Only humans and animals acting together will be able to save the Unnaturals, a group of animals hybridized in a laboratory to fight like gladiators.
Overcrowding, pollution, and the threat of sickness have overtaken the planet. While some, such as 11-year-old Marcus’ family, can afford to live in the safety of the sky, others, among them 12-year-old Leesa and her mother, must survive on the ground. Marcus is an obsessed fan of the deadly matches. Leesa is equally focused on rescuing the animals from the mad scientists at NuFormz. But this story is less about the humans and more about the animals. Castor, a German shepherd with wings surgically grafted to his body, joins Samken, an octopus-elephant, Enza, a tiger-bear, and other Unnaturals in the Dome, where they are forced to battle for their lives. Castor is hopeless until Pookie, a Chihuahua-spider, teaches him how he can lead all of the transformed animals to freedom. Marcus’ and Leesa’s interwoven stories are less interesting than the animals’, slowing the plot unnecessarily, but the individual struggles and the group dynamics within the Unnaturals are gripping enough to keep the narrative moving. While the themes of bravery, self-sacrifice, and honor are laudable, the animal abuse and experimentation are constant, making for a tough read.
Captivating but disturbing. (Fantasy. 8-12)