Strays: Book I of The Glaring Chronicles by Matthew Kraus

It gives great pleasure to my parsimonious soul to be able to present to you a book that you’re really going to enjoy. I get the opportunity so rarely.

Putting it simply; Matthew Krause spins a story that grabs you and holds you until the tale is done. Even if it’s three o’clock in the morning.

The main strength of this novel comes from characters with whom we sympathize deeply, forced into a conflict that we desperately want them to win. The characters themselves aren’t especially original. In fact, that is their attraction. Sarah is an abused runaway, fleeing from the evil of one who is supposed to protect her. Kyle is a victim of bullies, fighting alcoholism and the kind of evil that comes from inside us, from our own doubts and fears. Between them, with the help of a group of werecats known as The Glaring, they must face down a primal evil of the sort that twists weaker humans into monsters.

Having said these pleasant things about the book, I must be honest. This is a YA story; don’t expect complexity. Secondary characters are simple and stereotyped. Conflict is straightforward good-vs-evil. Information is only given when needed, often without the courtesy of preparation. For example, Kyle finally gets the pep talk he needs from this father on the phone in the middle of the night from half the continent away. It turns out that his father has been the major player in Kyle’s life and in the shaping of his character, but before the plot needs him, we have hardly met the man.

A more specific problem: this is the sort of plotline where a disparate bunch of people are gathering from different places to reach a central focus point. This results in a somewhat awkward jumping back and forth in both time and geography, which gets rather confusing. My suggestion for this sort of situation is that if the geography is fragmented, keep the timeline in chronological order. Then you don’t have to put in explanations like, “The previous afternoon, before Kyle’s altercation with a biker named Jack, Sarah was introducing Tom and Trudy to a new friend.” As I said, confusing. Using date, time, and place as a chapter title also might help.

Nonetheless, we want Sarah to go on to attain her unknown potential, we want Kyle to protect her, and we want the were-cats of the Glaring to go on protecting the Strays, because we like cats.

And because the Strays they protect are us.

Recommended for Young Adults and those who want an enjoyable, quick read. And are willing to defer a bunch of gratification long enough to wait for the sequel.

Four stars out of Five.

About the Author: Gordon Long

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