A brilliant YA debut: atmospheric writing in a fresh, vivid setting; diverse characters, and otherworldly animals.

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Ayana Grey’s Beasts of Prey is what all of today's YA fantasy novels should aspire to: diverse, inventive, unpredictable, and immersive. Grounded in a range of pan-African mythologies and languages, its fresh feel, locales, and diverse characters immediately set it apart from so many other fantasy novels. The writing is immediately engrossing: from the first page, Grey’s deeply atmospheric, richly sensory world-building immerses the reader in the story. I could nearly smell the loamy air of the jungle and feel its humid breath on my skin. Initially, each chapter bounces across time and place to introduce a different main character, and their distinct voices, feelings, and conflicts felt real and immediate. I found myself rooting for these individuals, caught up in their conflicts, and sharing in their complex emotions: impulsive Adiah is misunderstood in her power and ambition, and Ekon wants to throw off the yokes that burden him: his brother’s shadow, his family legacy, and the eldritch cries from the jungle that haunt him. And young, wild Koffi yearns for freedom as she navigates her own mistakes and the mysterious, otherworldly creatures that are the heart of this book. The creatures in this book are brilliant: the author combines her creativity with a deep knowledge and love of pan-African lore to astonishing effect, and then uses her words to paint her creations in shimmering, kaleidoscopic detail. I loved the way in which the eerie Great Jungle itself emerges as a significant character as well, as its history, present, and all-encompassing magic weave through the characters' stories. Readers will be swept up in the jungle's wild, primal allure, the fantastic magic system, and the creeping sense of dread that permeates the book. Grey has written a twisting, rich book that offers a satisfying conclusion while simultaneously laying down an intricate, overarching trail of crumbs for the next book, and I can't wait to explore it. I’m an avid reader of both YA and fantasy, and this brilliant, immersive debut is unlike any novel I’ve read in either category.