Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.Beasts of Prey (Beasts of Prey #1) by Ayana Gray
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on September 28, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (485 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home—and discover much more than they bargained for.
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.
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains blood, death, violence, drugging, and indentured servitude.
Beasts of Prey is narrated by Adiah, Koffi, and Ekon. Adiah is a young girl brimming with magic, but must learn to control it. Koffi is a sixteen-year-old girl who is an indentured servant to the Night Zoo along with her mother. At least until a magical mishap burns the zoo to the ground, and she must find a way to repay her additional debts. Ekon is a seventeen-year-old boy on the brink of becoming a warrior when the fire interrupts his ceremony and a moment of weakness causes him to be cast out.
I’ll admit that I mostly picked up Beasts of Prey for the Night Zoo and the jungle. I am all about dangerous, magical wildlife! Sadly, the Night Zoo is demolished pretty early on, but it was still cool to see. The Greater Jungle is essentially a character of its own though, once Koffi and Ekon enter it together to complete their common goal: track down the Shetani, a killer beast.
One thing that immediately annoyed me about Beasts of Prey was that it alternates between first and third person perspectives. I hate this. It’s more understandable when there’s two POVs, but with three, it just felt awkward. It is done for a reason, since Adiah’s story is kind of separate from the other two, but I think it would have flowed better if everything was in either first or third the entire time. There’s also chapters near the beginning where scenes are repeated from Koffi and Ekon’s perspective. It doesn’t add anything except extra pages and slowed down the action.
The world of Beasts of Prey is lush and fantastic! Like I already said, I wished there was more of the Night Zoo, but there’s plenty of jungle adventures! Koffi and Ekon were not at all prepared for what they’d face once they passed that treeline. The people always spoke of the jungle as a living thing and they were definitely correct. There’s all kinds of creatures hidden inside, one more dangerous than the next. Some are there to help, but more often than not, something is trying to kill our heroes.
The lore and the world-building definitely overshadow the characters though. I liked Koffi and Ekon, but I wasn’t too invested in their mission. They have a common goal, but conflicting interests. Ekon wants to kill the Shetani to prove his worth, while Koffi wants to capture her for profit. At least until they learn the truth about the beast. It’s done in a convenient info-dump, which killed any surprise or build up surrounding it. But I did want to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the Shetani.
Beasts of Prey is nearly 500 pages but a surprisingly quick read. Something is always happening to keep the story moving forward, so I was never bored despite not being fully invested.