Ｔｉｔｌｅ：The Beast is an Animal
Ａｕｔｈｏｒ：Peternelle van Arsdale
Ｒａｔｉｎｇ： ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
＊Ｎｏｔｅ：Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
The beginning reads like a twisted fairytale, exploring the beginnings of twin sisters Angelica and Benedicta. When their village of Gwenith accuses the twin’s and their mother of being witches and the causes of the drought, the father is given two options: take his family and leave, or stay but say goodbye to his wife and children. He promises to bring them back when the time is right, creating a small shelter for them deep in the forest, but every year his visits dwindle until he stops coming altogether. The betrayal and loss that the twins experience consumes them until they become something not human: soul eaters.
The story then picks up with Alys, a young girl living in Gwenith who has always been restless at night. After tragedy befalls her village, she and the children of Gwenith are sent to Defaid. Their people are careful not to stray from the path of Shepheard, and do everything they can to avoid attracting the attention of the evil Beast. It is here that Alys learns that not all that is beautiful is good…
Angelic and Benedicta, the twins. I just loved the descriptions for them, how they were mirrors of one another. But beyond that, I also loved how they were so close to one another, so connected. They were kind of strange and eerie, and I just enjoyed reading passages about them. They had a very creepy feel to them yet also a kind of peace that made you drawn to them.
Like Alys, I didn’t care too much for Mother (Heledd, the woman who adopts Alys in Defaid) but over time I grew to really appreciate how she wasn’t one of the mindless women in the village. She was headstrong, fierce, and very perceptive. She had an open mind to things that were different and could accept that these differences were not always bad.
I also fell in love with Alys because of her struggles throughout the book (no spoilers haha). I think her struggle to be good is something everyone can relate to. She was judged throughout the book, called strange or evil, but she was like everyone else: just struggling to walk that line.
► As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed reading all the creepy but entrancing passages that described the twins. One of the ones that I first came across was the moment they became Soul Eaters.
The older sister felt nothing. The younger sister had the glimmer of a memory of something called adness, but it just floated out of her reach. They were girls no long, nor were they women. They had become something else. They found that they had little need of food and water anymore. There were so many frightened, uncertain souls in the world just waiting to be eaten up. And all the girls had to do was breathe them in.
Their names were Angelica and Benedicta. And they were soul eaters.
► Mother was definitely one of the only people I could grow to like from Defaid. I didn’t even like Father too much until the end. She was just so much more open-minded and embracing of difference–in her own way. Despite coming off as permanently uptight and serious she came to be the only one Alys could really relate to.
Alys had grown to appreciate how she didn’t seem to have other adults’ way of talking differently around children. She talked to Alys the same as she talked to anyone. And Alys had grown used to Mother’s long silences and seeming coldness, too. At first Alys had thought Mother was angry with her all the time, but then it struck her that this was simply Mother’s way.
► The descriptions for the beast were beautiful as well in that it was such a sharp contrast from what everyone in the villages had used. To them it was a creature of evil, darkness, something lurking in the shadows, waiting to catch fallen souls–but to Alys it was something other, something more.
The moment The Beast’s tongue touched her skin, Alys was lost to herself. Or rather, she became–for a moment–something else. She became storm and weather. She wasn’t she or he. She was dirt and tree and root. She smelled the mineral wetness of rain on rock. No, she didn’t smell it. It wasn’t sensation. It was being. She was rock. She was the rain.
► I wouldn’t say that these were favorite scenes, but they were something that always made me a bit angry and so I think there’s something powerful in that. Throughout the book, the people of Defaid were always quick to pass judgment on others’ actions while never really thinking of the consequences of their own. They saw the people of Gwenith as outsiders, as less than them because they had somehow incurred the wrath of the Beast. It was just hard to read something when you had evidence of all the ways they contradicted themselves, of how they could be more cruel than anything anyone else had done. And they also blindly followed their leaders–even when they were wrong.
“…he did it just because he’d been told to do so by the High Elder. So no, Alys couldn’t feel too sorry for him. And she also swore that when she was a grown-up, she’d never do anything she didn’t want to do. Certainly not just because some man in black and white told her to.
► The fact that one single moment of uncertainty could doom you in the eyes of the Defaid people, but that no amount of good could ever wipe the slate clean irritated me to no end. Again, not a favorite scene, but it was well written/developed throughout the book.
Father sagged, grew smaller yet. “And what about my Heledd? Will you forget her? What she has done but care for all of you? She sewed you up and cured your fevers. She brought your babies into the world and lost hardly a one of them.”
► Again, I can’t say enough how much I could connect to Alys and her desire to be good, to be that ideal daughter, person, friend–she struggled so much despite everyone already believing that she had failed.
She wanted to believe that her sadness over the wold meant she wasn’t yet too far gone. That theere might be some other way through, between the good child she could no longer pretend to be and the evil thing she did not want to become.
Although there are so many scenes I would like to talk about I will refrain from doing so because I know it would spoil the mystery and beauty of this book. Instead, let me talk about how great the development of the story and characters were–because it really was. Although I hated to read about all the oppression, judgement, and hypocrisy I have to admit it was well developed.
I mean it wasn’t just that people disliked things that were different, or how they were afraid. No, you could really sense it throughout the book in every moment of their life. They way people of Defaid got up early to greet the day with a song to ward off the Beast, the way they were careful to keep the clotheslines far from homes so that no man’s straying eyes might see a women’s undergarments–I loved the detail that spun the story and made it real.
There was also the overall tone of the story that was like an eerie calm–the kind you get in good horror movies–that blanketed it throughout. It just read like a creepy, twisted fairy tale and I loved that about the writing.
The characters were relatable and so human. Even the people of Defaid–who made so mistakes throughout. You could hate them, but you hated them because they were human and capable of making those cruel mistakes.
And there was some romance in the book. Not enough to take away from the overall feel and purpose of the story, but just enough that it was like a spark in the dark, a glimmer of hope that the reader had for Alys.
I breezed through this book in less than two days and it was because it was such an easy read. The story flowed, it pulled you in, and it kept you wondering about Alys fate. You kept cheering for her, wanting her to recover from her slips and find some happiness.
My only complaint would probably be a page or two early on when Alys continued to answer every question with “Ay” at the beginning. It was used throughout the book enough, but never as much as in those few pages. It just felt very awkward to have her start every reply with that. Other than that I really didn’t run into anything that particularly bothered me enough to interrupt the reading flow.
I would definitely recommend this to people that like creepy, haunting stories. And well, just to anyone in general that likes a little supernatural horror.