Darkbeast Hardcover – Aug 28 2012
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"Challenges and adventures abound, but Keara is strong-willed and feisty. . . . Tightly woven and carefully constructed fantasy."--Kirkus Reviews
"It's a well-wrought tale that finds that difficult balance between accessibility and depth; Keyes talks to young readers without talking down."--Publishers Weekly
“The book’s unusual premise is sure to draw readers, and the intriguing, medieval-esque world with just a touch of magic will both entrance fans of fantasy and satisfy those who prefer their stories more grounded in reality….a thoughtful, magical tale with a message that kids on the cusp of adulthood will find comforting.” (BCCB)
About the Author
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, DC, spending time reading, traveling, reading, writing, reading, cooking, reading, wrestling with cats, and reading. Because there are still lots and lots of books. Visit Morgan online at MorganKeyes.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Keara's yearning for _grace_ is beautiful and resonates deeply with anyone who has struggled with their own mistakes in life. I cannot say enough about how this book moved me. It will be with me for quite some time.
In my opinion Darkbeast is one of the most positive reading experiences of 2012. I enjoyed reading reading it, because it was a sophisticated, nuanced and complex story about a young girl who dared to disagree with the norms of the society.
Before I write more about my feelings about Darkbeast, here's a bit of information about the plot and the world of the book:
The events take place in a world called Duodecia. Duodecia is a fascinating world, because people worship twelve deities and chilren become adults when they reach the age of twelve. The children in Duodecia have a telepathic link to the darkbeasts. They have to sacrifice their darkbeasts when they become twelve in order to be righteous. If somebody doesn't obey the rules, the feared Inquisitors are sent after them.
At the beginning of the book, Keara is fascinated by the Travelers who come to her village. She's almost twelve. Her mother has hidden her from the Primate's titheman, because she hasn't paid her head tax (paying tax can be difficult for girls who have become women, because they may have to borrow money to pay the tax). Keara wants to live in the Women's Hall and be free of her mother, but despite her need to be independent she knows that she loves her mother. Caw is Keara's darkbeast. Keara shares her thoughts and feelings with Caw. When Keara has to sacrifice her darkbeast, she doesn't accept the rules of the society and decides to follow her own heart (Keara is a strong willed girl who refuses to submit to rules of the society, because she can't imagine a life without her darkbeast). Keara is forced to flee from her village, Silver Hollow, with the Travelers...
Morgan Keyes has created a believable, vivid and detailed fantasy world. The first narrative mode works perfectly, because the reader will see the happenings through Keara's eyes. The worldbuilding is subtle and the reader gradually learns more things about the world.
Darkbeast is a beautifully written and touching coming of age tale for children and young adults. Morgan Keyes has a talent for storytelling and she writes captivatingly about Keara's life, problems and feelings. I think that several readers will be able to identify themselves with Keara. It doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl when you read this book, because Keara's problems will be of interest to both boys and girls.
In today's overcrowded YA fantasy market Darkbeast is like a beautiful rose bush in the middle of a garbage heap. I've noticed that at this moment there are several urban YA fantasy books in the market, but it's difficult to find good traditional YA fantasy books, which is a shame. That's why books like Darkbeast are important to the YA fantasy genre - they remind us how entertaining and fantastic traditional fantasy can be.
Everybody who reads this book will - without a doubt - admire the way Morgan Keyes writes about Keara and the happenings. I think it's great how the author brings Keara to life with her nuanced writing.
Darkbeast reminds me a bit of the old classics by Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper. It's slightly related to them in the terms of charming storytelling and magical atmosphere. It manages to be a bit different kind of a YA fantasy book, but it's loyal to its roots, which lie deep in the traditional YA fantasy genre.
The sequel, Darkbeast Rebellion, will be published next in the fall of 2013. I'm sure that it will be worth the wait, because Darkbeast is an excellent YA fantasy book, which appeals to both young adults and adults.
What makes that twelfth nameday so important, as children become adults, is that they have to sacrifice their darkbeast. These are special animal companions which are assigned to infants when they are twelve days old. Children have a special telepathic link to their darkbeasts, and are supposed to confess all of their sins to them. The act of sacrificing a darkbeast thus symbolizes carrying off the sins.
Ordinarily, performing the sacrifice is no problem. Most children don't much care for their darkbeasts, be these toads, lizards, snakes or spiders. The children can't wait to be counted as adults, with all of an adult's privileges. To refuse to carry out the sacrifice is unthinkable.
But that is exactly what twelve-year-old Keara, of a small rural village named Silver Hollow, is forced to contemplate. She loves her darkbeast, a magnificent raven named Caw. While most children communicate with their darkbeasts in silence, Keara speaks to Caw out loud, and gives him extraordinary freedom. She is always indulging him with treats, spoiling him shamelessly.
Keara's failure to sacrifice Caw will spark a major crisis, both in her life and, ultimately, in the world around her. She is forced to flee Silver Hollow before the dreaded Inquisitors can arrive to take her away. They have ways of bringing the Lost back to the fold, with their knives, whips and endless words.
With only Caw as a friend, and one she doesn't dare be seen with, what will she do? Where can she go to be safe?
All she can think of is to try to catch up to a band of Travelers who recently passed through Silver Hollow. A band of theatrical performers, they fascinated Keara to the point that she kept disobeying her mother's strict orders not to slip out of the house to see them after dark.
But will they take her in? What can a twelve-year-old runaway contribute to such a close-knit clan? And what happens if and when they find out about her crime?
I have to say, I just loved this story, and inhaled it in one sitting. I'm well past the target age for this book, but no matter. There are a handful of children's or young adult novels I've read over and over again through the years -- Narnia, The Hobbit, DragonSong and DragonSinger all come to mind. I think Darkbeast may join this list.
Morgan Keyes has created a very believable world filled with memorable sights and sounds and characters, both human and animal. The first person narrative allows us to see everything through Keara's eyes, giving it a greater immediacy.
I'm usually pretty good at guessing what's going to happen, but the story's ending caught me totally by surprise. I'm certainly hoping there will be other books in this series. There's certainly room for more.
When children turn twelve, they are expected to slay their Darkbeasts and take their place among the adults in their society. But when Keara refuses to slay Caw, she comes under suspicion and she must flee her home or submit to the tortures of an Inquisitor.
Keara finds refuge with the Travelers, a troupe of performers that travels from town to town putting on skits and earning coins. The Travelers are making their way to the capital, where they hope to compete and win for the best performance among all the troupes in the land. Keara wants to help her new family succeed, but when one of them finds out her secret, it threatens to ruin them all.
The world in Darkbeast feels part medieval and part fantastical. Travelers are reminiscent of gypsy caravans of old and Inquisitors are ready to swoop in and eradicate individual thought that deviates from the accepted. Keara's world is tightly controlled by the Primate, who seems like a repressive monarch. The book soars with the description of the bond between Keara and Caw and her courage in forging a new life that goes against everything she has been taught. The ending makes me hopeful that more books are planned to follow Darkbeast, as I would happily pick up Keara's tale again.
The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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