ARC Review: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

A dark, sort-of retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Cat Hellisen’s Beastkeeper is gorgeous and wonderful.
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Author:  Cat Hellisen
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
208 pages, Hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Henry Holt and Co. for letting me read this!

One freezing cold night, Sarah’s mother leaves her and her father. Her father starts to change – he’s lazy, wild, strange, and yes, his hair is out of control. Beastkeeper is said to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it is, but also isn’t. There’s more than one beast, for instance, and Sarah might become one of them. There’s more than one prince, two witches, no rose, no servants. But the main difference is that love doesn’t break the curse – it stimulates it. Beastkeeper is more its own fairy tale than a retelling of another.

It’s been a few days since I finished Beastkeeper and I still can’t stop thinking about how beautifully written it is. It’s simple but descriptive, subtle but not. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

Sarah…wondered what flavor silence was, and if it grew hard and brittle if you threw it away, or if people sometimes stepped on wads of discarded silence and it stuck to the soles of their shoes and made their footfalls softer.” – Location 50, ARC

My favorite thing about the character is the uncertainty of whether they are good or evil – no one is all the way on one side. The characters make choices that end up trapping them or other to their fate. One character’s choice, which is decidedly unwise, and it sets off the chain of events. But other characters react and it continues the chain.

I will say that it took a little too long for Sarah to find out about the curse and to believe in magic. Beastkeeper is a short book, and it took at least a quarter of it for her to accept her fate and to decide she believed. One other thing that was weird was the romance. Sarah is thirteen yet she falls in love and enacts the curse. There’s really no chemistry (especially since he’s kind of a jerk and very obviously thinks of her as a child) or much of a hint that she sees him as anything else as a friend. It was sudden and strange.

The bottom line: Despite these two reservations I listed at the end, I really enjoyed Beastkeeper. The writing was gorgeous and the story was interesting, magical, and dark. Weird romance aside, this one is great.

Rating: 8 – Freaking fantastic

Waiting on Wednesday: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

BeastkeeperWaiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.

Author: Cat Hellisen

Release date: February 3, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

Why I’m excited: Dude. What? That whole summary sounds awesome. This isn’t exactly an original idea (magic and beasts and curses, sound familiar?) but the fact that the girl will change into a beast when she falls in love? That’s original and interesting and definitely something I want to read. I love stories with “strange old magic” so this one is firmly on my TBR for 2015!