Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
Ruth Emmie Lang
Oh goodness! you say. How could a book about a boy raised by wolves be anything other than cheesy? I mean, after “The Jungle Book” and “Julie of the Wolves,” it’s all kind of downhill, isn’t it?
Well, I am pleased to say that “Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances” is a lovely and very readable addition to this genre. It’s billed as magic realism, and it might as well be called that as anything else, but it doesn’t really fit into any genre classifications. It’s part magic realism, part urban fantasy, part contemporary literary fiction of a distinctly American flavor. It follows–sort of–the life of Weylyn Grey, who has strange silver eyes and can communicate with animals and control the weather. When his parents die in a freak snowstorm, he runs away and joins a wolf pack. Several years later he’s pulled back into human society and adopted, only to cause, inadvertently, problems within his adoptive family. He bounces from home to home, touching the lives of those he encounters, but never feeling like it’s safe for him to stay.
The action is narrated by the people he encounters, some of whom become deeply involved with him, some of whom hardly get to know him at all, but whose lives he changes profoundly. There are multiple little subplots and side arcs to the story from all these people, and the main story only emerges gradually, as Weylyn’s life takes shape around the people in it. It isn’t until the latter half of the book that the heart of the story is revealed.
These interwoven plot lines require the reader’s attention, but this isn’t a difficult book to read–the language is casual and conversational, peppered with moments of humor, especially when the child narrators speak. This isn’t “light” or “genre” fiction, but it isn’t heavy or dense either: a good choice for those who want to read something a little more literary but don’t want to saddle themselves with something really long and challenging, or those who just want a little more magic in their lives.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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