This review felt strange to write, and perhaps that’s because this is a strange book. There are some things I didn’t 100% love about it, but overall I enjoyed reading it so here I’ll try to sort out the specific whys of that.
- Beastkeeper by Cat Hellison
- Rating: ★★★½
- If you like fairy tale re-tellings at all, give this one a go. I read in some interview that Hellisen was in part aiming for something ‘Angela Carter lite’ and I think she has succeeded.
- Some reviews describe this book as a Beauty and the Beast retelling in which the girl is the beast (I think of Red Riding Hood in the TV series Once Upon a Time). However, Beastkeeper feels like a very different story to me. The connections between the two are largely surface – there are beasts (note the plural), there is magic, there is tangled up love, but this is a wholly original tale here.
- Some of the back-story, the family entanglements that lead to Sarah’s present situation, are a bit convoluted. I had a guess as to who the raven was around page 85, but when her actual identity was revealed 20 pages later I was pretty surprised. I also had the feeling that there was something awkward about the genetics at play here…but I’m not much for science, so I’m not sure 😛
- In general, the story has a solidly intriguing plot with one big moment where I cursed out loud, because I did NOT see that coming. After that moment, things happen quickly and the conclusion feels a wee bit rushed. Overall, though, I was pleased with how the various ‘romances’ are concluded…this isn’t quite a happily ever after tale. This is something different, with additional characters beyond the ‘Beauty’ and the ‘Beast’, which should be a large part of its appeal.
- I wasn’t totally sold on the portrayal of another ‘world’. I would have liked a bit more detail about its connection to our world, its history, etc. but I get that’s not totally necessary to the story. Still, I’m a sucker for world building and I’ve come to expect that sort of thing in any type of fantasy.
- Beastkeeper has that distant, magical fairy tale mood throughout the entire novel. That’s one of the things I really appreciated in this book.
- There was one passage that jumped out at me, that I really liked. As Sarah is trying to rationalize the odd situation she finds herself in, imagining microphones and lies and elaborate set-ups, she quickly realizes, “How is this not more insane than believing in magic?” Indeed!