Book Review: Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Dystopian
Series: Book 2 of Hollow Kingdom
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (August 24, 2021)
Length: 368 pages
Soooooooo good! Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton was one of my most anticipate releases of 2021 and what can I say but it did not disappoint. I make it no secret that I absolutely adored its predecessor Hollow Kingdom and fell immediately in love with its protagonist, a cheeky crass-talking American crow named S.T. which is short for Shit Turd—I kid you not. If you’re sitting there thinking, hey, this sounds a little different…well, you’ve got that right.
But obviously, if you’re read the first book, you already know all this. If you haven’t, then I highly recommend picking up Hollow Kingdom before tackling this one. The author does make some attempt to remind readers of prior events or to rehash a few concepts here or there, but for the most part, Feral Creatures is meant to be experienced as a direct sequel. In it, we catch up with S.T. approximately a decade after the previous book ended. Mother nature and her animals have begun reclaiming the planet, now that all the world’s humans have succumbed to a catastrophic disease turning them into ravenous, bloodthirsty beasts (read: zombies).
All except one. Dee is perfect. For whatever reason, this beautiful tiny infant had evaded the viral pandemic which turned the rest of her species into the mindless, hollow shells of what they once were. And S.T., who had found her, immediately fell in love as a mother bird would their nestling. Raised by a human, S.T. still feels a desperate longing for the life he once shared with his owner Big Jim, back when they were still surrounded by the comforts and luxuries of civilization—among them Cheetos and TV. In Dee, he sees a glimmer of hope for humans (or MoFos, as that was the word Big Jim had used all the time to refer to other people) and perhaps an opportunity to one day bring back humanity’s past glory. So, armed with his fond memories of Big Jim and an idealistic view of the future, S.T. resolves to raise Dee “proper.”
Unfortunately, this plan is immediately met with opposition and numerous challenges. First of all, not all of S.T.’s fellow animals are as pleased with the news that a baby MoFo had survived. Many of their kind had experienced cruelty and death at the hands of humankind, unlike S.T., who is a domesticated crow. And second, there’s Dee herself. As the years go by, the girl can’t seem to help growing up more animal than MoFo, no matter how hard S.T. tries to impress upon her the incredible history and achievements of her species. But who could blame her? She is, after all, being raised in the Alaskan wilds by a cussy crow, a parliament of owls, and a clumsy yet lovable young muskox.
When I say Feral Creatures is even better than the first book, I’m not saying that lightly. Hollow Kingdom was a monument to originality and humor, combining the outrageous with the philosophical, and the fact that this sequel was able to carry through and improve upon those trends is nothing short of an amazing feat. This book was gut-bustingly whacky and hilarious, thanks once more to S.T.’s delightfully obscene narrative and larger-than life personality. Everything he knows, he learned from Big Jim. And while we never once get to see Big Jim on the page, his spirit lives on in S.T.’s memories, and from those flashbacks, readers can glean a relationship that goes beyond the simple dynamics of owner and pet.
Big Jim’s influence can also be seen in the way S.T. attempts to raise Dee, and here the novel explores the themes of parenthood in addition to the independence-seeking behaviors of children as they grow older—a touchingly heart-warming and sometimes wrenching commentary on when to let go and allow your little fledglings to fly on their own. Despite our protagonist being a crow, his motivations are surprisingly human and familiar. His fierce love and protective instincts for his child, for instance, not to mention his hopes and dreams for the future as well as his powerful, wistful longing for the happy times of the past are all too easy to relate to.
At its heart though, the point of the Hollow Kingdom series is to put the focus on the animals, and I was thrilled that Feral Creatures continued a tradition that I loved from the first book, featuring brief interludes from the perspective of creatures from all over the world. Some have had a better time adapting to this drastically changed reality than others, and the presence of these chapters also reminds us that what’s happening is a global phenomenon.
Obviously, if you enjoyed the first book, then you will probably love this one as well. If you’re contemplating this series though, there are a few caveats. Humor being so subjective, these books won’t be for everyone, and you really have to be okay with the over-the-top premise and the style of S.T.’s narration, namely his coarseness and a potty mouth that just keeps on overflowing. I wouldn’t say it’s too extreme though, and more often than not it was done in a clever and quippy way that made me admire the author’s way with words instead of turning me off.
All I know is, I will never regret the day I decided to take a chance on something a little different and ended up snagging myself a copy of Hollow Kingdom as a result. I was rewarded with mind-blowing creativity, memorable animal characters, and an astoundingly witty yet thoughtful story, and I’m pleased to say that Feral Creatures followed in its predecessor’s footsteps and left even bigger prints besides! What an awesome sequel, and much like her stouthearted corvid protagonist, Kira Jane Buxton is one in a million.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Hollow Kingdom (Book 1)