Ferals, by Jacob Grey

If you are looking for shape-shifting urban fantasy verging on horror for an eleven or twelve year old, Ferals, by Jacob Grey (HarperCollins, April 2015), is a good pick!

Caw's parents literally pushed him out a window when he was a little kid (for good reason), and since that day he's been raised by crows, living in a tree top nest with them, scavenging for food.  He can communicate with them, and does not think of his life as especially hard or unhappy (though he is sore, also with good reason, about the whole parents pushing him out of the house bit). 

But when three dangerous criminals escape from the prison near his tree, Caw's life becomes rather more difficult, in as much as they want to kill him (also for reasons).  Like him, each of these villains can communicate with a particular creature (dogs, cockroaches, and snakes), but unlike Caw, the villains want to bring back an even more villainous criminal, the Spinning Man (who controls spiders).

As Caw learns more about the danger he's in, he also learns more about who he is, and why he has the gift of communicating with crows.  He meets other communicators who tell him about the Ferals, as the animal speakers are known, and he makes an ordinary friend as well--the prison warden's daughter, Lydia (the sort of middle grade archetypally good friend who doesn't take no for an answer viz friendship with prickly main character).  Together Lydia and Caw, the ragtag band of crows, and their uncertain Feral allies, have to save the city and themselves from the Spinning Man...

What makes this one really verge on horror is not just the grossness of cockroach swarms (although those are very gross) but what happened to Caw's parents when they faced the Spinning Man.  It is the most horrible death by spider I have ever read, and not for the arachnophobic.

But for those who can stand a bit of arachnid hell, there's a fast paced story that's part mystery to enjoy, and for those who love animals, there are furry and feathered friends (besides the crows) on the good guys' side.  (The dogs are on the bad side, but once their master feral dude is out of they way, they are decent animals, so dog lovers shouldn't be bothered).  Dark real world based fantasy isn't really my thing, but if that's what you like, give this one a try!

(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)


  1. Ugh I am going to have to save this for another day -- I read a story this morning about scientists identifying 10 new species of spider in Madagascar, and while that obviously does not affect my day to day life in any way, it has made me feel particularly arachnophobic today.

  2. crows and spiders???? i dunno.

  3. do any of the dogs die? can't handle it when that happens. though i'm a little worried about the spider bit. i'm terrified of spiders, and actually picked the book up on audio, cuz the cover has spiders all over and i count take it, felt like i was touching them. i've already read 7 chapters should i stop reading this one?

  4. sorry I didn't see you question earlier! I don't remember anything horrible happening to the dogs, but the spiders get worse.....


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