REVIEW: Beastkeeper

beastkeeperpbBOOK: Beastkeeper
AUTHOR: Cat Hellisen
PAGES: 224
PUBLISHER: Square Fish
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ (3.5/5)

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.

This book was an unexpected joy to read.

A pretty great start to my first book read in the new year. This book has all the classic elements of fantasy and fairytales wrapped up into a more contemporary story. This whole book just gives me the feel of being tucked into bed and having someone who loves you read you a bed time story. It’s a total comfort read.

This is Sarah’s story. Sarah’s world is turned upside down when her mother walks out one night, leaving her and her father alone. Not understanding why her mother would leave, Sarah watches her father fall into what she can only assume is a deep depression. One night, he tells Sarah that she is going to go stay with a grandmother she didn’t realize she even had. Feeling confused and a little bit betrayed, she is bundled off to a decrepit castle in the middle of nowhere. It is here that she learns the secret of her family’s curse – a bitter rivalry that has been passed down through generations, and Sarah could very well be its next victim.

“‘It’s still a love story, you know.’
‘What is?’
‘You grandfather would never have turned into a beast if he hadn’t truly loved Inga.’ He shrugged one shoulder. ‘And your father wouldn’t have fallen in love with your mother if he had known the truth. Or mayhap he would have. Love is a strange master.'”

I love Hellisen’s voice in this novel. Her writing is so lovely, and she has no trouble painting us a pretty picture. And this story has such an interesting premise, twisting the classic tale of Beauty & the Beast but switching it so that the person who falls in love turns into the Beast. And a female beast? Sign me up for that. I’m definitely a fan that of the recent trend in fairytale retellings, even if they are a bit hit or miss.

But I didn’t rate the book 5 stars, so where does Beastkeeper fall short for me?

Well, ultimately I felt that Beastkeeper’s cast of characters were a bit too flat for me, and that felt like a problem when our main character is making her decisions based on her affection towards these people. I’d like to have known more so I could have felt a bit more invested. Even Sarah’s character feels a bit stagnant. She has this incredible journey, and yet it doesn’t feel like she goes through any sort of growth of her own.

“The birds and the beasts – wild and free, and never able to be together. The beasts would hunt in the woods, and the wrens would sing their hearts out, and the two would never understand eachother.
And the louder the wrens sang, the more chance there was that the hunting beasts would find them.”

The story feels a bit rushed as well. It has a very strong start, laying out the groundwork of the story, but closer to the end it feels like things started to get sloppy and it was just a race to the end. The ending really didn’t feel like things had been put to rest for me. The “falling in love” in this book, for Sarah anyways, seems to be more of a friendship kind of love. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I felt like I was never fully clear on that aspect and it made the ending a bit confusing. Like.. the characters seem to barely react to what happens and it just throws me off a little.

Overall, the book is worth the read. I managed to pick it up on a Book Outlet sale, and I have no regrets. The gorgeous cover captured my eye, but the story within will truly capture your heart.

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