People who can commune with animals populate this urban fantasy for middle-grade readers.
Homeless 13-year-old Caw lives with his three loyal crows in a city called Blackstone. A recurring dream torments him: Caw’s parents fling him out of his bedroom window into the air, where he’s caught by crows and carried to safety. Eight years after this expulsion, Caw still doesn’t understand, but a new element to the dream—an evil man with a spider ring—offers a clue. While searching for answers with his new human friend, Lydia, Caw meets a homeless man called Crumb, who informs Caw that the boy is a feral, like him: a person who can talk to and control a certain type of animal. Through Crumb and other ferals, Caw learns that the man from his dreams, the Spinning Man, is determined to return from the Land of the Dead and needs Caw as well as a band of renegade ferals to do so. It’s pushing credulity that the Spinning Man’s minions are as thoroughly inept as they turn out to be, and while the dangers Caw faces—and his responses to their outcomes—are believable, his ability to learn new skills (literally overnight) and succeed against those with many more years of experience may confound readers.
This series opener is definitely not for arachnophobes or those easily frightened, but stouthearted readers happy to suspend their disbelief may enjoy the urban setting and fast-paced plot. (Fantasy. 9-14)