Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Published by St. Martin’s Press, expected to release in November, 2017
Genre: Magical Realism
I really need a win soon! This is the third time in a row I have to give a review saying I didn’t love a book, and I’m sad about it.
I do want to say that in the case of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, my reasons for disliking it are completely subjective. I know, I know, they always are, right? But this time it feels like it’s more-so than usual. My failure to connect with this book has nothing to do with the book, so I feel the need to describe exactly why, so you’ll know whether these things would make it difficult for you to connect, also. I am by no means saying this is a bad book. In fact, of the advance reviews so far, every single one I looked at said the book was excellent. So keep that in mind, please.
Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.
As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places, jeopardizing not only his own life, but the life of Mary, the woman he loves.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell: great storms that evaporate into thin air; fireflies that make phosphorescent honey; a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.
There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.
I pretty much judge a book by the same things, over and over. Characters, plot, writing, pacing, message. But the most important to me, and I usually don’t mention it in these terms, is readability. How much did I want to keep reading this book. Did I have to keep reading? Here’s the thing, and again, let me say here that it’s not a bad book, I didn’t want to keep reading. Had it not been an ARC, I would almost certainly have DNF’d it, because I couldn’t connect and I was *whispers* bored. I’d rather hate a book than just be bored and meh with it. It’s such an unfortunate position. So here are my totally subjective reasons for feeling this way:
I felt a little misled, here. Given the description, I was just expecting something so completely different. Weylyn can manipulate weather, speak to animals, make plants grow… I just expected it to be more about that, I guess. Every chapter, save one at the end, is from the point of view of someone around Weylyn, watching his miracles unfold. My favorite chapter in the whole book was the one, at (nearly) the very end, from his point of view.
Through the whole thing, because Weylyn is a man of few words, we don’t have much of a sense of his intentions or feelings or agency. I thought the book was about Weylyn, but it turns out to be only tangential. It’s much more about the people around him and their reactions to him. Which is fine, just not what I expected, and not what I personally wanted. Because for almost the entire book we have no idea what Weylyn wants, it was hard for me to know where the book was going. And not in an Oh This Is So Exciting And Twisty way. I couldn’t find my bearings in an uncomfortable way.
With about thirty pages left, I found myself wondering what the point even was. Whether there would be a climax. Whether I would feel any resolution. That’s not a good place to be, with that little left. I expect to be entering wrap-up right about then, unless there’s a cliffhanger.
The ending was satisfying in it’s own right, though again, it wasn’t what I was looking for when I got the book. I think had it been marketed more as: the story of Weylyn and the love of his life and oh yeah there’s some magic, instead of: this is the story of Weylyn and his magic and oh yeah he loves a woman (I know they’re almost the same, but the distinction is important to me), I may have felt differently about the whole thing.
Because Weylyn is the fascinating one, the one raised by wolves and manipulating weather and everything, I really needed to hear from him. I couldn’t connect with him because, as I explained earlier, I don’t feel we were given the opportunity to. I want to know how much he knows about what he’s doing. I want to know whether he really ever thought the pig was magic. I want to know whether he meant to be rude or polite on his first day in human school. I felt a lack of closure because I never understood his motives.
The POV alternates between other characters, as I explained. Some of whom are fine, and some are more boring than others. Mary, the woman Weylyn loves, does have more page time than most, and I appreciated that because she was really the only character I cared about. We meet her at different times throughout her life, as a child and a young woman and an older woman, so we get to see her grow and change (although she’s always obsessed with her and Weylyn’s childhood together).
I did have some issues with their relationship. As I’ve expressed in former reviews, I can’t stand when people spend very little time together but decide they’re in love. Weylyn and Mary go through something traumatic together very young, so I can see how that would develop into the obsession they share later. But I didn’t like that Mary and Weylyn weren’t together much, and they stayed in love their whole lives (he says this in the first few pages, not trying to give a spoiler).
was a pretty big let-down for me, and again, I think it’s because we never see it through Weylyn’s eyes. I need to understand things. I need to know how and why things happen, at least eventually.
I know it’s a lot of information that’s not necessarily helpful, but it’s all I’ve got. Basically I feel this: make me happy or piss me off, but please don’t bore me. Unfortunately, for me, this one was just a miss.