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Beasts of Prey #1

Beasts of Prey

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Magic doesn't exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family's debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones' own safety is threatened by the Zoo's cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn't fully understand--and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six--an elite warrior--and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani--a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century--but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi's power ultimately saves Ekon's life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can't do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon--each keeping their true motives secret from the other--form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home--and discover much more than they bargained for.

496 pages, Hardcover

First published September 28, 2021

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About the author

Ayana Gray

4 books1,211 followers
Ayana Gray (she/her) is the New York Times-bestselling author of the critically-acclaimed Beasts of Prey trilogy, and a lover of all things monsters, mythos, and magic. Originally from Atlanta, she has called many places home but now lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her works have been translated in ten languages across five continents and are being adapted for feature film.

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5 stars
2,341 (29%)
4 stars
3,452 (44%)
3 stars
1,658 (21%)
2 stars
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90 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,631 reviews
Profile Image for Ayana Gray.
Author 4 books1,211 followers
April 5, 2021
Hello! As this book's author, I really don't feel it's appropriate for me to spend much time in this space. I genuinely believe the relationship a reader has with a book is none of the author's business most of the time. That said, I wanted to use this space to share content warnings for BOP in case that effects your reading experience:

Physical/Verbal Abuse (Minor)
Blood (Minor)
Bodies/Corpses (On Page)
Death/Dying (Referenced; On Page)
Drug Use (Referenced; On Page)
Forced Captivity/Kidnapping
Murder (Referenced)
Sexism/Misogyny/Toxic Masculinity
Sexual Content (Mild)
Slavery/Indentured Servitude
Violence (Mild)

I've been asked about romance as well, so I'll mention that while there are romantic subplots, they are not the main thrusts of the story.

Please feel free to reach out via my website if you have any more questions! For what it's worth, if this book was a movie, I'd rate it PG-13.

Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
May 8, 2021
the magic in this reminded me a lot of ‘the gilded ones’ while the jungle adventure gave me major ‘written in starlight’ vibes. so this was pretty good time all around.

i enjoyed the story. its a basic YA fantasy with all the usual tropes, the writing is decent with good pacing, and the characters are enjoyable. other than the own voices narrative, im not sure i can say this adds anything new to the genre. but i think one of the MCs has OCD (dont quote my amateur diagnosis lol), so i did appreciate that minor mental health rep.

overall, this will be story to look forward to if you enjoy african culture and immersive YA fantasy.

thank you gp putnams sons for the ARC.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,402 followers
September 29, 2021
Wow this was so fun! Beasts of Prey has been on my radar for a while and I’m very happy to report that it’s exactly as magical and entertaining as I was hoping it would be! Pulling straight from pan-African myth and full of adventure and a lot of heart, I loved every minute spent with this book.

Koffi and her mother are indentured workers at the Night Zoo, which houses and displays all kinds of magical creatures from across Eshōza. It’s situated in the city of Lkossa, right on the edge of the Greater Jungle. The jungle is home to many beasts and animals too fearsome for even the Zoo, and none more terrifying than the Shetani. After almost a hundred years of reported deaths at the hands of the Shetani, a recently disgraced candidate for the elite fighting force the Sons of the Six, Ekon, must team up with Koffi. Together they plan to hunt down the Shetani and hopefully free themselves from the difficulties of their current circumstances.

Despite my first impressions, this wasn’t really ‘magic zoo’ focused at all. Instead Beasts of Prey is an adventure story where the heart of the action takes place during a long trek in a strange and dangerous jungle. Though if you’re looking for magical beasts of mythological proportions, then never fear, because this book delivers.

Though Koffi and Ekon have the same eventual goal, to find the Shetani, their motivations are completely different, and their plans on what to do with it afterwards are at odds. Koffi needs the creature to offer to the owner of the zoo in order to buy freedom for herself and the only remaining family she has left. After making a dire choice on the night of his final test to join the Six, the only way Ekon has a chance to join his brother amongst its ranks is by killing the monster believed to be tormenting Lkossa for the last century. It makes them unlikely allies, but also provides incentives to betray the only other person who they can rely on while exploring a dangerous and unknown environment.

