forced to run for his dear life, over the house wall, and down the hill heading to the city.

Varjak never left home before. He has no survival skills out there, has no street smarts and the worst of all has no friends. While wandering around, he meets with a free cat named Holly and Holly’s friend Tam who all survive by herself and looks out for her own family. The two cats help Varjak survive and keep him away from other cat gangs that roam the street of the big city. At night, all Varjak can is only to dream about Jalal and the Way. His grandfather told him to bring a dog back to the house- the only one thing humans are afraid of is a dog- unfortunately Varjak has never seen one. Even if Varjak could find a dog, Holly tells him that it would be impossible to speak to the dog. She convinces him that it won’t work, but Varjak does not give up. Varjak also comes to discover that avoiding the gangs in the city isn’t the only danger lurking in the city streets. There is a mad man kidnapping cat, and the abducted cats are never seen again. Why is the man kidnapping cats, and where is he taking them? Before long, Tam is abducted, and Varjak is immediately drawn to the art of the kidnapping mystery.

Varjak Paw is a wonderful story. You will immediately be drawn into Varjak’s wide-eyed innocence and his trusting nature, which he doesn’t lose even when life begins to beat him down. S.F. Said has done an excellent job in his characterization of the cat, especially the villainous Sally Bones and Holly. The story is simple with a straightforward language, uncomplicated plot making it a perfect read for older kids.

The Outlaw Varjak Paw

The second book in Varjak Paw is The Outlaw Varjak Paw by SF Said is intended for a middle-grade pupil with plenty of action and adventure set in the world of cats. While it’s the second in the series, it can be read as standalone.

Varjak is a silver-blue cat living in the city with his friends, Tam, Holly and a dog named Cludge. It’s winter time, and there are few mice around, and so the gangs are hunting for food from city dump when a patrol discovers them from Sally’s gang. Sally is a thin white cat with blue eyes and controls one of the most dangerous gangs in the city. Her set rules make it impossible for all other cats to find food. She is in charge and knows a unique way of fighting, and no one can beat her.

But, Varjak also knows Sally’s unique way of fighting as well. The technique is called The Way, that was taught to him in his dreams by his cat ancestor, Jalal. A member of Sally’s group Razor tries to grab a mouse that Varjak has caught in the dump. Varjak uses his technique learned in the dream to fight him. Soon the rest of the city is talking about the new cat in the hood who fights exactly like Sally. Sally puts a price on his head as well as his friends. Can Varjak and his friends defeat the evil Sally Bones and free the whole city from her yoke?

The Outlaw Varjak Paw, illustrated by Dave McKean, the illustrations are excellent, bringing all the action in the story to life. This series is highly recommended for both child and adults who want a quick and fun read.

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