Daw, August 2001, 23.95, 336 pp.
Biology graduate student Benton Collins plans to leave his job at the lab and go to his girlfriend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Just as he is about to depart, he sees a rat running loose and chases after it as it is probably part of a science experiment. He pursues the rodent into a dark and deserted storage closet but when he tries to find the missing rat, he becomes disoriented and wonders around for hours.
When he finally manages to leave the room, he finds himself in another world, more primitive than his own and one that is seemingly devoid of humans. He finds a rabbit and kills it for a meal when out of the forest come soldiers who throw him into a jail cell. The rat tells Benton his real name is Zylas and he is in the land of Barakhai where all humans not of royal blood shapeshift into animals for half the day. Benton is horrified that he actually ate a human and is terrified when he learns that the punishment for his crime is death. Zylas, who brought Benton into Barakhai for reasons of his own helps him escape and then their adventures really begins.
Unlike many books in a series, all the loose ends are tied up in the BEASTS of BARAKHAI yet this is only the first novel in what is a new fantasy series. It will be interesting to see what happens in further books and if Benton will be a part of it. There are no religious overtones in Mickey Zucker Reichert's latest triumph but fans of the Narnia tales will love this grand fantasy.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner