Trin's Reviews > Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda-Leopard

Caesar by Patrick O'Brian
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's review
Jun 04, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, english-lit
Read in January, 2007

I feel weird critiquing this, as it's something O'Brian wrote when he was 12 and which was first published, under his birth name (Richard Patrick Russ), when he was 15. Because, wow, for a 12-year-old it's remarkably good—already you can see the smooth beauty of his prose. It's also, for a story with an animal (specifically, a panda-leopard—more on that in a minute) as its protagonist and narrator, refreshingly unsentimental and even quite brutal—Caesar's mother and siblings are quickly dispatched by various harsh acts of nature, and Caesar spends a lot of time calmly killing other creatures of the world. It also has moments of being emotionally affecting; when Caesar is captured and "tamed" by humans, I was really quite desperate for him to kill everyone and escape. Yet the tone remains flat and the narrative doesn't amount to much; it goes out on sort of a "huh" note, if you know what I mean. Plus, the aspect that I kept waiting to see explored—that Caesar is a panda-leopard, an essentially fanciful creature whose father is a panda and whose mother is a snow leopard—is never touched on at all! In the end, this is much more interesting in light of O'Brian's later work than on any merits of its own. (Though he did write remarkably well for a 12-year-old!)

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