Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

Title: The Beast Is an Animal 
Author: Peternelle van Arsdale
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 352
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Alys was seven the first time she saw the soul eaters. Twin sisters, they radiated an energy that excited Alys. Through them she felt the wildness of the forest, and The Beast within it. Too late, she learned of their power to destroy.

By the time she is fifteen, Alys knows too much about both the lure and the danger of the soul eaters. She lives in a world of adults who are terrified of their power, and who cower behind high walls and grim rules. Fear of the soul eaters—and of The Beast—rules their lives. Even more, they fear the ways in which The Beast may lurk among them—and within a girl like Alys.

For Alys has a connection to the soul eaters, and The Beast. And she hides a truth about herself that she can reveal to no one, for fear she will be called a witch. As the threat posed by the soul eaters grows, Alys must undertake a journey through the wild danger of the fforest. But the greatest danger is not outside her. Alys’s secret about who—and what—she is terrifies her most of all. And in order to save her world, she must also risk losing herself.

The Beast Is an Animal is wholly unlike any book I've ever read. I actually thought it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling (and apparently so does whoever put it on a BatB display at Barnes & Noble) until I read the synopsis. Retelling, this is not. The Beast Is an Animal is what I can only think to describe as a horror fantasy.

When Alys was only seven, the soul eaters came for the adults in her village, Gwenith. She didn't stop them as they entered and that fact has haunted her for her entire life. From the age of seven to fifteen she has lived in a new village where she and the other Gwenith children guard a wall to keep the soul eaters and the Beast away, but Alys has a secret - she has met the Beast and the soul eaters, and the Beast wants her help.

Alys is the kind of character it's difficult to truly love because she's so separated from other people. At the same time, I was intrigued by Alys and desperately wanted her to have a happily ever after. I felt myself clinging to any shred of hope right alongside her. There is a tiny bit of romance in the last third of this book. The love interest was perfectly fine, but I didn't feel like there was enough time for me to really fall in love with him. Luckily, the romance was a very minor part of the story. The character I was most interested in was The Beast and I really wish more had been explained about him! I loved the lore introduced, but there was definitely room for a lot more.

Sadly, this book was severely lacking in details. I loved the idea of the Beast and the soul eaters, but where did they come from? How did the soul eaters get that way, exactly? I really wanted to know so much more about the fantastical elements of this world, but there were so many things left unanswered. The ending of the story was also full of unanswered questions and a little anticlimactic after all the buildup. This was definitely an intentional stylistic choice made by the author, but it did leave me wanting.

The area where The Beast Is an Animal really excelled, though, was its atmosphere. The colors on the cover of the book pretty much sum up how the entire reading experience made me feel. Everything about this world was so bleak and haunting, I felt the hope being sapped out of me... but in a good way? I like it when a reading experience can suck me in and make me feel things. This book would probably feel right at home amongst Grimm's Fairy Tales.

I feel like I can't say much more about this book without giving something away, so I'll wrap this up. There's no way around it - The Beast Is an Animal is a strange book and it will not be for everyone. Even without all the details I would've liked, I still couldn't put it down until I knew what happened! Alys is a character who's easy to root for and the Beast is one of the most intriguing characters I've ever encountered. This book will creep you out and probably leave you unsure of what to feel, but I totally recommend picking it up!