Loyalties are tested and each character has to reckon with their own convictions. Beliefs they held all their lives as unshakable truths look suddenly different in new light. Who is deserving of our trust, and what institutions need more scrutiny? As much as this is an epic fantasy full of fun magic and animals, there’s also an exploration of morality and the search for the truth.

I’m super excited to see where the story goes from here, as there’s a moderately sized cliffhanger ending in Beasts of Prey. While the immediate danger is gone, there’s still so much left to unpack. I’m very impressed with this debut by Ayana Gray, and look forward to more of her work!

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Kezia Duah.
393 reviews344 followers
July 8, 2022
That glorious feeling when a synopsis sounds interesting and the plot ends up being just as interesting. I loved being on this weird, magical journey with Ekon and Koffi. I connected with both of the characters very well since they each got good background information. Even though this is fantasy, they felt pretty realistic in the feelings they expressed. Their motivations for the decisions taken throughout the book are quite clear and not confusing at all. Their chemistry was not to die for, but there is something there that I’m hoping to see more development of in the next book.

There is a shift more than halfway through the book in which their original “mission” is changed to another one with a different goal. At first, I felt like the shift threw me off, but after the circumstances that occur by the end of the book, I understood Gray's overall goal. Every element of the book including fantasy, romance, family, and complex topics blended really nicely together, with nothing overpowering another. Everything pretty much came together and it ended in a way that made me look forward to the next book.

Profile Image for aly ☆彡 (hiatus).
346 reviews1,174 followers
December 17, 2021
Ok, this took me quite some times to finish because I wasn’t in the mood for it, but the book is simply amazing. It was so easy to go through and I've been attacked by plot twist after twist (some of you may call it but I didn't and so am I blown away).


Further RTC
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,538 reviews9,967 followers
January 17, 2022
This was a second book we received in one of our Fairyloot boxes! The cover is gorgeous with the pink and blue and silver. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t for me, I was hoping for just a night zoo creepy book.

I’m not loving ya or middle grade as much as I used to which sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty I love but these days they really have to stand out for me. And here I thought I was going to be a kid forever!!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for A Mac.
813 reviews140 followers
July 16, 2022
I'm pleased to say that after reading the full book, I highly recommend it!

The character development and depth were strong and continued throughout the work. I enjoyed Koffi as a protagonist and watching her grow as she learned about what she was. The worldbuilding was fantastic, and the inclusion of traditional myths, legends, creatures, and matrilineal practices added to the depth and meaning of the setting. And finally (but importantly!) it was excellently edited. Y'all should read this book!

*This review is for a sample of the book* 4 stars

Koffi works at the Night Zoo with her mother, trying to pay off their debt. A dangerous beast has been lurking in the nearby Great Jungle, and it has recently killed one of her friends. Despite this, Koffi is overjoyed when she learns that she and her mother are close to repaying their debt. But everything changes after a disastrous night, and she learns that she may have access to an ancient magic.

I’m excited to read more of this work! The setting is dark and well written – there were so many fascinating details included about the setting and the monsters/wildlife. The author also did an excellent job at including meaningful details about the setting that made the work immersive and lush.

The characters were well written. It’s difficult to know about the character development and growth from a short sample, but I found the characters in these few chapters to be enjoyable. I think Koffi is going to be a relatable and realistic protagonist. I’m very interested to see how the magic of the world is explained and incorporated throughout the work, as well as more information about the monster that is lurking in the jungle, killing villagers.

There were some serious formatting issues and an inordinate number of typos and errors throughout the text. In fact, there were so many typos/errors that this sample was painful to read – they absolutely detracted from the work as well as my enjoyment of it. Here are just two of numerous examples of sentences that were painful to read: “A huddle of young womenfour young womengiggled behind their hands…” and “Koffi let Baaz’s stories about the Night Zoo’s creatures some true, most fakeblend together…”

Based off this sample, I highly recommend this work (assuming it underwent some serious editing) and am looking forward to reading the whole thing.

