Friday, January 30, 2015

Me on Beastkeeper

Title: Beastkeeper
Author: Cat Hellisen
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers (Macmillan imprint)

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.

Beastkeeper is sweet, magical, and mysterious. Secrets and curses abound, their power continuous and their reach overwhelming. This is the story of one young girl discovering the shadows in her family's past and working fast before they envelop her as they did her parents and grandparents so many years ago.

Sarah's voice is a charming one. She's a clever and lonely girl, observant and on her own after years of never staying in one place long enough to make any lasting friends. But she's happy with her parents, until her mother leaves in the middle of the night. Until her father begins to change. Until she's taken to her grandparents. Then she's lost, scrambling to understand what's happened and what went wrong. There's a hidden strength in Sarah. There's a time or two when she gives up, but there's also a time or two when she doesn't, when it hurts so much to carry on but she refuses to quit.

The secrets parents keep from their children. The shadows they run from with their children. The harm they do to their children. Sarah doesn't understand why her mother left, why her father left her with, essentially, strangers. She doesn't understand because they never told her the truth, thinking instead they could run from it, that she would be safe from it. Parents can care for and protect their children, yes, please do this, but keeping those very important things from them is never good. Children know when something is wrong and they will call adults out on it. They will see through it, see through you, and start to wonder if they're no longer safe with you.

Curses and choices and consequences, they're such inescapable things. We run from them, hide from them, try and trick them and sneak around them. But they're always there, waiting to continue the circle that never ends. Until someone comes along and makes the most difficult decision to end it all.

I can see where the retelling is, where the bits and pieces of the story of Beauty and the Beast are, but the author twists it and makes it something new. Almost like a retelling and a brand new fairy tale at the same time. This book is sweet and fun but also serious and dangerous, and filled with magic.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

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