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.
With a premise this intriguing, I’ve been wanting to read this book since the deal announcement. A monster in the jungle, and the two teens to set out to hunt it. But are they the ones doing the hunting? Or are they being hunted? Plus it was going to be a fantasy with hidden schemes and warriors and zoos with tons of cool creatures. I was very, very eager to read it!
I very much enjoyed this book! Though, I think I was expecting it to be a bit different than it was. Nevertheless, I think it was incredibly solid and I did end up really liking it!
One of the things that I liked most about it is that it felt like it was written with love. I know that sounds weird, but it truly feels like so much care was put into the story, into the characters, into the world, and into everything about it. It’s a hard thing to pin down, but just know that it made the book all the better.
The characters were also another highlight for me. Both Koffi and Ekon felt like real teenagers, anxious, scared, and worried about their lives and their futures. But they are also so earnest and so willing to do what needs to be done. I loved them both so much. They’re both dorks, and when they are both dorks together, it is absolutely wonderful.
Everything about the jungle and the creatures inside it was a highlight for me. They were just so COOL. Like, magical creatures drawn from real myths in a magical jungle. Hunting a magical creature, while keeping secrets from each other and trying not to fall in love. Like, that is so much amazing packed into one book.
I think where my expectations were off was in the tone of this book. It’s a lot lighter than I expected it was going to be. I thought it was going to be a bit darker, maybe a bit gritter. I thought more focus was going to be on the hunt, on what that entails, of actually going after the monster in the jungle. Instead, it leans more into world, into the systems in place, and the structure of fantasy. And there is nothing wrong with that! Personally, I was just expecting this to be something completely different than other fantasies, so it threw me off a bit. That being said, I loved how Gray brought her own twist on the fantasy genre. The way she writes and the characters she creates are brilliant.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book. I loved the writing, and I fell completely in love with the characters. And there are so many creatures that are so freaking cool. It’s very good!