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Young Adult Fiction 211
engrossing YA fantasy
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BEASTS OF RUIN is a fantastic sequel to BEASTS OF PREY that expands upon and adds to the first book with an explosive storyline. Following the end of the first book, Koffi and Ekon have been separated. Koffi has taken on the Splendor from Adiah, and she has been captured by Fedu who wants to cultivate her power to use it for his nefarious goals. Ekon is determined to rescue Koffi, and as someone wanted by the Sons of the Six, he is also trying to evade the authorities - his former brothers. His journey takes him out of Lkossa alongside some merchants, whose business is not completely aboveboard.

While Ekon is making his way south, Koffi is learning about the dangers of the Mistwood that is the only way out of the place where Fedu keeps her and the darajas he has taken. As she studies and tries to define her power, she also tries to find a way to escape Fedu and find a way to save those she cares about. With new alliances and expanding world-building, this sequel takes the reader on a consuming journey.

What I loved: This sequel is anything but boring, and it feels like this series is really gaining its stride. The new characters and world-building really add to everything from the first book to create another full and engrossing tale. Although it has been a while since I read the first book, this one does a good job of weaving information from the plot of the first into the beginning to remind readers of what happened without any knowledge dumps. While you do need to have read the first, the book includes enough reminders to appreciate this one without a reread - something that is always appreciated when you are ready to get right into it!

This book expands the mythology and world from the first in a few directions. As Ekon travels, he encounters new details about the current state of the world as well as that about the religion he was raised within. Koffi is exposed to details about darajas that she had never known, having been raised without any knowledge of the magic she carries. This book also includes the past perspectives of Binti, Koffi's mother, detailing the reason for her decisions that brought her and Koffi to the place where they were at the Night Zoo. I found this perspective to be particularly interesting, as her childhood shows the growing resentment and maltreatment of darajas and the growing power of religion in politics.

Koffi and Ekon are each continuing to grow as characters in this book, learning more about themselves and their goals throughout the story. They have changed so much since we first met them and are continuing to come more fully into their own. Koffi is defining what is important for her amidst the knowledge of Fedu's cruelty, while also trying to learn about her magic and help those she meets. Ekon is struggling with what he wants most, the changed relationships he has with religion and his family, and the way he connects with the new people he has met. The way that Ekon and Koffi met was under duress and this is also playing into the way they proceed.

Themes of the book include power and abuse of power, politics, religion and the way it can become twisted, prejudice and the way people accept the escalation of it, morality of decisions with all the gray area they have from different perspectives, complicated family relationships, and the consequences of debt and the way that it can be twisted or used by others. These are all really thought-provoking, but I found the discussions around prejudice and its escalation to be particularly poignant, as the reader sees the escalation of revoking privilege from darajas and the ways that this continues to worsen as others turn their backs to their plight, seeing them as other and less human, with real life reflections and parallels. The sections from Binti's perspective show the way that others and the laws begin to make life impossible for darajas, isolating and escalating actions against them to the situation where the first book began.

Final verdict: With intricate world-building and a fast-paced plot, BEASTS OF RUIN is a thrilling and thought-provoking sequel in a consuming YA fantasy series. Highly recommend for fans of WINGS OF EBONY, BLOOD SCION, and THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT.
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