Book Review

Beasts Of Prey

Beasts of Prey

  • Author: Ayana Gray
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: September 28, 2021
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
  • Series: Beasts of Prey #1

CONTENT WARNING: death, blood, violence

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lkossa was once a city of magic and splendor. Now, a hundred years after the Rupture scarred the sky and devastated the land and its people, magic is no more than a myth. 

Until one night when Koffi, an indentured beast keeper at the infamous Night Zoo, unexpectedly unleashes a dangerous, untamed power that has been secretly brewing within her for years. She sets into motion a chilling sequence of events that not only upends her whole world but also links her to a complicated stranger with secrets of his own. 

As a warrior-in-training for the elite Sons of the Six, Ekon’s task is to stop Koffi in her attempt to flee the Night Zoo. Instead, she saves him from the Shetani—the monster that has plagued Lkossa for nearly a century and stalked Ekon’s nightmares.

Following their chance encounter with the beast, Koffi and Ekon—each with a hidden agenda—strike a tentative bargain, teaming up to capture the Shetani as a hoped-for solution to their dire circumstances. To do so, they must enter the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild, frightening magic and untold dangers. But once the hunt begins, it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

The start of a stunning and sweeping fantasy series from debut author Ayana Gray, Beasts of Prey is an epic adventure where monsters hide in plain sight and two determined teens must decide whether to fight for what they’ve always dreamed of—or for each other.

This was another buddy read I did with Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog, and it went so well that I think we’re going to make this a monthly habit! 

There was so much to love about this book, and we both agreed that there was just one thing that we didn’t like about it, but it wasn’t enough to make me not enjoy the book. Plus, I still have hope that the issue will be addressed in the next book (fingers crossed). 

The world-building is amazing. It takes place in an African-inspired setting, and it’s described so vividly that I could practically feel myself wandering through the jungle with the characters. Just about everything was explained beautifully, avoiding info-dumps, and trickling information out slowly over the course of the book. It allowed me to absorb information slowly and process it without feeling overwhelmed, which sometimes happens when I read a new fantasy book. However, the magic system wasn’t really explained … like, at all. I never found myself understanding how it worked or what it could do, although the cost of it was definitely clearly outlined. However, since the MCs didn’t really know a lot about magic, I’m hoping that we’ll learn more as they do, too.

“Something significant had happened last night, a thread that interwove between her, the Shetani, and that strange feeling in her feet, but she couldn’t understand the connection.”

The plot was so intriguing. I loved how it was told in two different timelines — one from the past, when magic was well-known and openly practiced, and then in present-day. The past POV is told through the eyes of a girl named Adiah, and the present day, we see the story through the eyes of both Koffi and Ekon. I liked both of them and seeing their different perspectives, and the voices were dramatically different. 

Society is broken into two different groups of people: the Yabas and the Gedes. While they both practice the same religion, they practice it differently, since the Gedes aren’t allowed to enter the temple run by the Yabas. They’re looked down upon, and I felt like this added such a realistic touch to the story. In addition, Koffi is an indentured servant: she works to pay a debt that was passed down from her father, even though she was a child when she signs a contract. Fees are added to this debt, and it’s clearly a system that is stacked against her, one that she’s never designed to escape. It’s heartbreaking, but also a reality for so many. But the divide between Yabas and Gedes is seen in more than just how they worship — it’s clear in their social standing, as well as their views of one another. It reminds me of the tensions between differing factions of ethnic groups that can be seen anywhere in which two groups live in close proximity, and they’re bound to find something to disagree on and start discord over. In this case, it’s the mysterious and dangerous Shetani.

“‘The Shetani’s attacks began nearly a century ago, right after the Rupture,’ he said quietly. ‘In fact, much of the reason Yabas and Gedes don’t get along today is because of the creature; both blame the other side for its terror.’”

Speaking of the Shetani, it sounds TERRIFYING! Actually, the entire jungle sounds terrifying. It’s full of dangers, tricks, and traps, and people in the area seem to avoid it at all costs. But in order to achieve their individual goals, Koffi and Ekon have the take the risk and head directly into the jungle, working together.

“The creature she’d laid eyes on had been a thing built from nightmares, a mass of raw pink skin stretched tight over tendons and bone. She envisioned the knifelike teeth and bottlebrush tail, the way each of its black claws had curled in the earth as it tensed.”

“As soon as she said it, Ekon felt it too, a wrongness. He didn’t know how to tell Koffi that the sensation wasn’t unique, that it belonged distinctly to the Greater Jungle. There was a reason that it was one of the few things Yabas and Gedes could agree on: This jungle was no place for mortal beings.”

Throughout the story, there’s an undercurrent of romance, but it doesn’t ever take center stage. It’s not overwhelming, and it doesn’t overshadow the actual story. It’s just the right amount, and while there is a little romantic tension, it actually wound up adding to the story rather than taking away from it. In addition, Ekon struggles with some serious emotions and has some obsessive counting tendencies. In the beginning it was a bit overwhelming (“three was a good number” came up pretty frequently,) but the roots of this actually came up and was dealt with beautifully. I loved the sensitivity that the author showed towards anxiety and coping skills, as well as the stigma people experience, and how an understanding person can make a huge difference to someone dealing with anxiety.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable book, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. It left off on a major cliffhanger. I need to know what happens next! 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 16

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