I received a complimentary copy of this work through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,208 reviews3,694 followers
September 14, 2021
3.5 stars rounded up

A solid YA fantasy debut with intriguing world-building and characters that are about what you might expect from the genre. For me the world and magic were definitely the highlight of Beasts of Prey!

We follow a girl who is an indentured servant working for the Night Zoo with dangerous animals, and a boy in the final stages of training to become an elite warrior. But the night of a fire at the zoo, everything changes for both of them. The magic, lore, religion and rituals are cool and feel like they bring something fresh to the genre, centering Black characters and loosely African ideas. And if you like the idea of fantastical beasts, you just might love that element of the book!

The characters are fine and pretty typical of what you would find in YA fantasy. Nothing that really made me fall in love with them, but I'm also not the target demographic! I did like how fierce and determined Koffi is throughout the story. Ekon is clearly intended to be neurodiverse in some way, maybe with OCD and anxiety? It's not totally clear but I appreciate that representation. There is a romance subplot but it's not the main points of the story. Again, it's about what you would expect to find in a first love sort of YA romance and again, I'm not really the target demographic here.

The plot was interesting, had some twists that weren't terribly surprising to me, but might be surprising to younger readers who are less familiar with the genre. I was mostly engaged and enjoying the reading experience, though there was one thing I found distracting. Before the two perspectives really sync up, the book does this thing where one character will do something and there's a moment that intersects with the other character. Then it will GO BACK and do the whole lead up to the SAME MOMENT from the other character's perspective. This often felt really unnecessary and like not trusting the reader to put together very simple things. It caused a loss of momentum to the story and really should have been cut out to make things tighter.

Overall though, I liked this pretty well and I think it's going to really resonate for some readers. I like the creativity with the world and magic so while I don't know that I would keep reading in this series, I would keep an eye out for books the author would write a bit farther into her writing career. The audiobook has a full cast and is very well produced. Definitely a good way to check this one out! I received an advance audio & digital review copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Zoe Stewart (Zoe's All Booked).
309 reviews1,454 followers
December 18, 2022
**Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me an arc of this!**

This book has officially restored my faith in YA fantasy. Because of that, I'm not sure how I'll remain calm until the next book, given that this isn't actually out until next month.

Some things that happened I predicted within the first 15 pages, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment at all. It was refreshing to not have the romance fully take over and the plot get thrown out the window, which definitely added to my enjoyment 😂

I'm going to wait impatiently in the corner until the book is released so I can scream about it with more people, and then continue waiting impatiently until book 2 is released and my needs are fulfilled LOL
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
1,017 reviews538 followers
November 23, 2022

Solo fue un caso de: "Pero esto se avisa, leñe🥴"! Que una va con toda la buena fe del mundo, cándida pérdida a leer esta historia y, zasca! Adicción que se lleva🤭!

Y, oye, ya verás tú qué haces con ella! Nosotros nos lavamos las manos, que todos sabemos que esto del leer es un deporte de riesgo y que, de tanto en tanto, puede aparecer alguna adicción en plan: "Ni te muevas porque esta noche tú y yo la gozamos🤪". Vamos, que es uno de los efectos secundarios de lanzarse al vacío, sin saber de que va la novela.

Y no digo yo que no sea así, pero es que han sido cinco noches de gozarla! Y, vale que a una le va la marcha, no lo niego, pero ES QUE HAN SIDO CINCO NOCHES!!! Y seguidas! Que no ha habido ni un break, ni un descansito, que ha sido un: "Vamos ha darlo todo esta noche, mi niña" y, claro, una sale de está lectura como sale, medio mareadita del hype, de la gozada y de la santa Cachucha que no me ha avisado de esta tentación🤭!

