Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance – Ruth Emmie Lang

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances_cover imageMy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Date read: 19 August 2017

Published by St. Martin’s Press, November 2017

Verdict: Quirky, unexpected, somehow not as much my cup of tea as I thought.

Find it on Goodreads.

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.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

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. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and 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.

This is – again – one of those books I was sure I would love but didn’t. I enjoyed reading it but I just thought I would adore it. On paper it has everything I look for in books: whimsy, fairy-talesque writing, quirky characters with a human core, with a story spanning decades but something didn’t quite click for me.

This is Weylyn’s story – an orphan raised by wolves, able to control the weather and speak with animals, a gentle soul with a heart of gold. This is also the story of the people whose lives he touched and changed and influenced. Somehow he is able to make other people better while at the same time being unable to find balance for himself. We only get glimpses of the man he becomes because while he is at the centre of this tale he is also elusive and hard to grasp.

Some of the characters were absolutely brilliant: I adored his adopted sister Lydia and her refusal to be like her parents want her to be. Their sibling relationship was beautifully executed and I would have loved to spend more time with them together. I also thought Weylyn’s first teacher, Meg Lowry, was a great character, hardworking and honest and so willing to do what’s right.

The least convincing part of the book for me was Weylyn. For some reason he never felt like a proper character but rather a puppet there to move the plot along – or to get other people to think. That made it difficult for me to care about the love story at the core of this book because I found the other characters way more interesting.

As such I found the book worked best when it focussed less on Weylyn and more on the other characters and their lives and decisions. I adored the parts where characters were at a crossroad and had to decide between the easy path or the more difficult path that might lead to more happiness. These parts ran true and were engrossing to read and I wish we had seen more of that.

First sentence: “I have delivered over a thousand babies in my career, but one in particular stands out in my mind.”

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!