An urban fantasy about the wildlife of New York City, starring a squirrel protagonist who has to find his way from exile in Staten Island back to his home in Central Park.
Mar 12, 2009: The author describes “Beasts of New York” as “a children’s book for grown-ups” and that’s a pretty fair description. It’s the story of Patch, a squirrel living in Central Park, and his desperate search for food. It’s the desperation that makes it a story for grown-ups. The writing style at the beginning is fairly simple, with some lovely imagery, but the underlying theme is survival, and as survival becomes more difficult, the story becomes more complex.
Spring hasn’t come yet to New York and Patch has been unable to find food for days. All his caches of nuts are empty. He soon finds out that none of the other squirrels can find food, either. Something strange has happened. Squirrels have gone missing and there is a strange smell in some of the empty dreys. Torn between hunger and the safety of the Kingdom, the animals’ word for Central Park, Patch decides to cross the “wasteland” with its “death machines” and look for food in the “mountains”. Unlike most squirrels, he has friends among the birds and they’ve told him there is food all around the strange, vertical mountains, if he can just avoid the humans, dogs and rats.
It’s interesting to read how the various animals are portrayed. Dogs are mostly limited to shouting “Kill you! Eat you!”. The pigeons Patch meets can remember places and directions but not names or much else. Birds of prey and cats are arrogant and feared by all squirrels. Like squirrels, rabbits are timid but they’re not worth talking to. Rats are vicious, dirty, and dangerous in numbers. Patch meets many animals on his journey, and several become distinct, memorable characters.
The story is a bit reminiscent of “Watership Down” or the Silverwing books. The main characters are animals and the story is told from their perspective. Patch lives in the trees so he sees the world from the branches. His life revolves around finding food and avoiding predators. It’s a charming story, with some lyrical writing in the third person narration, although things get a bit violent and gory in parts. The dialog is fairly simple but then, they are talking squirrels. Smells play an important part and are often included in the descriptions. The pace is good, with the action coming from Patch’s movements, the tension coming from his fear of almost everything, and some humour coming from the insults he trades with his bluejay friend, Toro. From the beginning there is a sadness to the story because of Patch’s hunger and that of his family. As the story progresses, the writing becomes more complex and serious as Patch finds out what happened to the food.
“Beasts of New York” is a solid fantasy adventure about a squirrel forced to leave his home tree in order to find food. He discovers a wide world and many strange “people” along the way. If you enjoy animal adventure stories, you should definitely check this out.
Aug 20, 2008: (Review written after reading approximately 20 pages).
Beasts of New York is not what I expected it to be when I clicked the link – I was expecting, frankly, a literal anthro squirrel protagonist, a human with a huge fluffy tail, that kind of thing.
I was pleasantly surprised.
It’s definitely far from the norm – but there is something that keeps you [more . . .]
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Oct 28, 2013: This is another one I really enjoyed, Beasts of New York, is about a squirrel from Central Park that goes in an adventure.
It starts in Central Park, where the squirrels are starving because their nuts reserves have dissapeared. But Patch is not like the other squirrels, he knows how to speak Bird, and is friend with a bluejay that knows where to find food. And this is how the adventure begins, in his search for food he gets in a [more . . .]
Jul 8, 2010: I thought this story looked really compelling. I liked the premise, and the catchy title. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the bizarre behavior of squirrels in New York (and in D.C. Ohmygod).
Upon reading, however . . . It just didn’t seem very squirrel-like. Maybe I’ve watched too many squirrels. It didn’t seem like realistic squirrel social interactions or motivations (other than food, which they’re pretty big on). I found the anthropocentric projections of hierarchy and houses and political machinations off-putting. I did [more . . .]
Aug 18, 2008: My first impression of Beasts of New York was that it was a sort of fun, light read, a little uneven in quality, but definitely readable.
It hooked my attention right away, since I read up to chapter 21 before pausing for a break. However, the story just gets better and better the further you read on. There are thrills, chills, battles, monsters, danger and heroism and non-stop action! There is also more than a little blood and guts, so you [more . . .]