Title: Ferals

Author: Jacob Grey

Caw lives in the park with the crows—birds he speaks to, and understands. He’s never thought too much about his ability. When Caw steps in to help a girl named Lydia, he’s thrust into the center of a nefarious plan. He meets others who can understand various creatures, good and evil. In a war he never imagined, he’ll have to find out the truth behind the Spinning Man who terrorized the city eight years ago. And all of his power will be put to the test . . .

This was excellent. The descriptions are precise and fluid, painting the city, the characters, and the action in brief strokes that convey a wealth of meaning. Nothing bogs down the action, and there’s plenty to go around. I also hugely appreciated the deft touch in drawing out characters.

Here’s a short snippet to give a taste: “Since then many crows had come and gone. Sharpy. Pluck. One-legged Dover. Inkspot, with her taste for coffee. Only one crow had remained at his side since that night eight years ago—mute, blind, white-feathered Milky. Glum had been a nest-mate for five years, Screech for three. One with nothing useful to say, one with nothing cheerful, and one with nothing to say at all.”

The crows themselves (mostly Glum and Screech) can be quite humorous, too. Their banter, plus the fact that only Caw can understand it, is frequently good for a laugh.

I liked Caw a lot. He’s in a hard spot, living a hard life, but it’s all he’s really known and he’s used to it. He doesn’t complain. He finds a lot of freedom in his own way of life, and I particularly liked his decision at the end regarding his future. He has no concept of hygiene or manners, mostly because his only companions have been crows since a young age. This leads to a number of very interesting interactions with more normal members of society.

I like Lydia, too. She’s stubborn, bold, and resourceful, and even though she can’t talk to crows she’s not about to be left out of the action. Her determination to do right by Caw, though, doesn’t always work out the way she thinks it will. And in the end she’s willing to give him the freedom to be who he needs to be, even though she would prefer he decide differently.

The magic in this book feels just right. The only nitpick I had was that the way it’s passed down seems to make it hard to propagate and easy to go extinct, so it seems there should be fewer ferals (not that I’d vote for less critter action). But Caw learning about his abilities and the extent of them was intriguing, as was the glimpses of what others can do. And the book ends with a tantalizing promise of more to come . . .

Also, props to the artist of the English hardcover. The cover was what first caught my eye, and I love the dynamic pose, the unique angle on the crows in flight, the way Caw is obscured by wings, and the hints of a city. I will probably get this in hardcover, especially if the cover art changes for the softcover.

All in all, this was a quick, fun, and a very solid start to what I hope is a series (the ending certainly implies there will be another book). At least one more volume, I hope. But the end still resolves quite a lot, so although I will eagerly be waiting for the next adventure, this one doesn’t have a horrible cliffhanger. I rate this book Highly Recommended.


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