Review: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Beastkeeper by Cat HellisenBeastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Published by Henry Holt BFYR on February 3, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

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.

Lately, I’ve been less and less interested in middle grade fiction. It’s been with sadness that I’ve watched a number of YA authors switch to writing middle grades. In fact, I initially thought Beastkeeper was going to be young adult, but alas no. Even so, it was by Cat Hellisen, so fuck yeah I was going to read it anyway. One does not simply skip a Hellisen novel.

Reading Beastkeeper was one hundred percent the correct decision. Cat Hellisen’s writing is absurdly gorgeous. I wish I could roll around in it, but I’d have to dismantle the book which I am unwilling to do. The volume may be slim and look every bit a book for children, but there’s no reason that adults should not appreciate this macabre fairy tale every bit as much as their kids do.

If you’ve not read Hellisen, you probably don’t know, but Hellisen does dark well. Just beautifully. Beastkeeper surprised me with how dark it got for a children’s story. When trying to decide if it’s for you, think of original fairy tales and not their fluffy Disney counterparts. Beastkeeper is in some part a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it hearkens to a number of classic fairy tales.

I’d thought that Beastkeeper was a straight up retelling, but it’s part retelling and part continuation. Sarah is, in fact, the grandchild of the beauty and the beast, her family suffering under their curse yet. Hellisen has put her own spin on the original tale of the beauty and the beast, one that I love, and also played with what happens after true love. Beastkeeper is all about love and humanity. It’s not a love conquers all story.

The titular beastkeeper is Sarah’s sort of love interest. This is not, however, really a romance. I’m glad of that since I don’t ship it. I mean, maybe eventually, but in the confines of this novel, no. Alan’s an interesting figure, but I also don’t really know what to make of him. I’d have liked more about his background. He seems to exist mostly to move plot along, rather than as a strong character.

Additionally, I wanted more of Sarah’s parents. The resolution happens pretty abruptly and I would have liked to find out more about what was going to change after that point. It just ended and I was left wanting more.

Beastkeeper is enchanting and at under 200 pages, there’s really no reason for you not to read it, unless for some strange reason you hate fairy tales.

Favorite Quote:

“And that is where the storytellers write their own sugary versions of the truth. A pack of lies until they reach ‘The End.’ But no story ever comes to an end, at least not one so neat. There are voices silenced, characters erased at the storyteller’s whim.” The bird clacked its beak. “They do not tell you what happens when the children have eaten their way through the witch’s treasures and face another starveling winter, when the glass slipper no longer fits the crone’s swollen foot, when the beauty doesn’t fall in love with her beastly prince.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif not good not nice witch into the woods

6 responses to “Review: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen”

  1. Dragana says:

    I removed Beastkeeper from my tbr when I heard it’s middle grade since I mostly avoid that genre, but your review sparked my interest again. Now I need to know what happens to beauty and beast’s grandchild.
    Dragana recently posted…Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola CarrMy Profile

  2. MJ says:

    I reluctantly kept this one on my list even though I heard it was middle grade. I am really glad it worked for you. I really am thinking I might give MG another try. Maybe it’s the YA books that have more a MG tone that bother me than MG itself.
    MJ recently posted…Back to the Silver Age: The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M CampbellMy Profile

  3. Amanda says:

    I haven’t read anything by Hellisen but this sounds like a good start! I love fairy tale retellings!
    Amanda recently posted…Top Ten 2014 Books We Haven’t Read Yet-But We Will!My Profile

  4. This sounds intriguing, I really enjoy darker fairy tales! I’m definitely more wary of MG, it’s so hard to find the truly well done books these days, but I will definitely try Beastkeeper! Love that it’s a retelling and continuation.
    Morgan @ Gone with the Words recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get ToMy Profile

  5. A retelling with Beauty and the beast in it is something I can never leave unread and I like that she explores the dark side of fairytales. This book has my name written all over it and it’s good to hear you liked it 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Fairytale News 45. Originality.My Profile

  6. Lyn Kaye says:

    That ending. WOW> In fact, reading this novel made me go dig out her other novel about the sea (I am so damn lazy today) because even though I had some issues with this book, I loved the hot hell out of her writing. And she wasn’t afraid to take some chances. I really respected the novel for the dark, gritty reality.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The Fiery HeartMy Profile

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