Ruth Emmie Lang’s 2017 debut novel Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a contemporary fantasy.
Goaded by schoolmates into exploring a dilapidated, gloomy dwelling, Roark falls through the roof into a spider-silk snare. She meets the building’s occupant, eccentric coot Weylyn Grey, who proceeds to spin a tale.
Weylyn is as amiable as he is odd. His uninvited visitor does not have to worry about a horrid fate, unless it’s being talked to death. Weylyn’s rambling biography begins when a young Weylyn, tragically orphaned, does what any boy might do in his position. He runs off to live with wolves.
His lupine chums accept him as one of the pack rather than a convenient meal. It is not a one-sided relationship. Weylyn came provided with cash, taken from a hidden hoard left by his parents. He keeps the pack in store-bought meat.
While buying meat he meets the butcher’s daughter, Mary Penlore. The two bond. When Weylyn’s money runs out, he and the pack must move on. A smitten Mary joins the pack. The couple’s wilderness sojourn is short, but a lasting bond is formed.
This bond is tested by Weylyn’s odd ability to summon weather. The summoning is involuntary. Weylyn can’t control what he summons. He fears that this will endanger Mary; he parts from her. For the first and not the last time.
Weylyn and Mary are drawn together by mutual attraction. Weylyn’s fear of the consequences forces them apart. Is he avoiding commitment? Or is he really an involuntary weather-worker?
This novel is episodic. Weylyn doesn’t just meet and part from Mary. He travels, he meets people whose accounts provide elements of the narrative, he likes them and they like him, he leaves. This quirk would be fine fodder for an on-going television show — although I suspect that The Littlest Hobo Who Summons Calamitous Weather Events wouldn’t attract many viewers.
As a novel, it worked, if in an elegiac, melancholy fashion. It’s well written; the characters appeal. There’s no plot, as such, unless wondering whether Weylyn and Mary will ever end up together long term1 is a plot. But I liked it.
1: One might ask if a guy without a reliable income who may or may not bring blizzards and hurricanes in his wake and who lives in the woods with animals would be a reliable life partner. Romantics might say yes; simple prudence might say no.