Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Deptford Histories #1

The Alchymist's Cat

Rate this book
trade edition paperback, fine In stock shipped from our UK warehouse

First published January 1, 1989

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Robin Jarvis

48 books222 followers
Robin Jarvis (born May 8, 1963) is a British children's novelist, who writes fantasy novels, often about anthropomorphic rodents and small mammals—especially mice—and Tudor times. A lot of his works are based in London, in and around Deptford and Greenwich where he used to live, or in Whitby.

His first novel—The Dark Portal, featuring the popular Deptford Mice—was the runner up for the Smarties book prize in 1989.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
295 (32%)
4 stars
359 (40%)
3 stars
181 (20%)
2 stars
43 (4%)
1 star
17 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Tina.
300 reviews
August 4, 2022
Love a bit of fantasy, love talking cats. Don’t like some of the nastiness and I don’t think it’s a book for children.
Profile Image for X.
195 reviews
December 21, 2008
This book is part alternate history (or perhaps historical fiction), part anthropomorphic animal story, and part dark fantasy. Set in 1600's London, it tells the back story of Jupiter from The Deptford Mice trilogy. While I enjoyed it very much, there were a few anthropomorphic animal inconsistencies that prevented me from giving it five stars, though I might do 4 1/2 if we could. Cats having "arms" works fine in a true anthropomorphic animal story, but when humans are more prominent in the story, it seemed a bit odd to me. Despite such minor complaints, I'm looking forward to the rest of this trilogy.
Profile Image for Matthew Hodge.
593 reviews21 followers
March 15, 2021
Possibly the most bleak children's book I've ever read, but still - it's difficult to put down. It tells an important back story for Jarvis' original Deptford Mice trilogy.

It's a mix of 1600s London, with the Black Plague and Great Fire featuring heavily, with another one of Jarvis' classic supernatural thrillers as the main story.

Some people on Goodreads don't seem to be so happy with the strange mix of subplots - featuring humans and anthropomorphic animals.

But Jarvis' storytelling instinct is as keen as ever and I find the whole thing hangs together very well. I wouldn't give to any younger readers who might be sensitive about the book's themes.
20 reviews
July 6, 2017
Having had a quick look at some of these reviews, I think I must have been a very strange child. Reviewers talk about it being 'horrifically dark', while this was one of my favourite books at around the age of 11, which I read again and again (along with its sequels). As a result, it's one of those books that still conjures the feelings and imagery of a unique world, perhaps 15 years later. I am now a library manager and am disappointed that we don't seem to have any Robin Jarvis on our shelves. I am keen to address this, but am worried that I won't have the same love for these books if I was to re-read them. I also think that imagery in books is only as dark as you have the ability to imagine, so is often more of a reflection of yourself. Perhaps these books are darker than most aimed at children, or perhaps adults are having darker experiences of them because we have had darker experiences, and forget that children can handle more than we think they can and we want to preserve their innocence. I have to give this book five stars because that's how good I remember it being!
Profile Image for Jean.
523 reviews
October 5, 2012
This is a violent and unbelievably horrific book. Example: Will is beaten to a pulp but when Molly finds him and hugs him "tightly" he doesn't even flinch...really? The characters are so miserably pathetic I was never sure who to root for (which talking, unlikable cat will we end up with since the ones we kind of liked are dispatched to grisly deaths?) Perhaps, this will be revealed in one of the sequels I do not intend to read.
Profile Image for Alison.
171 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2015
This is a scary book. I knew it was going to be more in depth compared to the Deptford Mice Trilogy, but it was terrifying at times. It amazes me how the author has given human-like mannerisms to these animals. I would use this book to teach my students how to do that with a character of their choice and have them share their stories to the class.
Profile Image for Liam Smith.
120 reviews
April 4, 2013
The perfect way a prequel SHOULD be written. With hidden surprises, twists and lovely plot developments. Even if it's in a bit of bleak setting (it's okay, most of Jarvis' Deptford books are) it's still a good read.
Profile Image for Daisy May Johnson.
Author 2 books163 followers
March 29, 2022
Every now and then I return to Robin Jarvis' work like somebody finding dry land after weeks at sea. I first came across the Deptford books a long while ago, somewhere in that messy early nineties period of children's literature where nothing was quite sure of itself and the era defining books had not yet been born, nor had we quite recovered from the eighties. Children's literature was in a place that it did not quite yet understand and then there was Jarvis and his wild, rich fantasy steadily burning in the dark. The Deptford books. The Whitby books. They were local, intimate, everyday wildness. The importance of having a book set in places you knew about and not just named with a mash of a keyboard. Children who went to school in schools like you. Real world stories embedded in magic.