Aunque, claro, mucha de la culpa también la tiene @silenciosentrepalabras que lo hemos leído juntas en una Lc.
Profile Image for Grace A..
414 reviews38 followers
September 18, 2022
THERE BETTER BE A BOOK TWO! with that crazy-ass cliffhanger, there better be...I stayed up late to finish it because I thought it was a stand-alone; THEN THE CLIFFHANGER...so not cool!
Loved it! The story is about three characters, different backgrounds and different life goals, crossing paths, merging their goals, and of course, not without their share of adversities, betrayals, and a ton of roadblocks. As it goes with every good story, achieving one person's goals will mean the other forfeiting theirs, which means either betrayal or compromise, in this case, both.
I tend to wait for the full-series release before reading, I picked this up by accident, and I enjoyed it. Four stars.
Profile Image for Colleen Scidmore.
386 reviews155 followers
April 22, 2022

Beasts of Prey is a beautiful and powerful YA High Fantasy tale with a wonderful world of magic and African Mythology created by a Pan-African own voices author. There are several different themes that range from drug use, grief, religion, servitude and I believe possible OCD. You would think this is too many to tackle in one book but it was woven together smoothly and everything fit perfectly in its place.

“Nightmares hunt like the beasts of prey. Vanquished in the light of day.”

Koffi and her mother are indentured servants at the Night Zoo. They are in charge of handling one of most dangerous of all the fascinating and deadly creatures that make up the show.
Ekon is an initiate, on his way to becoming one of the elite warriors of the Sons of the Six. He is desperate to make it into the brethren along side his brother and to continue his family’s legacy.

Koffi and Ekon very different lives intersect after a distressed Koffi accidentally starts a fire at the Night Zoo. The Sons of the Six are sent to help extinguish the fire and round up any runaway indentures. That fire ends up starting off a chain of events that lead to Koffi and Ekon working together to hunt the Shetani, a ferocious beast that has been killing Lkossa’s citizens for years.

Both of them have their own reasons for conspiring to hunt and capture the beast.
Koffi needs to bring the beast to the cruel owner of the Night Zoo, so she can free herself and her mother from years of indentured services.
Ekon needs the Shetani in order to change Father Olufeni’s mind about expelling him from the Sons of the Six after things went wrong while putting out the fire Koffi started. Ekon will prove he is worthy by protecting the citizens from ongoing years of terror from the mighty beast.

Their journey takes them into the Greater Jungle where no Lkossan dares to travel. Along the way they cross paths with dangerous magical and mythical beasts like Anatsou the creature with the torso of a man but legs of a spider. As well as a beautiful but poisonous forest lush with unique foliage. Ekon and Koffi find that the magic they thought was long ago extinct in their world does in fact actually still exist. But as they make their trek further into the jungle they bite off more than they can chew and may not be able to find the Shetani let alone make it out alive.

The story had 3 POV’s Koffi, Ekon &
Adiah. Koffi & Ekons story intertwined pretty much at the beginning, so when Adiah’s character popped up and she didn’t seem to belong to their story it was a bit confusing, I kept thinking I was missing something. When I finally figured out where Adiah’s narrative was going, I was floored. Ayana Gray did a great job keeping it intriguing and mapping her story out. In fact there were many plot twists that I actually didn’t see coming and that’s hard to do with a seasoned reader.

I noticed one of the genres was classified as romance on Goodreads, I can't say I agree. There is an attraction for sure but no romance. I’m wondering if AG will develop more of a relationship in the second book? But this was pretty much strictly fantasy. And I think it fit well for this story.

I am looking forward to the next book in this captivating saga, to see what other adventures and troubles Koffi and Ekon will find for themselves.

Thank You Penguin Teen for this gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for jagodasbooks .
624 reviews81 followers
August 8, 2023
"A hunting party is being assembled."

In this book two characters venture in the Greater Jungle to hunt the beast

"'You really do argue about everything.' Her frown deepened. 'I do not.' 'You do.' 'I do n-'"

Ekon and Koffi have grumpy x sunshine vibes and enemies to allies to...

