5 Following



Skulk - Rosie Best This review is based on an ARC print copy received with thanks from the publisher. More at http://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/skulk-arc-review-read-it-if/

The story: Meg, under-appreciated daughter and unrecognised graffiti artist, gains the power to shape-shift into fox form after witnessing the death of another shifter. She is then drawn into a hidden world of shifters and finds herself the focus of attention of a highly sadistic (yet utterly modern) sorceress. Suddenly, an ordinary life doesn't look quite so bad after all.

I've found that I'm becoming a bit of an urban fantasy buff, and I have to say that Skulk is a welcome addition to that genre and ticks a lot of my "good-read-o-meter" boxes..

Ordinary, believable main character? Tick.
Great cover art sans broody-faced, long-haired girl? Tick
Romance that isn't shoved awkwardly into the plot? Tick
An easy-to-follow fantasy set-up that remains engaging throughout the book? Tick

As a young adult novel with paranormal/fantasy elements, Skulk stands out on the strength of Best's characterisation and plot-pacing. Meg and her supporting cast are not overblown, nor reduced to stereotypes, as happens in a lot of YA stuff going around. Similarly, the plot unfolds at a decent pace, allowing for some breathing space between the action, but not so much that you're required to flip ahead to get the story moving again.

The only real trouble I had with this one was trying to keep the names of the different shape-shifting groups in my head as I was reading (and there are only five, so it shouldn't be too hard!) - might I suggest a small pictogram with labels at the start of the book for the visual learners among us?

The element that put me most off balance while reading was the references to parental abuse that crop up now and again - Meg lives with a particularly cruel and abusive mother,an indifferent and distant father and some hired help who, oddly, seem to side with the parents against Meg. I'm not sure what it was about these scenes that threw me, but it was these, rather than the drug references or graphic descriptions of blood and gore that would have me placing this one squarely in the realm of older teen readers and above.

If you're new to urban fantasy, Skulk would be a great place to start, and if you're looking for a refreshing twist on YA paranormal/fantasy/romance, you could certainly do a lot worse than this title.