These are brutal books and violent, too, and there will be moment that will be difficult for some readers. Yet alongside this is a powerful and deft story that rolls steadily along and pulls the reader with it every step. There's a wildly moving subplot that was all too briefly present for me (you'll know it towards the end of the book) and I'd have welcomed more of that. I love those moments when Jarvis juxtaposes the brutality of man (and animal) with a kind of raw hope and faith in what people can achieve and be. I love that.

I also love how much faith Jarvis shows in his readers. These are big, big books that cover a lot of complex and often quite adult themes, but they work because Jarvis believes in his readers. He doesn't go delicately into that good night but rather he tells you how it is for these people and it's up to you to find the good - to learn how to see them and find the spaces for hope and kindness, even in all the grotesque shadows.

As this is a prequel to The Dark Portal, I was wondering whether to recommend that you read that first or this. I think you get a lot of benefit either way but for the full kick, it would probably be The Dark Portal (and indeed, its sequels) before heading to The Alchymist's Cat (and its sequels).

And, as a final note, it's beyond time for these books to be adapted for the screen.
8 reviews
December 17, 2018
The Alchemist's cat was a good book it jumped around a lot and it was hard to understand what they were talking about and there were some spelling mistakes. 830 was the Lexile Level was, Robin Jarvis it was very hard to follow but I loved that he got a cat familiar.
I liked that they had magic and I did not like the way they treated the boy cause he didn't even have a bed or anything. Also the Alchemist was treated awfully but the boy was very nice to the cats even to the runt I was sad when the mom cat died.
In the book they would randomly see what the Alchemist doing then go back to the boy then it would be some really bad spelling. But I love magic and love animals but I am still surprised that the Alchemist let the cats live there and then treats then like trash and also he only likes Jupiter and that is his familiar but if your going to treat them like that just let them go.
Profile Image for Jenny Bergin.
2 reviews
June 1, 2021
I first read this when I was 12. One of the few books I have read more than once. Dark story that didn't pull any punches when it came to hurting characters. The prologue makes me wonder if the father cat was Balcon god (rat) mentioned in the deptford mouse trilogy.
Profile Image for April.
453 reviews
April 30, 2018
There are some pretty gruesome scenes in this story, it was not static was expecting at all.
Profile Image for Erica.
10 reviews
January 24, 2013
As a Robin Jarvis fan, I dove into this book eagerly and in high anticipation of something creepy, dark, magical and engrossing. I've always been fond of the blend of horror and fantasy woven into this author's anthropomorphic tales.

The book highlights the birth and events of Jupiter's past and how the cat came to possess and know about megic. However, humans come to be the main characters of this book and in my opinion, stole the story with their woes and one character's evil deeds. For the majority of the book, the humans took center stage, and the cats, while touched on, do not feel like they are a major part of the story until later.

The books ends with the rise of Jupiter, but, tapers off from the main human's story, leaving us wondering what exactly came to be of him and why he was so important and got so much time in the story anyway if he was just going to disappear. He did play a small part in Jupiter's life and helped bring the cats to the alchemist so they could possess magical knowledge, but still. You wonder if he has anymore part to play. So much time was invested in Will's story, and he just disappears in the end with a hint of mystery from Molly, who vaguely says she'll explain where she's been all this time "later". But we don't find out later, and that's the last we see of them.

As always, Jarvis paints vivid and almost poetic pictures with the descriptions. The writing is pretty, and captures a time long passed.

In the end it was a decent read. It wasn't my favorite, but I didn't dislike it either. However, I look forward to getting up to my elbows in the story of the Oaken Throne, which I'm off to read next.
Profile Image for Nix.
313 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2012
The twist ending was awesome. Just awesome.

Though I didn't particularly like the setting, it wasn't a bad book at all. I rather liked it. (Perhaps the lack of illustrations helped. I often find illustrations [particularly Jarvis'] distracting, because I have something else imagined and it turns out to be totally wrong.)

Somehow, when I heard that there were three kittens, and one of them was a runt, I thought the runt would turn out to be Jupiter. And then his brother was orange and named Jupiter. So I thought I was wrong. And then I was right in the end.

