Lionboy is a children's/young adult's fantasy trilogy written by Zizou Corder (the shared pen-name of English novelist Louisa Young and her daughter Isabel Adomakoh Young).

The series

The book series is about a young boy named Charlie Ashanti who can talk the language of cats, after accidentally swapping blood with a leopard cub. Charlie is on the run from a floating circus, with six lions in tow, aiming to return them to the wild of Morocco and to rescue his parents who have been kidnapped by a sinister corporation.

The first book is known simply as Lionboy. The sequel, Lionboy: The Chase, continues the story of Charlie and the lions, with most of the story set in Venice. It was published by Puffin in the summer of 2004. The final installment of the trilogy, Lionboy: The Truth, concludes the story and was published in January 2006.

The trilogy is available in 36 languages.


The series is set at an unspecified time in the Earth's future. The world in the books mostly resembles the modern day world, with a few key differences. These differences are hinted at rather than explained outright. Firstly, most of the world's oil has been used up, and petrol cars are now only used by the very rich, elite and powerful. Aeroplanes are not flown at all - sea travel is once again the dominant form of overseas travel. The world (at least, the parts seen in Charlie's journey) now seems to run efficiently on solar and wind power.

The major world superpower in the series is known only as the Empire, and the text contains hints that this is actually the United States. Europe seems to be under this Empire's control. The world has been changed by global warming and other environmental influences; the most notable example is the ruin of Venice, which is now half sunken under rising waters, and otherwise decayed from pollution.

The Corporacy, a pharmaceutical megacorporation, is a major economic power that has "Gated Communities" all over the world.

Plot summaries


Charlie is a young boy who is able to speak to cats (and all felines) due to an accident involving a leopard cub's blood when he was a baby.He lives in London with his parents, Dr. Aneba Ashanti and Professor Magdalen Start, both of whom are scientists working on a cure for asthma and other allergies.

His parents, as a result of their scientific discoveries, are kidnapped by a pharmaceutical company known mysteriously as the Corporacy. Charlie, closely avoiding being kidnapped himself, sets out to find them and ends up onboard a circus ship making its way to Paris. On board he befriends most of the circus performers as well as (using his gift) a pride of beautiful performing lions who seek the boy's help to escape their cruel trainer. Meanwhile, the vicious criminal Rafi Sadler, in the employ of the Corporacy, is hot on his heels, going to any lengths to get his hands on Charlie. The circus ship arrives in Paris and Charlie escapes with the lions. They make their way to Gare d'Austerlitz where they hide on a train destined for Venice, the place Charlie's parents are rumored to have been taken.

The book ends with Charlie and the lions being discovered by the train's most regal passenger, the King of Bulgaria, who surprisingly offers to help Charlie with his quest.

The Chase

Charlie and the lions reach Venice and seek refuge at the Palazzo Bulgaria, the King himself travelling onwards and leaving the runaways in the trust of his right-hand man Edward. Edward however has other plans for the lions than letting them journey onwards. He keeps them along with Charlie prisoner and plans to present him to the corrupt ruler of Venice, the Doge. However this plan is foiled with the help of local cats and a conspiracy of gondoliers.

Venice is liberated from the Doge's rule, and so Charlie journeys from Venice by boat, taking the lions back to their home in Essaouira, Morocco. Narrowly escaping drowning, they arrive there and are met by a few surprises: Maccomo, the cruel lion trainer, who is looking for revenge on Charlie for stealing his lions; and his parents, who have escaped the clutches of the Corporacy and have come to find him.

The Truth

Charlie, after only a few blissful days reunited with his parents, is captured by the revenge-seeking Maccomo, who puts him on a ship and takes him (along with Rafi) to the Corporacy headquarters on the island of San Antonio near Haiti. His parents are in hot pursuit, and following them is Claudio, King Boris, the Young Lion and Elsina.

Charlie, due to his cat blood, is immune to the tainted, brainwashing air of the island, and with the help of a multilingual chameleon named Ninu, and the cat Sergei, he single-handedly puts a stop to the Corporacy's deeds and rescues the brainwashed employees and prisoners of the island.


