Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
Weylyn Grey isn’t like other people and he knows it. He’s a kid living with wolves in the woods when Mary first meets him. His parents are dead and his wolf family needs him, but he’s also painfully aware that he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the kids his age. He wants to try to fit in, but every time he attempts to become a functioning member of human society, there’s always something that goes awry, so he ultimately returns to the wild. And yet, it’s his connection with Mary and a few other people he meets along the way, that reminds him about the power of human relationships.
But it takes him a long time to understand, and we spend the book learning about how different he really is.
The title of Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE promises big things and perhaps a little whimsy and fun, but ultimately the novel doesn’t quite live up to the title.
Which is too bad, since the story starts out charming enough, with a new baby and strange weather patterns. Turns out that this isn’t coincidence because Weylyn seems to have an inexplicable magic that connects him with nature–specifically animals and weather. We learn this through the eyes of Weylyn and other PoV characters such as Mary, the girl he meets while traveling with his wolf family. There’s his adopted sister Lydia, with whom he has a unique relationship, partly because their parents have expectations of the both of them that don’t quite measure up. There’s Weylyn’s first school teacher, Meg Lowry, a sweet woman who wants to do the right thing, but struggles to figure out what that looks like. Roarke is the boy who finds an older Weylyn and proceeds to pull him out of his shell. Weylyn himself as a character is less understandable than any of these characters, and he’s the main protagonist. It’s like the book was about how other people saw Weylyn and less about what he was for himself, which made him a little bland, which doesn’t make sense because he’s the only character with magic.
The redeeming characters are the interesting Lydia, whose understanding and acceptance of who she is–despite her mother’s displeasure and unpleasant relationship with her sister–makes her able to appreciate Weylyn for who he is and value his unique talents. Mary’s story was also interesting, because it was easy to understand why she was drawn to Weylyn (at least from her point of view), so much that it affects her life choices even when he isn’t around. Their love story is sweet, if sometimes I don’t understand why she seems able to forgive him when he disappears for years at a time.
The novel is told in a fairytale style, which one has to when talking about pigs with horns and bee honey that glows (among others including wolves, spiders, trees, hurricanes, tornadoes, and etc). I’m not so sure what made these beasts extraordinary of circumstance, since it was Weylyn’s magic that changes things, and he’s less a beast and more an aimless boy. Lang does her best to connect parts of a story than span decades, and does that part well enough that we don’t get completely bored. Although I did find myself putting down the story and having to remind myself to finish it.
The magic isn’t ever really explained, other that Weylyn has a knack with animals, weather, and other bits of nature (insects and trees come to mind). The story is more for fans of ‘magical realism’ than Urban Fantasy, such as those who enjoy Keith Donohue (for example, his THE STOLEN CHILD).
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: Not much
- Violence: Minor
- Sex: Referenced