I also thought Spittle was Samuel Godwin. Then he was introduced as Elias Theophratus Spittle, and I revised my opinion. But then he was Samuel Godwin. I suppose my intuition merits a good listen now and then. I started out hating Jupiter, once I knew his name, because I knew he turned into an evil pimple of a rat god later. But then he started being really nice to Leech, so I was conflicted.

The plot was great. As said before, the twist ending was marvelous. I never saw it coming. (That is, I sort of subconsciously saw it.) So if you read this and get stuck in the middle somewhere, keep plowing through it. It is not worth it until the end. Everything you think about Jupiter is wrong until the end. If you don't finish, go ahead. It's your loss.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kat Thomas.
1 review
September 17, 2014
In the Alchemist's Cat, you find yourself diving straight into 1600's London, England in any iconic British fantasy's hayday, following alongside a despicably wicked alchemist and his unwillingly young assistant, Will Godwin. This book virtually covers any European-fantasy lover's itinerary, filled with the dark magic apothecary shops, anthropology, and overly developed violence in the midst between those with magic and not. Imaginably enjoyable for any young adult interested in venturing down the darker side of fantasy, perfect for starters but perhaps less shocking of a read for those who are more experienced in this genera.
Profile Image for Emily Dybdahl.
695 reviews24 followers
December 19, 2015
This was one of the worst books I've read. It was so weird! I love cats, but these cats were evil, or went through beatings and torture, and I just don't want to go through that mental experience again! I know this is supposed to be young adult fiction, but seeing the vengeful rivalry between two boy kitties, reading allusions and innuendos about cat romance, and the evil vendetta foreshadowed at the end....I just can't comprehend it all. I was just...very weirded out...
Profile Image for Ally Tiner.
16 reviews
December 29, 2012
I read this book a while ago, so I'm not too fresh on details, but I know this was a good book, slow at parts, and it was unlike other cat books.
Like other cat books there meant for kids. But, this is YA (young adult), it's interesting, and its hard to pick the cat or character you like best because theres all something that is similar to you. (for me anyways..)
Profile Image for Nicole.
2,180 reviews5 followers
April 12, 2016
Set in 1600 England, a The Alchymist's Cat is the story behind the rise of Jupiter from the Deptford Mice Trilogy. It combines both anthropomorphic and human characters. Personally, although it was reasonably well written, I did not find any of the characters believable or appealing. There were too many minor inconsistencies.
7 reviews
February 5, 2009
A shallow read. The plot is jumpy and the language used is somewhat lacking. In no way did the book capture my interest, as I had to force myself to finish it. I would only recommend it to those are fans of the series.
Profile Image for Sadaf.
91 reviews
January 3, 2016
I haven't read the Deptford Mice Trilogy yet, but I thought this book was fantastic. It was very dark but quite the page turner, I really enjoyed it and was shocked by the end. Can''t wait to read the rest of the series!
Profile Image for Raven Elise.
10 reviews3 followers
January 7, 2012
I have read a lot of books about cats, but this one tops it! It doesn't give cats unrealistically human qualities like other books, and it focuses on characters other than the cats from time to time. Just, beautiful.
Profile Image for Tim.
233 reviews7 followers
June 23, 2013
I enjoyed this book, found the period of history interesting and a must for any fan of the Deptford mice. My least favourite of the three Deptford History books though, I think because this had the weakest ending
Profile Image for Mehmet Palabiyikoglu.
9 reviews7 followers
May 4, 2014
The most absorbing book I've ever read after the Inkheart Series! It was really catchy with the mysteries and plot twists it possessed and a sad one as well, with a touch of adventure. Don't stare there, go read it!
August 15, 2016
I read this book back when I was in primary and I must say that it was a believable read for a young mind, but then you still know that it won't happen in real life but then have that mind soar that your imagination just grew...
loved it, loved it, loved it.. :)
Profile Image for Clara.
21 reviews
February 14, 2008
I love the action and fear intertwined along with the subtle expression of subservience in this book. Very well written!
Profile Image for Malia.
1,165 reviews14 followers
August 30, 2010
Excellent prequel to Dark Portal. How Jupiter came to be.
2 reviews
September 10, 2011
Wonderful book about a boy who's family dies of smallpox, and he is forced to take care of his farm alone, until one of his family members sends him a convincing letter...
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.