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.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I buddy read this with Leah over at Leah’s books, and once again we had exactly the same opinion… we both loved it! In Koffi’s world magic is a myth, something thought to have died out generations ago. Indentured to the Night Zoo to pay off her families debt, she lives in a world of unique and dangerous creatures, but when her family come into danger, she finds herself on a journey into the most dangerous place on the continent on the hunt for a monster to add to her masters collection. Ekon is well on his way to becoming a Son of the Six, elite warriors who protect the city from danger, but his last task ends in disgrace. Knowing the only way back into his masters good graces is to bring him something big, Ekon decides to head into the Greater Jungle in search of the Shotani, a monster who has been murdering citizens for decades, and bring back it’s head. Koffi and Ekon may have warring goals, but they are happy to use the other to see them through, that is until they enter the greater jungle and realise that they are more Prey than Predator, and monsters aren’t always what they seem.
Koffi and Ekon were both brilliantly developed characters. Each dealing with their own trauma, though having to deal with them in drastically different ways. Thanks to her fathers bad business deals, Koffi has spent her life in indenture to the owner of the Night Zoo, she has known nothing but slavery her whole life and is determined to get her mother and best friend out, even if that means putting herself in danger. Ever since his father was killed by the Shotani, Ekon has always dreamed of following in his footsteps and joining the Sons of the Six. He’s spent his whole life with this one goal in mind so, when it comes unceremoniously crashing down in front of him, he is understandably upset. While Ekon is a bit of a cinnamon roll but absolutely lethal with a weapon, Koffi has an inner strength that helps guide her on her journey, and she certainly isn’t one to back down from a fight.
There is also a third POV in this book who I can’t mention too much because of spoilers, but you should definitely pay attention to her chapters, and Gray uses them effectively as a plot point, as well as to give us a little insight into the history of her world. Beats of Prey graces us with a rather large cast of side characters and all I can say is, take no one for granted, every single character and scene play a part in the telling of this story. There are characters you will love and others that you will hate with a passion, but they all play an important roll and no one is really quite who they seem.
Gray manages to bring us a well developed fantasy world filled with class and religious issues that echo the world we live in today. She doesn’t shy away from the big topics, but highlights them a really natural way so you never feel preached too, but you completely understand the message she is trying to get across. Gray’s descriptive writing really brings this book together, and I especially loved the scenes in the Greater Jungle, following Koffi and Ekon as they come across some of the magical beasts that live in there, some friendly and others not so much. If there was one thing I thought was a little lacking, it was the magic system. It just wasn’t developed enough for me. Even after finishing the book I have little to no idea what is does, how it’s used and, although it only really plays a large part in the last section of the book, I would have liked to get a better understanding than I did.
The pacing of the book was just *chefs kiss.* It moves at a fairly fast pace for most of the story, but I especially loved how the author gave us time at the beginning to truly get to know her main characters. We get introduced to them slowly, giving us the ability to understand their motives, empathise with them and makes sure that we follow them on their journey, desperate for them to get their happy ending. One thing I thought was done incredibly well was allowing the characters to overcome and face some big issues they have in their lives in really healthy ways. It’s so rare to see this kind of trauma dealt with in this way, it’s usually left to fester until it eventually explodes out, usually at the worst possible moment, but Gray gives both Koffi and Ekon the ability to air their grievances, and deal with their trauma in a truly refreshing way.
I think it’s safe to say that Leah and I both loved this book. It’s so immersive thanks to Gray’s wonderful descriptive writing, and filled to the brim with brilliantly written characters. There are some plot twists peppered throughout that meant we really, really struggled to stop reading at our allocated chapters, and one specific one at the end that had us both gasping out loud. Beasts of Prey is perfect for fans of YA fantasy who love a good fast paced read, but also love a good bit of development to their stories. Now we just need to get out hands on book two!