Authors: Cat Hellisen
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review
Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.
When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.
Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.
I was a kid who grew up on fairy tales and Disney movies. As I got a bit older, I found myself drawn to darker fairy tale, like the Roald Dahl retellings or the original tales. Beastkeeper reminded me of the original tales, but voiced by a modern young narrator.
Sarah has had an odd childhood. Her parents moved around a lot and she gave up on bothering to make friends. However, when her mother walks out on Sarah and her father, things go from bad to worse to weird. Suddenly, Sarah's dad is eating raw meat and dropping her off to live with her grandparents in a castle in the forest.
Beastkeeper is a wonderful, bittersweet fairy tale filled with magic and witches and curses; with talking animals and transformations and where nothing is as it seems. I really enjoyed following Sarah through her journey to understand the curse affecting her family. Early in her journey, she meets a strange young man named Alan, who starts off strange and only becomes stranger as the story progressed.
All of the characters in the story are flawed. Some are shallow. Some are cruel. Some are scared. Most are desperate. I felt like these flaws added depth to the story. There was no black and white good and evil, just grey area.
In the end, Beastkeeper is, at least in part, a story about what it means to be human. It's also a story about some very human weaknesses. It's a story about forgiveness. Like any good fairy tale, I found there were some very profound themes contained in this little book about a girl fighting a magical curse on her family.
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