Monday, 23 September 2013

UKYA Review: Skulk by Rosie Best

Published by: Strange Chemistry
Release date: 1st October 2013
Series: n/a
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:
When Meg witnesses the dying moments of a shapeshifting fox and is given a beautiful and powerful stone, her life changes forever. She is plunged into the dark world of the Skulk, a group of shapeshifting foxes.

As she learns about the other groups of shapeshifters that lurk around London – the Rabble, the Horde, the Cluster and the Conspiracy – she becomes aware of a deadly threat against all the shapeshifters. They must put aside all their enmity and hostility and fight together to defeat it.

My review:
I've had a run of mediocre books from NetGalley recently, but as soon as I started reading Skulk, I knew I'd stumbled across something special. For one thing, it's British, which immediately brings it up in my estimation. I can't help it, there's something kind of amazing about reading a great Brit book after trawling through mountains of US stuff. But that's not all Skulk has going for it - not by a long shot...

It's shapeshifters, but not as we know them. Somehow, Best has come up with a really original way of using shifters. I didn't think there were any left, but Best's groups of shifters are new and appealing. The history and origins of these shifters are interesting, and the way that Meg becomes one is very different. No infected bites here! The description of Meg's first shift, and all that comes with it, is brilliantly-written. In fact, the whole book is. Best brings her characters to life wonderfully - not just Meg, though her voice is very real, honest and likeable - but the rest of the skulk group who Meg meets, and other shifters that she comes across later, are all well-formed, interesting characters. Meg's parents, while lacking in parental skills, are beautifully evil as characters! Meg herself is a multi-faceted girl, on one level a rich, priveladged girl with a crappy home life, on another she's a talented grafitti artist with a mission. Then the skulk comes along and everything changes, and she becomes a reluctant heroine.

There's a lot of action, and it's well-paced. Best isn't afraid to let bad things happen, to show us a bit of blood and gore, and there's none of the 'talking down' effect that you come across in some YA books. Best treats her readers as intelligent people, and she hits exactly the right point between giving enough description to bring her world to life, while leaving just enough to the imagination of the reader. There's a hint of romance towards the end that I think will be built on in subsequent books, but it's not the be-all and end-all of the story, there's no inappropriate swooning at crucial moments and everybody isn't gorgeous! There are a lot of levels to this book if you start pulling it apart - a lot of different issues are brought up, but it's done in a subtle way so that taken as a whole it's just a really good read.

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