The Wanderers ★★★☆☆

The Wanderers by Kate Ormand is a tale of a circus full of animal shapeshifters; an urban fantasy that boasts a higher death rate than a Game of Thrones book. I think it did at least, but I wasn’t really counting.

I was excited to get The Wanderers. I even called up my good friend JM Tuckerman to ask which book I should snag, and The Wanderers won. I got around to reading it sometime before the semester started up, and I found myself forcing my way through the book.

Now usually, when I force myself through, it’s because the chapters are long and the prose is thick. The opposite happened here. The Wanderers had short chapters and concise writing, and that is normally a good thing. If you’re writing early children’s or middle grade books. This was a middle grade format forced on top of a YA story.

The chapters, some as short as three pages, were barely more than a single scene or event. The writing felt dry in places, and even if it was tender writing, the plot almost felt lacking. Unless I had missed something, not much was happening to drive the plot. Plot points felt like they simple arrived, out of thin air.

Maybe a part of it came from not really being sure what to expect from the story. I had been promised a romance, and perhaps I expected the romance to take center stage but it was only a sign we passed on the road that said “There’s a relationship here!” and that was it. I also expected a fantastical adventure, and while some of that rang true, it was mostly the cast of characters stumbling blindly after the first major plot point.

That isn’t to say that The Wanderers wasn’t a good book; Ormand handled the characters viciously. Her descriptions of the characters changing into their animal forms was every bit as beautiful as it was rough. And by rough, I mean of course that the characters went through a lot of pain to get there. (And we all love watching characters suffer.) Her command of language was effective and to the point: flowers where she needed it and cement where she knew flowers wouldn’t cut it.

If short chapters and efficient prose is the love of your life, I recommend The Wanderers. If you have any interest in shapeshifters, I also recommend this one, just so you can see what Ormand brings to the table.

By J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.