Paperback, 387 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Strange Chemistry
Souce: Net Galley
To some, Meg Banks’ life might look perfect – she lives in a huge house in West London, goes to a prestigious school, and has famous parents. Only Meg knows the truth: her tyrannical mother rules the house and her shallow friends can talk about nothing but boys and drinking. Meg’s only escape is her secret life as a graffiti artist.
While out tagging one night, Meg witnesses the dying moments of a fox… a fox that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a beautiful and mysterious gemstone. It isn’t long before Meg realises that she’s also inherited his power to shift and finds an incredible new freedom in fox form.
She is plunged into the shadowy underworld of London, the territory of the five warring groups of shapeshifters – the Skulk, the Rabble, the Conspiracy, the Horde, and the Cluster. Someone is after her gemstone, however, someone who can twist nature to his will. Meg must discover the secret of the stone and unite the shapeshifters before her dream of freedom turns into a nightmare.
There are many good things about this novel: it’s funny, it’s entertaining, and it’s original. However, what could I not get over is that some of the characters shapeshifted to butterflies. Butterflies. But more on that later.
For the most part, Meg Banks, the protagonist, is relatable, invites empathy and is generally, nice. She has a horrible mother. In fact, her mother is the worst mother I have read in YA fiction to date and that’s saying something. Meg is not the size zero her mother wants her to be and that leads to all sorts of abuse including but not limited to a locked fridge, starving and being locked in a dark cupboard. She is routinely humiliated by her mother who tries to set her up with douchebags and threatens to glue her bedroom window shut to put a stop to Meg’s nighttime activities which consist of sneaking out to do graffiti. This premise is interesting enough on its own without the whole supernatural element sneaking in but sneak in it does when Meg finds herself able to change into a fox.
Things go awry from there. For me anyway. The whole mythology needed to be developed further and in more detail and I honestly couldn’t with a love interest who shifted into a butterfly. Butterflies are delicate and fragile and live only four days or so. I like that the love interest is a POC, even Muslim but butterfly! The novel is a whole departure from the usual shapeshifter mythology and it just didn’t gel with me. There is a lot of violence and while not all of it is gratuitous, what did grate on my nerves is the villain who is also a POC and a woman. She doesn’t have a substantial enough back story for me. Also incredibly dissatisfying was the lack of closure or poetic justice done/given to Meg’s mom who deserves the lowest tier in hell or any other extremely hot place.
I would say that maybe the book tried to go in too many directions at the same time and ended up spinning around in one place. It did not succeed with me but other people liked it quite a bit so you should check it out for yourself and who knows, you may like the shapeshifting butterflies.