Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen is the atmospheric story of a girl trying to figure out deep and dark magic after losing all her family to a strange curse. I had very high hopes for Beastkeeper based on the cover and was so delighted to find the writing addictive, the magic strange and compelling, and the main character a refreshing young girl who still plays with her stegosaurus and hedgehog stuffed animals sometimes (Steg and Hedge are their names!) while dealing well with a world that is clearly not what it seems. You need to be in the right mood to read Beastkeeper because it is weird and confusing at times, but if you are in that reading mood where you just want something different and engrossing, Beastkeeper is your book!
Note: I received an advanced copy of Beastkeeper from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on Feb. 3rd, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 208 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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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.
- The writing of Beastkeeper is so engrossing that I could easily keep reading despite the radio playing *ahem* rather loudly ;-). I could practically feel the mist and never-ending forest swirling around me. I just love the tone that Hellisen struck that is both atmospheric and addictive.
- The mystery in Beastkeeper was another element that kept me obsessively turning pages (I mentioned that I read Beastkeeper in one sitting right??). I’ve read A LOT of fantasy, and I had no idea how things were going to turn out because it was clear early on that this was a book that wasn’t going to follow any of the rules.
- Sarah was such a delight to spend a few hours with. She is a spunky and fun kid and her voice is just so perfectly reminiscent of my memories from her age. She is right at that transition from still believing the empty lot beside her house holds magic and being forced to grow up and give up on the magic in the world. I might have played make-believe a lot as a child okay >.>.
- Beastkeeper of course involves a lot of awesome magic because where else would a beast come from ;-). At first we think that everything is fairly easily explained by a certain curse, but it turns out the magic of the world is not in anyway limited to one little curse and Sarah has a lot to discover before the end.
- Sarah’s family is broken from fairly early on, with her mother leaving her and her dad and her dad struggling mightily with picking up the pieces. Reading from the perspective of a child in that situation, being forced to do dishes and get money to buy food, was both heart-wrenching and beautifully real. I don’t read contemporary very often, but I do really love when these real issues get pulled into a fantasy story because of the depth that they add.
- I kept thinking that I had worked out how everything would work out and kept being proven wrong. You all know how much I love being proven wrong about an ending!
- This might get smoothed out, but in the version of Beastkeeper that I read, Sarah came back to the same thoughts and problems a few too many times for me. It was a mild annoyance in an otherwise highly enjoyable reading experience though.
- The Beastkeeper is not a simple book and is a book you’ll be at times confused by. I find that enjoyable, but I know that it is something that doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Beastkeeper was a simply delightful read. I’m not honestly sure how a middle grade reader would take it, but it is definitely awesome for adults who like reading the perspective of a middle grade child! If you are in the mood for a fast but atmospheric and haunting read, Beastkeeper is definitely the right book. Plus it is freaking gorgeous! Cat Hellisen is definitely on my auto-buy list now.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
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