Genre: Middle-Grade, Paranormal
Publication date: April 28, 2015
A sinister threat. A city in danger. A boy with the power to command the crows. Ferals is the first book in a dark, action-packed trilogy that's part The Graveyard Book, part Batman, and all high-octane adventure.
Blackstone was once a thriving metropolis. But that was before the Dark Summer--a wave of violence and crime that swept through the city eight years ago, orchestrated by the fearsome Spinning Man. Now the Spinning Man is on the move again, and a boy named Caw is about to be caught in his web.
Caw has never questioned his ability to communicate with crows. But as the threat of a new Dark Summer looms, Caw discovers the underground world of Blackstone's ferals--those with the power to speak to and control animals. Caw is one of them. And to save his city, he must quickly master abilities he never knew he had...and prepare to defeat a darkness he never could have imagined.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
You know what’s really hard? It is to read a book from a certain demographic that gave you a migraine, just right after you read another book from the same category that made you fly the heavens because of absolute ecstasy. There is always that voice in your head comparing the two, asking why is it like this when the other one did it better? More often than not, your mind fools itself to think that the book is actually worse than it is. I know I have to take that into account, but I can’t deny that my feelings right now are leaning towards a particular end of the stick… the one where a raging She-Hulk is preparing to throw a couple of knuckle sandwiches.
With that said, please, please, please take my review with a grain of salt. All words from here henceforth are of my own subjective opinion only, with a little bias along the way because I recently read Omega City by Diana Peterfreund which was awesome as hell and it’s just hard for any book under the same category to live up to it.
So, Ferals. The moment I learned it had a boy with the power to command black birds of death and destruc — I mean, crows — I was so excited. I’ve always been a lover of animals, and having the ability to ask them to do your bidding, having them as an extension of you… come on, that just spells AWESOME with a capital and exploding “A”. And while crows are creepy as hell (I always imagine them to be evilly chuckling when they put their dark gaze upon you), they are interesting birds, involved in a number of mythologies across several cultures and civilizations.
That’s why it really killed me that I found myself not enjoying it. There were times my eyes glazed over, and times I was looking forward to the next page because it meant it was one page less to the end, which I started viewing as the light at the end of the tunnel. I desperately wanted to like this. I willed every fiber of my mortal body to like it. For the love of fucking crows, damnit! Alas, the more I tried, the more frustrated I got, and it was like awakening to a new spring when I finally finished it.
Trust me, I was really guilty.
Okay, maybe not.
I simply just couldn’t get into the writing. It was all full of active sentences one after another, producing a very monotonous tone that provided no atmosphere, no emotions, no… spark or whatever… that would make me want to sympathize with the main character. Caw woke up dreaming. Caw is dreaming. Caw gripped the parapet. Then proceed a wall of text detailing every minute detail of what his body is doing. Honestly, after a while, the book started looking like a compilation of “How Many Verbs Can You Put in a Page?”
Do you see what I’m getting at?
It was so telling than showing. What he’s doing, what the others are doing, what he’s supposedly feeling without any other exposition. Succeeding scenes happen without any build-up, without any good transition, which honestly left me bored and detached. In an effort to make the reading experience even slightly interesting, I tried reading aloud with a rather dramatic voice, but even my voice couldn’t escape the dull feeling this book was giving. I know that this is considered Middle Grade, that its market are kids, but you know a book is good when even adults enjoy it. And besides, Harry Potter started as an MG and the first book was just so good. There’s Omega City, and A Monster Calls, and A School for Good and Evil – all MG but written so cleverly, so emotionally, so good, that you know even Ferals could have been written better.
Because of the writing and the lack of build-up, some scenes started becoming so contrived to me. When we get to know the origins of Caw’s power and how he’s so special, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It’s a cliché, yes, but clichés can be memorable if written right. There was this scene where a veteran Feral is talking about how transforming into your animal is close to impossible, that not even he, who has trained and trained for years and has more experience than our special hero, can do it, but in a span of a page, our Caw, who just recently woke to the potential of his abilities, who had no meritable training or whatsoever, he can suddenly do it? BESTING THE ONE WHO TRIED FOR SO LONG AND EVEN FOUGHT IN A GODDAMN WAR?! I just couldn’t buy it! It was such a painful moment for me that I started muttering obscenities under me breath, while clutching the blankets to restrain myself from leaving my E-Reader and walking out of my own bloodydamn room.
All in all, the writing made everything suffer. The atmosphere was nonexistent, the hero was as dull as cardboard, and many of the scenes felt really contrived. I wish I could like it, but the only redeeming factor it had for me was that it had animals. And animals are pretty much “love” in a nutshell. However, as I disclaimed earlier, my thoughts here are also influenced by the fact I read a far superior book not long ago, and it’s simply hard not to compare the two. If the blurb interests you, please don’t hesitate to try it out, for yourself or for your kids. Maybe it could teach them young ones that crows aren’t really all that bad!