"Sometimes things that seem dangerous are just misunderstood."

But nothing is what it seems to be...

"He couldn't really remember when he'd started doing it, the counting, just that it was something he couldn't help. It was impossible to explain, but there was something calming in the habit, a comfort he found in trifecta of it. One-two-three."

"Nightmares hunt like beasts of prey, vanquishing in the light of the day."

I heard about this book for a long time and I wasn't disappointed. Also look at this cover.

"Maybe there's beauty in the scars."

The ending, I kinda knew what will happen, but still...

Thank you NetGalley for providing digital advanced copy in exchange for honest review.
Profile Image for a foray in fantasy.
280 reviews288 followers
December 31, 2021
Ooh, that was pretty good. The only thing that kept out from being five stars is the journey part, which was kind of boring.

The mythology and world-building are FANTASTIC! I was so enveloped in the story.

I love Ekon and Koffi! They both have such unique personalities.

I also guessed almost all of the plot twists, but I usually do.
Profile Image for Starlah.
393 reviews1,589 followers
December 13, 2021
This was an okay debut with intriguing world-building and characters that are about what you expect from YA fantasy. For me, the world and magic were the highlights of this story. In it, we are following two young Black teens. One is Koffi, a girl who is an indentured servant working for the Night Zoo with dangerous animals. And the other is Ekon, a boy who is in the final stages of training to become an elite warrior and deals with OCD and anxiety. One night when a fire erupts at the Night Zoo, everything changes.

The characters were fine and very typical for YA fantasy. Nothing about them really stuck out to me aside from the OCD representation, and nothing specific about them really made me love the characters. There is a romance subplot and I feel lucky it was very small because it was cringy at best. Though I'm not the target demographic and romance is far from my forte.

The plot was interesting enough. There were a couple of twists, though none of them came as a surprise to me. One of the bigger things that annoyed me with this book was how we would be in one perspective and the one character will do something and there will be a moment when their perspective intersects with the other. But when we switch perspectives, the book would go back and redo all the lead up to the SAME moment we already went through. It's a simple concept and I don't think things need to be replayed constantly for readers to get what's going on. It added a lot of unnecessary repetitiveness to the story and it got annoying really quickly.

Overall, I liked this okay. It was creative with the world-building and magic system but was fairly typical and cliche with the rest. I'll keep an eye out for more from the author though as this was a debut and I do see the potential.
Profile Image for Basma.
175 reviews
July 26, 2021
WOW. This book. What a debut.

The cover and the title are a fantastic indication of the kind of story you're in for. This book was a whirlwind of an adventure with some of the coolest worldbuilding. It's a Pan-African fantasy, and I fell immediately in love. If you read the author's note, it details where the inspiration for the world/languages came from and seeing the intricacy and the thoughts behind the worldbuilding was a definite highlight for me.

Our main characters (Koffi, Ekon, and Adiah) were well developed, and the multiple POVs (as well as timelines) were balanced really well! I did partially call one of the twists from early on, but even then, the full story behind the plot twist was still surprising. I truly loved the dynamic during the jungle adventure and it took everything not to read ahead during my buddy read. This was an absolutely incredible read, and I cannot recommend it enough! Now, I just need book two IMMEDIATELY because that ending was insane.

Content warnings from the author: Physical/Verbal Abuse (Minor)
Blood (Minor)
Bodies/Corpses (On Page)
Death/Dying (Referenced; On Page)
Drug Use (Referenced; On Page)
Forced Captivity/Kidnapping
Murder (Referenced)
Sexism/Misogyny/Toxic Masculinity
Sexual Content (Mild)
Slavery/Indentured Servitude
Violence (Mild)

I received an e-arc of this title from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Joleen (starlightbooktales).
356 reviews304 followers
July 15, 2022
5 Stars

Talk about a fantastic debut novel. Beasts of Prey is hands down one of my favorite reads of the year.

At first, I was a bit nervous because the formatting for the e-arc was a bit off. So it was difficult for me to navigate whose chapter was whose. And with three povs, that can get a little confusing. But once I got past those issues, the story flowed so smoothly.

