Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Penguin Random House / G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Koffi and her mother live with and work for the Night Zoo, caring for the magical, monstrous creatures within. When her mother’s life is threatened one night, Koffi accidentally unleashes a power she didn’t know she possessed and must run for her life. Meanwhile, Ekon, second son of a famed military hero, is desperate to prove to his brother that he belongs in the ranks of the Sons of the Six after a disastrous interruption to his final rite of passage. Koffi and Ekon meet by chance and each recognizes a potential path forward if they can locate the Shetani – a magical, murderous beast that has been plaguing the area for almost 100 years. Koffi wants to find the Shetani to sell it in exchange for freedom; Ekon wants to find the Shetani to kill it to prove his mettle as a warrior. Neither is honest with the other about their true motivations, but they will have to find a way to work together if either of them is to survive.
This fantasy story from a debut author has it all — redemption, alliances, questionable decisions, mythical beings, misunderstood and complicated history, and fascinating magical creatures adapted from a variety of African folklore. The plot unspools steadily, with quiet moments and mind-blowing revelations balanced throughout. The dual perspective gives insight into the motivations and fears of each character on their adventure through the Greater Jungle in search of the Shetani, and plenty of action keeps the pace brisk.
Beasts of Prey is an excellent recommendation for fans of African-inspired fantasy series such as A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. For more mythical creatures, check out Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, Alexandra Overy’s These Feathered Flames, or Julie Kagawa’s Talon Saga.
— Allie Stevens (she/her)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.