Book Thoughts: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

 

[Note: I received an advanced reading copy of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, chronicles the intersecting stories of a magical boy raised by wolves, the girl he loves, and the people he encounters throughout his life. Weylyn Grey is an orphan boy who possesses incredible power. He also has a pet, horned pig named Merlin.

Weylyn touches the lives of so many, although he often doesn’t stay in any one town for very long. The reasons for his comings and goings are many and varied, but ultimately, he just has a hard time finding a place to call home. The reasons for that are also many and varied. Would you expect anything else from a story about an orphan boy raised by wolves?

Describing Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is difficult. It touches on many concepts, both concrete and abstract. It’s a novel best described as warm, though it deals with the frightening, devastating parts of life as well as the good parts. Ultimately, it’s a love story, but it’s also a story about family and finding one’s place in the world and taking risks, whether they be big or small, in the pursuit of happiness and truth.

It’s also a story about extraordinary things happening to otherwise ordinary people, and how age and circumstance affect the way these characters view those events. Lang explores growing up through the lenses of several adults and several children, some of whom we see grow up through the course of the novel. Weylyn is among the latter, though we don’t see much of his point of view. Instead, we see him through the eyes of others, particularly the woman he loves, Mary. Interludes are told through the eyes of a boy named Roarke, who encounters Weylyn long after he’s given up on having meaningful relationships with other humans and has instead retreated into the woods, alone.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is beautifully written. Lang weaves time and space together so that the story moves at a rapid pace without ever leaving the reader behind, a skill that’s hard to master. I found myself moving through this story with ease, drawn in by the incredible characters and the stunning prose.

There were parts of the book that felt almost unnatural in the breadth of vocabulary used — the kids’ points of view, for example, felt a little too pedantic at times. But I was able to shove that aside in favor of just enjoying this well-constructed tale of magic, romance, and found family.

Beasts is a universe I want to sit in for a while, and it’s one that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for months to come. The characters introduced in this novel all have stories that obviously extend well beyond its pages. Each one is so filled with life. I am most curious about the ones who didn’t get epilogues or conclusions to their tales. I can’t help but wonder if Lang will ever write anything else in this ‘verse. I’ll read it, hungrily, if she does.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Recommended for: Fans of magical realism and/or slowburn romance

 

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