I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3.5 stars Series: yes - first book in duology
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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
For a book that’s supposedly almost 500 pages long in print, it did not read like that at all. I would have thought it was a 300-page book based on how much time it took to read. I was therefore surprised to see the page count, given how quick the book was to read because of the engaging prose and snappy pace that pulled me along.
The bulk of the book was very enjoyable, a jungle adventure full of dangerous monsters and plants that will kill you. I love a dangerous environment and a world of mythological creatures made real, who need to be defeated by remembering the hints left in old stories.
However, the ending felt very predictable, to me, and I didn’t enjoy it as much. It is pretty much a catalogue of the common plot tropes and twists that are being used a lot in YA at the moment. It meant that, beat for beat, I could guess what was going to happen, making it less satisfying.
The big twist in the final section also wasn’t set up at all, just sprung on the reader without hinting laying it out before hand (which would make it feel more satisfying when the final pieces of the reveal makes the hints from the set up click into place.)
It is predominantly told from Ekon and Koffi’s perspectives, but occasionally there are chapters from Adiah’s perspective. It starts with her too. Her story is not entwined with theirs – and is also set in another time. It talks a while to discover who she is, why she’s relevant, and how she’s linked to the main story. I’m not such a big fan of POVs who aren’t obviously linked. Rather than the how this other character being relevant acting as a mystery to draw me in, it acts as a barrier to caring about that character.
Another consequence of Adiah starting the book and then there being a sudden shift to the other two is that it did make it a little difficult for me to get into the start and engage with the leads. I was in too much of a tailspin from the shift, and unable to see what the connection was and what it meant for the setting. (Were we in the same time? No – that took a while to work out. Where we in the same location? Didn’t really work that one out.)
Overall, it’s an interesting and highly readable debut once the book settles in, and clearly establishes expectations for the sequel.