Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Release: November 7th 2017
Received: Own (Book of the Month)
Warnings: Animal death
I received a copy of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance ahead of the official release through Book of the Month Club. There is no obligation for me to write a review, but I am choosing to do so.
When I first heard of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance it was described to me as “whimsical and warm-hearted” (Steph Opitz, BOTM) and I knew I had to read it. This is the sort of story that will soothe your soul and transport you back to your childhood, while maintaining the balance that keeps it from becoming too childish.
Warnings first: This novel contains a lot of realism about animal life, and sadly that includes the end of their lives as well. Addionally there’s a scene described about a bunny that’s quite sad. One of the main characters has a father who is a butcher, so there are some details from that as well. I found that most of the more upsetting scenes occur earlier in the book, though there’s one or two scattered throughout after that.
Beats of Extraordinary Circumstance reminded me of so many books I read as a child. Despite reminding me of many different stories, it never crosses the line into becoming something too similar; it is fully capable of standing up on its own. While the story itself it very different, the tone is probably most similar to Charlotte’s Web; the scenes described requires you to suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in the world.
I really enjoyed the different storytelling perspective that Ruth Emmie Lang chose to go with. Having her main character not be the main perspective is an interesting and uncommon choice. Having multiple characters introduced to tell said character’s story is even more unique. The storytelling choice makes Weylyn feel more like he’s just walked out of a fairytale or fable then a real boy.
The characters truly come to life in this novel. Weylyn Grey has his story told through the eyes of his friends, but he still felt more real to me than many other characters I’ve read. For Weylyn’s backstory Lang took the raised by wolf trope and flipped it on its head. Weylyn isn’t a boy who was found as a baby by wolves; he’s a boy that went to the wolves by choice when he found himself alone in the world. He made himself part of the pack, rather than the other way around.
Right when you hear that Weylyn is living with wolves (and spending all his money feeding them) you know something is different about it. It may be hard to say just what is different, at least in the beginning, but he certainly is extraordinary. With each new character introduced (remember, they’re all telling the same story; the story of Weylyn Grey) Weylyn’s story is slowly revealed to us.
There is no doubt that Weylyn is the main character, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other characters. The ones with the most development are the very ones telling the stories; all their tales tie back to Weylyn in one shape or form, but that doesn’t mean they’re flat characters. Mary runs away to join Weylyn and his wolves, and later grows up to dedicate her life to those very wolves. Lydia becomes his adoptive sister, and she quickly takes a liking to him and his mysterious ways (and later will choose to live on a farm). Much like Lydia, Meg Lowry becomes fascinated with Weylyn, but in a more maternal sense. She ends up taking the boy in and raising him as her own. And finally, Roarke, the boy who put all the pieces of the puzzle together; he’s the most adventurous and bold kid I’ve ever seen, but he’s willing to open his heart to a new and strange friend.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel, and I must say I am very impressed. I fully intend to follow her as an author, and see what future books she comes out with.