This is not your average urban fantasy. It's set in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a world where murderers and other criminals acquire magical animals that are mystically bonded to them. "Zoos" are discriminated against, but with their animal also comes a magical talent, unique to each Zoo.
Zinzi December is an addict whose drug habit got her brother killed, and thus burdened her with her Sloth companion and a magical talent for finding lost things. She's a very flawed protagonist, but very believable, a woman who's not a bad person but has made some really bad choices and is now swimming with sharks as a result. Beukes's world is interesting, both the animal companions with their mashavi
talents coexisting with the modern world, and her dark, gritty portrayal of South Africa, with all of its poverty, homelessness, refugees, sex trafficking, drugs, and AIDS. Definitely worth reading for something outside the usual North American/Western European setting.
The story gets a little bit choppy towards the end, and while I liked the fake magazine articles and academic essays describing the nature and history of the "animalled," it felt a bit like filler in places. Still, a good read that's a little outside the mainstream. I give it 4.5 stars, which I'm rounding up to 5 because I'd like to see more books like this in the "Urban Fantasy" aisle and fewer tattooed vampire-boinkers.