Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: Skulk by Rosie Best

Goodreads Blurb:

When Meg witnesses the dying moments of a shapeshifting fox and is given a beautiful and powerful stone, her life changes forever. She is plunged into the dark world of the Skulk, a group of shapeshifting foxes.

As she learns about the other groups of shapeshifters that lurk around London – the Rabble, the Horde, the Cluster and the Conspiracy – she becomes aware of a deadly threat against all the shapeshifters. They must put aside all their enmity and hostility and fight together to defeat it.

My review:

I got the ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Strange Chemistry :)

First, an (almost) unrelated intro: I discovered Angry Robot Books just over three years ago and man, they’re awesome. I swear there’s my long-lost secret twin in the editorial boards in there somewhere. Angry Robot has become my source of the books I never knew I was dying to read. Adult futuristic dystopia, zombie noir, vampire epic fantasy—yes please. So naturally the YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, had me intrigued for a while now. When I saw the ARC of Skulk on NetGalley, I couldn’t request fast enough, and practically bounced off the walls when I got approved!

Yep, it’s a novel about shapeshifters in an era when shapeshifters are officially deader than vampires and YA urban fantasy is supposedly so, so over. Thank you Rosie Best and Strange Chemistry for proving the skeptics wrong!

Skulk is proof that anything can work when done with heart, originality and without pulling punches. There are shapeshifters, but no wolves—foxes, ravens, rats, butterflies (!) and spiders. There are evil wizards, zombie pigeons (sort of)and magic stones. And it works. Beautifully.

The protagonist is Meg, a size-sixteen graffiti artist. That in and of itself earns major points, especially since the plot doesn’t revolve around her hating her body and trying to get thin. No, she’s too busy recovering potentially lethal magical artifacts from an evil wizard and running from head-exploding fog to care about such superficial things.

The story is set in London—birthplace of all things UF!-- and it’s used to great effect. I could see, hear and smell everything as vividly as if I were right there with Meg (who, as a fox, can’t see color and mostly relies on her enhanced sense of smell—a great detail.) The supporting cast is diverse and well developed, the mythology and world-building is meticulous and thorough, and the action starts in the first chapter and doesn’t stop. There are deaths, messy ones, and a fair amount of violence that’s not glossed over. The romance doesn’t hijack the entire plot. In other words, this is how a YA urban fantasy should be done.

My one gripe is that I had guessed the “reveal” and the culprit a bit too easily. There’s a fine line between foreshadowing and telegraphing, and I figured out exactly what happened well in the first half of the book. One character uttered one sentence, and I went Aha! Please let me be wrong… but it turned out I wasn’t.

If not for that, this would have been a five-star book. As it is, I’m giving it four well-deserved stars. If you miss the good old YA urban fantasy that used to be, this book has the spirit and the atmosphere while at the same time being original and fresh. Definitely give it a whirl!

Releases Oct. 1st from Strange Chemistry

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful book!! New fresh take on shifters. Heard that this was going to be a 2 book series. So hopefully we don't have to wait to long for it. Ate this up in two days and so can't wait to read more!! Wonderful debut ya novel!