By Ellen Freeman
Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Beasts of Prey is the New York Times bestselling novel by debut author Ayana Gray. It is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy.
Beasts of Prey follows two teenagers, Koffi and Ekon. Koffi is indentured to the notorious Night Zoo where she is tasked with caring for magical and often dangerous creatures. When the Night Zoo’s cruel and powerful master threatens the safety of her loved ones, Koffi accidentally unleashes powerful magic.
Ekon is the son of a decorated and well-respected hero and is destined to become a warrior – a Son of the Six. He is desperate to uphold his family’s honour, so when he encounters a dangerous and mysterious creature that has been haunting his city for almost a century, his world is turned upside down. On this fateful night, Ekon also comes across Koffi, whose powers save his life. His decision to allow Koffi to flee the scene, in exchange for saving his life, ends Ekon’s dreams of becoming a Son of the Six.
Koffi and Ekon agree to an alliance, fighting side by side in the Greater Jungle.
Beasts of Prey is an entrancing, atmospheric fantasy novel. The setting is rich and incredibly well-developed. When reading Beasts of Prey I was able to entirely lose myself in this unique fantasy world, with its beautiful jungle, and its unique magical creatures.
Koffi and Ekon were two of the most well-developed characters I have come across in young adult fantasy. Ayana Gray does an incredible job at creating characters who are unique, loveable and well-fleshed-out. The way Koffi and Ekon react to certain situations within the plot felt so believable, and it was really easy to connect to these characters and root for them throughout the story.
The richness of the book’s setting was probably my favourite thing about Beasts of Prey. I have never felt quite so engrossed in a fantasy world. Whenever I think about this book I feel as though I can smell, hear and see the world around me. The way Ayana Gray writes allows the reader to experience the jungle for themselves as if they are seeing it with their own eyes. I felt such a connection with this world, and it was a really unique experience.
If you’re looking for a unique, beautifully crafted young adult fantasy novel, I would highly recommend picking up Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray. If you are a fan of audiobooks, I would also recommend the audio adaptation.
The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
The Guinevere Deception is Kiersten White’s retelling of Arthurian legend and is the first book in the 'Camelot Rising' trilogy.
When “Princess Guinevere” arrives in Camelot to marry the legendary King Arthur, she is aware of her true purpose: to protect the king from magical attacks. She is tasked with fighting against the magic seeping its way into King Arthur’s kingdom, using her own magic in secret.
Throughout the novel, the true name of “Princess Guinevere” remains hidden from the reader. We know that she was raised by Merlin, living a secluded life and learning magic from the great wizard. The opening of the novel shows Guinevere leaving the convent she has been under the care of in preparation for her marriage to King Arthur. Our Guinevere is aware of the death of the real Guinevere and questions her ability to accurately portray this woman she has never even met.
Throughout the novel, we watch as Guinevere navigates the new environment of Camelot and its surrounding lands. She must covertly use her magic to protect Arthur from incoming magical threats while hiding her identity from the magic-fearing public. The magic system within this retelling felt true to the source material, drawing inspiration from historical witchcraft and the Arthurian legend itself.
Something I consider The Guinevere Deception to have done really well was the portrayal of phobias. Guinevere’s fear of water is a key theme throughout the novel, leaving the reader with more questions than answers, but demonstrating a fairly accurate portrayal of what it is like to live with a phobia. We see Guinevere grapple with her emotions, trying to appear strong and confident, as the new Queen of Camelot, while also struggling with her fear of the water surrounding her new home.
There are many tropes within this novel, but I would personally consider them to be well executed in this case. We see Guinevere’s relationships with the other characters develop throughout the book, paired with her own personal character growth. I felt like I could really route for her, and I wanted her to achieve her goals within this first book in the trilogy.
Considering this book left the reader with a lot of unanswered questions, I do feel that this first instalment felt complete as its own book. It definitely left me wanting to continue on with the rest of the 'Camelot Rising' trilogy, and I feel that it was a unique and well-developed retelling of Arthurian legend.