Ayana Grey created a beautiful intoxicating world. The beasts were glorious, the characters were relatable, and the plotline shocked the hell out of me. There were a few things I easily guessed, but other plotlines I couldn't even see coming. I was not ready for this book to end, and I am dreading the wait for the next book.

These characters were some of my faves to read about. Koffi, Ekon, and Adiah had such refreshing personalities. But the relationship between Koffi and Ekon, of course, was my favorite. They might not like each other at first, but eventually, they start to bond. I really loved seeing their friendship grow and that connection between them blossom. Adiah, while we didn't get a lot of time in her pov, I loved seeing her backstory. It hurt my heart in so many ways. And I just cannot wait to see what is next for these amazing characters.

This is one to preorder friends! If you love strong characters, beautiful worldbuilding, and one heck of an ending then this book is for you. . Also, if you do read it, feel free to DM me and we can fangirl together.

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for sending me an early copy.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,065 reviews1,477 followers
April 11, 2022
This is the first instalment in the Beasts of Prey series.

"Once upon a time, another lifetime ago, she'd been someone else, a girl with hopes and dreams and loves and wants. She'd been a girl caught between her heart and her mind. In the end she'd chosen both, a scarier thing, but the braver thing."

First five star read of 2022!

Koffi and her family, both blood and found, are indentured to the Night Zoo. Freedom is fast approaching and their debts are all but paid up when Koffi unwittingly unleashes a powerful magic that sees her emancipation recede into the distance. The only hope of saving herself and her family from years of slavery is to venture into the feared forests and hunt an even more feared beast that resides at the heart of it. She won't be trespassing there alone, however.

Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six but his dreams have too been thwarted and now, desperate to return his former glorious position, he makes a deal with a girl he can't trust and leaves his brother, his home, and his role to hopefully soon return to them with the feared beast none can seem to conquer.

Two individuals with one shared goal, but what happens when both want to keep it for themselves? And just what will they be forced to confront, both inside the forest and themselves, along their adventures together?

The impeccable pacing of the story had me immediately immersed and easily borne along on the story's trajectory. There were no dead moments and the twisted narrative ensured I was hooked throughout. There were so many unforeseen elements contained inside of it that ranged from the borderline-terrifying to the deeply shocking to the tremendously heartbreaking.

I loved both Koffi and Ekon's perspectives equally and appreciated how they each illuminated a different insight to the kingdom they inhabited. It was endlessly intriguing to learn about this world from their differing positions. My immersion inside this fantastical construction was equal to my love for the story set inside of it and the two were consistently developed as the book continued. Flawless YA fantasy and its absolute finest!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Ayana Gray, and the publisher, Penguin, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Life As Monae.
239 reviews454 followers
July 31, 2021
Thank you Penguin Teen for an Arc.

This was a HELLL of a debut. First and foremost, this book is blackity black black. And when it is described as Pan-African it is EXACTLY that. There is something for everyone in the African diaspora here. The character have hairstyles the range from twists to dreads to fades. The pacing was very well done and the pay off was pretty good for a first book. In the end we saw almost everything in the book tied in to the ending plot, nothing felt like time wasted. I do want to say that this is younger level YA and the romance is very tepid. It’s not necessarily a slow burn as our characters are not at the point of truly exploring their feelings for one another. The one thing I wasn’t in love with immediately was the mythological beasts in the book. BUT as I continued reading I recognized a beasts that I remember explicitly as a creature from African folklore (grootslang) and this made me Google. after Googling all of the creatures our main characters come across I found that almost all are real mythological/folklore creatures from real African stories. And I was impressed. And while there’s so much in this book that makes me feel seen in unfathomable ways as a black person, ESPECIALLY in fantasy. There is a true story here. The jungle and the beasts really come to life on page and the imagery is top tier. (I am terrified of snakes and there are plenty of snake imagery in here that actually made me cringe, but that just me lol snake lovers you’ll have fun)
This book releases in September 2021 and I received an arc in April 2021 so I have probably the first rendition and the most unedited version. And even with all the typos and mistakes, I greatly enjoyed this book. It’s one that, like children of blood and bone, I will be sending to my younger cousins and nieces/nephews so that they can see themselves truly in a book.

