cover image Beasts of Prey

Beasts of Prey

Ayana Gray. Putnam, $18.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-593-40568-0

Gray’s imaginative debut traces the twined fates of 16-year-old Koffi and 17-year-old Ekon, a pair of Black teenagers living in the corrupt fictional jungle city of Lkossa. Once a haven for magic users called darajas, a terrible earthquake known as the Rupture led to their ostracization, driving magic underground. When Koffi—a beastkeeper whose family debts have indentured her to the Night Zoo—runs afoul of the zoo’s cruel owner, she unleashes a torrent of power that can only be magic. Her life intersects with Ekon’s after she rescues him from an ancient murderous creature called the Shetani, which has long threatened Lkossa; when he allows Koffi to flee, he forfeits his birthright as an elite warrior. Concealing divergent aims, the pair together pursues the Shetani through the dark, magical reaches of the Greater Jungle. As Koffi and Ekon ally in an attempt to outmaneuver their prey, even as enemies hunt them in turn, Gray’s lush, vivid descriptions enliven the twisting narrative, which is steeped in Pan-African mythology. The protagonists achieve a rich emotional depth complemented by the fast-paced action, and a light romantic element lends the plot additional support. Ages 12–up. Agent: Peter Knapp, Park & Fine Literary and Media. (Sept.)