Title: Beasts of Prey
Author: Ayana Gray
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: September 28th, 2021 (G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR)
Synopsis: Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand – and the consequences are dire.
As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six – an elite warrior – and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani – a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century – but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.
Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon – each keeping their true motives secret from the other – form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen Canada, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Koffi and her mother are indentured to the Night Zoo and they care for the dangerous magical creatures it hosts. But just as they are closer than ever to finally paying off their debts for good, an incident occurs that threatens their safety and Koffi uses a magical power she doesn’t fully understand with severe consequences. Ekon is a warrior in training, going through the rites of passage to become one of Lkossa’s elite Sons of the Six, but the final rite is interrupted when a fire breaks out at the Zoo. Amidst the chaos, Koffi is attempting to escape and as Ekon gives chase, they encounter the Shetani, the monster that has been plaguing and killing people. Koffi’s mysterious power seems to cause the beast to listen to her, and that saves Ekon’s life, but when he lets her get away, he ruins his chances of becoming a warrior. Hunting down the Shetani seems to be the solution to both their problems and when their paths cross again some days later, they form a tentative alliance to travel into the depths of the deadly Greater Jungle. But not only are they hunting a vicious monster in a hostile jungle, they each have motives they are keeping secret from the other.
I absolutely loved the world building in this one! The descriptions of the Night Zoo, Lkossa and the magical Jungle were fantastic and it was great that so much background and lore were included, all in a very gradual manner that never felt like info dumps. Beautifully intertwined with African culture and folklore, the world building alone makes it hard to believe that this was a debut novel. The plot was no less intriguing and it held my attention right until the very last page. The story was narrated from three POVS and it was a little confusing initially – I found it hard to make out when the POVs switched during the narration, though given how far in advance I received my ARC of this book, I suspect the formatting is more to blame than the actual writing.
Koffi and Ekon were both interesting protagonists and their arcs were well developed. I wasn’t very fond of the initial slow pacing (which seems to be becoming something of a trend in this genre of late) and it takes a significant amount of time before things became more exciting. The best part of the story only started once they were actually in the jungle and it was really nice how an alliance of mutual convenience blossomed into a strong friendship as they faced the perils of the jungle together and began to bond. However, one thing that annoyed me were Adiah’s POVs – yes, it becomes clear later on who she is and why exactly she is important to the story, but for nearly 70% there is no connection between her arc and Ekon and Koffi’s, which made it very confusing.
Beasts of Prey ended on an exciting note with a couple of unforeseen last minute twists. They were excellently done and I didn’t suspect anything until much closer to the reveal. I assumed going into this book that it was a standalone and once the pace picked up, it was moving so fast that it was pretty surprising when it turned out to be a series after all. It’ll be interesting to see where this story goes after those twists and I can’t wait for the next book. Beasts of Prey was a marvelous debut and a gripping read. I would highly recommend this book for fantasy fans!
Beasts of Prey releases on September 28th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.
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