I am impressed Ayana.
Profile Image for Kalena W.
653 reviews303 followers
September 29, 2021
3.5/5 stars, an average ya book with some fun plot twists

Thank you Penguin Teen for the arc through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

My review might be kind of short because I don't have a lot of big thoughts about this one. I praise it for its diversity and representation of different cultures, but the pacing and the characters felt a bit off for me. It had a lot of the classic ya tropes, which isn't necessarily a bad thing not every book has to be totally original, it just felt slow because of that.

The setting in this book takes place around a magical zoo and a giant magical jungle. The zoo is run by a man who tricks people into helping him as indentured servants, just as Koffi and her mother are at the beginning. There are animals there of varying rarities and it is their job to care for them and put on a show every now and then. There is also a town nearby, run and protected by the Brothers of the Six (the six being their gods). Surrounding both is a great and vast jungle, teeming with magical and ancient creatures that are extremely deadly. The majority of the book takes place in this jungle, and I thought it was in fact unique.

The plot of this book, and the pacing included, just felt a bit disjointed to me. It was hard for me to get into it in the beginning, that might have just been my life at the time though. While it was easy to get adapted to the story's environment, the plot felt disjointed as there were POVs thrown at the reader that felt not connected. Obviously, they matter later in the story, but a good 1/3 of the book just felt like a prologue. Once the story moved to the jungle I found it much more enjoyable, overall.

The main characters, Koffi and Ekon, felt a lot younger than I think they were supposed to be. They were both fun to watch be around one another, but my biggest problem with them was their decisions. Despite having a map, and a guidebook to the flora and fauna in the jungle, they managed to get themselves into so many undesirable situations. Things they should have known not to do, they did anyways and it honestly was just very juvenile. I think they have the potential to grow, they were just at times, difficult to read about because of their decisions.

Overall, it was a fine book, nothing particularly wrong or right. There were a lot of classic tropes but with a diverse world and cast, so that was a big bonus. I haven't decided if I'm going to read the series yet, (the book left on a giant cliffhanger so I assume there will be another book), but we shall see. I know so many people who will adore this story so I really hope you enjoy it!

[TW: blood, death, animal abuse, animal death, drug use, death of a parent or loved one]
December 19, 2021
What the hell was that ending?! And why do I have to wait until July 2022 for the sequel?! This was an amazing debut novel, I didn't give 5 stars for me becuase it was a little slow and a little confusing in the beginning but that ending and the twist at the end of this book was shocking and wow! I don't see why this book isn't getting more hyped. The one thing I will complain about this book is that if I wasn't listening to the audiobook for this book I would never knew it was 2 povs which reading it would've been confusing for some. So overall this was an enjoyable novel and never read anything set in a night zoo!(:
Profile Image for mads.
413 reviews369 followers
October 21, 2021
TW: blood, death, death of a parent, drug use, fire/fire injury, murder, physical abuse, violence.

Really enjoyed this one!! I decided to pick it up after hearing so many great things and I was not disappointed. It was a unique, surprising fantasy filled with plot-twists, magic, and two main characters that you can't help but root for. (Koffi and Ekon are both precious and I love them.) It was a bit dark at times, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to younger/more sensitive readers.

I'm also super impressed that this is Ayana Gray's debut! This was such an immersive, well-written read, especially for being her first (published) book. I look forward to reading whatever she writes in the future.

Now, please excuse me as I process that cliffhanger and (im)patiently await book 2.
Profile Image for Brinley.
1,038 reviews70 followers
August 9, 2021
Yeah, this one was disappointing. As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I wanted it. This feeling didn't last though, as the story just kept getting more and more bland.

