In twelfth century Japan, an elderly princess is dying. She will be moving to a convent because it is improper to die in the palace. She and her favorite companion are packing up her rooms and disposing of her belongings in preparation.
She has stacks of empty notebooks. She picks one up and starts to write a story.
There is a colony of cats living in a courtyard. That is their fudoki – their common ground and common story that makes them family. When a fire destroys the area, only one young cat is left. She panics during the fire and runs to safety but can’t find her way back in the damaged city. Distraught, she starts to walk along a road with no goal in mind. Without her fudoki what is her purpose?
A spirit of the road, a kami, finds her and changes her into a woman. As she continues her journey, anything she needs from supplies to servants, magically is provided. But even though she appears to be human, she is a cat at heart with a cat’s understanding of the world. Humans and all their emotions are a mystery to her.
The book continues intertwining the princess’ story with the story of the cat turned mercenary warrior.
The princess has been sequestered for most of her life in the palace but she and her attendants have never lacked for male company. She reminisces about her lovers, especially a man who may have been a traitor. She recalls the time she was supposed to marry a young boy. The world of royal women in this time in Japan comes to life.
I loved the ending of this book. It was a bit unexpected but fits the personalities of the women perfectly.