Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is the story of Weylyn Grey – an accidental, unassuming and reluctant wizard who spends most of the novel convinced that it his pig, Merlin, who is magical, rather than himself.
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.
I absolutely loved the characters in this book of magical realism by first-time novelist Ruth Emmie Lang. The first-person narrative passes between the people who are close to Weylyn. It jumps from his childhood friend to his foster-sister, to his school teacher, the mayor of a small town and sometimes back again, when Weylyn catches up with old friends later in the book. So many of the characters walk to the beat of their own drum and have wonderfully dry senses of humour.
The painting of the personalities is sharply entertaining:
I, remarkably, still had both my eyes despite my impulse to hurl myself off things that were often a generous distance from the ground. Some of my other hobbies included running with sharp objects, lighting fires, and lighting sharp objects on fire and launching them into the sky with my slingshot.
As a reader this feels like a wonderful coming-of-age story where magic could be easily substituted for a number of human traits more based in the real world. Weylyn is that awkward kid who grows into an awkward, loner adult with a big heart who attracts people who want to look after him and those who would bully him in equal numbers. The rest of the world frowns a little, shakes their head benevolently and moves on with their day.
I quite liked this comparison from Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave:
Think Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups who, like Weylyn Grey, have their own stories of being different, feared, brave, and loved.
I found the opening chapters a little nerve-wracking because it feels like the story might erupt into a Stephen King-style horror at any moment, with the small boy eaten by the terrifying man-spider. To me, it’s an unfortunate opening – a) because I really don’t like Stephen King-style horrors and b) because the rest of the book isn’t really scary at all. So if you also feel a little freaked out – bear with it!