Which is such a shame because this started off so strong. It immediately drew me in with the circus setting, and the many animals we were introduced to right off the bat. Things only got better when we were introduced to the semi-sentient jungle, which made for one of the best settings I've ever read. All of this had me so hyped to read the book.

I think the part when this really went wrong was the characters. They were idiots. They truly made decisions like a 12 year old boy. Ooh, shiny fruit! Must eat it! Even though they were in a deadly jungle, they still put themselves at risk constantly. And that constant risk of their lives ended up driving the plot, not the premise we were introduced to.

Even though I loved the world this was set in, it could've been so much better. So much of the worldbuilding was introduced and then glossed over, which was a huge disappointment because the world is what was so unique about this. Because this sets up for a sequel, I'm sure that more of the world will be established in the next book, but I doubt I will be reading it.

Finally, I wasn't a fan of the multiple perspectives. Both Ekon and Koffi needed their own perspective, there was no reason for Adiah's. Even when the big reveal regarding her identity came up, the most emotion I could bring was a blink. It wasn't a surprising reveal, and her chapters just disrupted the pace.

Although this wasn't my cup of tea, I can definitely see this making a splash. Set in a world full of color and magic, this definitely had potential, it just didn't fulfill it.

Thanks to BookishFirst for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Kat.
785 reviews27 followers
June 25, 2021
This book was FREAKING AWESOME! It's rich in Pan African tidbits with many nods to the historical titans in Black History!!!! I especially loves the African wide mythology and language blends!!!! My brothers and sister, B.O.P. ain't magic ✨ This that SPLENDOR right here! Excuse me while I try to articulate my emotions!!!!
Profile Image for Roomies' Digest.
265 reviews798 followers
October 29, 2021
How can I even describe how good this book is in a cohesive review???

First of all, thank you so much for the ARC!

Beasts of Prey is everything we want in a fantasy- whirlwind action, with loveable (non-royal) MCs, and a sprinkle of romance. My favorite piece of this book is that it's set in the jungle. It gave me major Jungle Cruise/ Jumanji vibes. I found the magic system easy to understand, and I really loved the lore that was spread throughout this book.

It's so easy to get sucked into the story & writing, I felt like I couldn't put this down for even a second. AND THE PLOT TWISTS!!! Omg. So freaking good. AND THAT ENDING!!!

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first picked this book up, but it's safe to say I was blown away (and I think I found my new book boyfriend). I had such a good time with this one, and can't wait to read the next in this series!!

Would highly recommend for my YA fantasy readers- especially if you're into true journey/ adventure books!!

Profile Image for Azanta.
195 reviews300 followers
September 28, 2021
wow. honestly, i flew through this. despite it being pretty chunky, this was so well-done, so fun to read, and it felt really unique. I haven’t read a pan-African fantasy yet and i feel like this matched up to all the well-deserved hype it’s been receiving. I’m already itching for book 2 because that ending made my jaw drop and I’m already obsessed with the world. my only complaint is that i felt that this book went by a little TOO quickly — the pacing was super fast and i wish we had gotten more character development and more time in the jungle with Ekon and Koffi. all in all, i highly recommend!
Profile Image for Darcey.
998 reviews208 followers
December 19, 2021
Buddy read with my dear Ashley!

this was so good! i loved the mythology, i loved the characters and i especially loved the relationship that grew between Koffi and Ekon. the world was beautifully crafted and described, with minimal info-dumping, and the characters were realistic, each with their own personality and charm. and the romance was definitely top-notch, but damn, that cliffhanger!

can't wait until i get my hands on book #2!
Profile Image for Emma.
2,512 reviews857 followers
April 28, 2023
It took me a long time to get to this book, but I’m very glad I did get there in the end! I do love a well done African inspired fantasy- and this was excellent- original and exciting- I enjoyed the world building and the magic (splendour), mistakenly believed to no longer exist.. Koffi and Elon were complex and well fleshed out characters and I’m very interested to see where the story takes me in its sequel. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
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