Charlie and his family

*Charlie Ashanti
*Aneba Ashanti
*Magdalen Stark
*Mabel Stark, a famous tigertrainer and Magdelen's sister
*Rafi Sadler, Martha's son

The lions

*The Young Lion, the most adventurous of the lions and the closest friend to Charlie.
*The Oldest Lion, the old, proud leader of the band of circus lions, father of Elsina and the Young Lion.
*The Lionesses, who rarely speak, and are the most mysterious and deadly of the band of circus lions. One is yellowish, one is silvery and one bronze in color.
*Elsina, the young female cub, just as adventurous as her brother the Young Lion. She stows away when the Young Lion accompanies Claudio and King Boris over the Atlantic Ocean.
*Primo, not actually a lion but a Smilodon fatalis, created in a lab from ancient DNA and rescued by the lions. Primo is adopted by the Venetians as the reincarnation of the Leone di San Marco (Lion of St. Mark), and remains in Venice as a beloved protector when Charlie and the six lions leave. He is later returned by King Boris and Claudio to the forests near Essaouira to be with the wild lions.

Other animals

*Sergei, a bold, tough North England Allergeny cat who becomes one of Charlie's closest allies.
*Ninu, a smart chameleon who can talk not only English and Cat, but the languages of most humans and animals, even that of computers.
*Troy, the much-abused (yet still loyal) dog of Rafi.
*Petra a watchful cat, who wanders near to the Ashanti's home.

Thibaudet's Royal Floating Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy

*Major Thibaudet, the owner and Master of Ceremonies of the floating circus. A fairly honourable man, unaware of the cruel treatment of the lions in his ownership.
*Maccomo, the cruel trainer of the lions, who is jealous of Charlie's ability to talk to felines. Maccomo had been drugging the lions for years, forcing them to do his bidding. Charlie, in saving the lions from the circus, begins using Maccomo's drug against him, and Maccomo soon becomes addicted to its effects, continuing to take it of his own will after Charlie and the lions have escaped. Bent on revenge, he travels to Morocco and awaits their arrival. The lions overpower him and take him prisoner, but he outwits them and escapes, kidnapping Charlie and taking him to the Corporacy's island. There, he is not rewarded for his efforts, but rather brainwashed along with the other inhabitants of the island.
*Pirouette, the circus's star acrobat and trapeze artist. Kind to Charlie.
*Madame Barbue, the bearded lady. Kind to Charlie.
*Mabel Stark, former romantic acquaintance of Maccomo, and a tiger-trainer (whose tigers love their keeper, unlike Maccomo's lions). Through an unexpected connection to Charlie, she becomes sympathetic to his cause.
*Hans, a young boy who tends to the "Learned Pig".
*Julius, a young boy who assists his clown father. Friend to Charlie.

The Corporacy and its employees

*Rafi Sadler, an overly nasty and ambitious teenage boy, who does the Corporacy's bidding for his own financial gain, but later becomes victim to the Corporacy as well.
*Winner and Sid, a pair of thugs charged with Aneba and Magdelen's transport to France.
*Sally Ann, a Corporacy employee, brainwashed.
*Auntie Auntie, a Corporacy employee, brainwashed.
*The Head Chief Executive, the head of the Corporacy, addicted to his own brainwashing chemicals.


*The King of Bulgaria (first name Boris), a childish and jolly man, who is delighted to know his train bears stowaways, and offers all the help he can to Charlie and the lions.
*Edward, the security advisor and right-hand man to the King. He turns out not to be entirely trustworthy, much to the King's anger.
*Claudio, a gondolier on the canals of Venice, who is closely trusted by Charlie and the lions, and helps to overthrow the Doge.
*The Doge, the corrupt and selfish leader of Venice, who is overthrown by the Venetians with the aid of Primo, Claudio, and the others.

Film adaptation

According to an [ interview] on the author's official website, Lionboy has been optioned to be made into a film. There is no further information at this date.

Other works by the same author

Zizou Corder's other publication is:
*"Lee Raven, Boy Thief" (Puffin 2008)

Louisa Young's other publications are:
*"A Great task of Happiness" (Macmillan 1993); a biography of Kathleen Scott, sculptor and widow of Captain RF Scott of the Antarctic.
*"Babylove", "Desiring Cairo" and "Tree of Pearls" (Flamingo); a trilogy of novels set in London and Egypt.
*"The Book of the Heart" (Flamingo 2002) a cultural history of the human heart; its anatomy and symbolism.

External links

* [ The author's website]

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