Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ARC Review: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Author: Cat Hellisen
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (February 3, 2015)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: Sarah is used to moving frequently with her parents. She isn't surprised when her parents pick up and leave a place. Her mother hates the cold. But when her mother leaves this time, she leaves alone and leaves her family is disarray. Her father also seems to emotionally leave the family too leaving Sarah alone. She finds some solace in a wooded lot near her home and a strange boy who meets her there. Alan provides some comfort to her but also confuses her with his cryptic remarks.

When her father takes her to a grandmother she never knew she had, things get even more strange. Her grandmother lives in a decrepit castle and spends time feeding the beast she keeps in a shed. That is when Sarah learns that her family is under a curse. And that is when the story started to really confuse me. 

Sarah hears a couple of versions of the reason for the curse. She hears one version from a white raven who is cursed to serve her grandmother and she hears a version from Alan. She knows that neither version is the whole truth and neither version tells the whole story. The curse is about love, pride, vanity, revenge and lots of other things too. Since the curse has affected her father and could affect her too, Sarah decides to try to find a way to break it. She is told that the curse is unbreakable but Sarah is determined.

The curse has to do with falling in love and staying in love. Her grandparents were cursed by her grandmother's sister for some reason - maybe jealousy. The curse says that if the woman falls out of love with the man, he will turn into a beast. She can't leave him or he will die. The curse carried down to her parents too. When her mother left, her father began his transition into beast. If Sarah falls in love with someone who doesn't love her back, she will become a beast too.

This was a well-written story but I felt like I needed to makes notes or a flow chart to understand all the twists and turns of the curse. For me, the story also lacked admirable characters. Beyond Sarah, I really didn't like any of the characters and didn't at all understand Sarah's choice at the end.

Fantasy lovers may enjoy this complicated and ambiguous story. It did make me wonder about the definitions of love.

Favorite Quote:
The curse was like that—it turned something soft and jewel-bright into a snarled mess of filth. The thing was to find the loose ends and slowly unpick it. To try to find a truth in the lies, and smooth it our and follow where it led her.
I got this ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

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