Keara’s twelfth nameday is fast approaching and according to the law in the land of Duodecia, she is required to kill her darkbeast, a raven named Caw. Like all other darkbeasts, Caw has been bound to his owner since she was a baby and has absorbed all the negative emotions she has felt throughout her childhood. Whenever she exhibits a dark feeling such as fear or jealousy, she is sent to Caw, who takes it away. He also helps her see why manifesting these emotions in a negative way is undesirable. Most children look forward to the day they be rid of their darkbeast, but Keara is different. She loves Caw and cannot imagine killing him, but allowing a darkbeast to live beyond your twelfth nameday is a punishable offense in Duodecia.
Another complication in the story is that during the week leading up to her nameday, a troupe of actors called the Travelers visit Keara’s town. She finds herself drawn to their fantastic revels, stories about the land’s twelve gods performed on stage, and dreams of a life on the road with the group. Keara is faced with many decisions: Should she kill Caw as she is expected to? Should she join the Travelers and leave behind the only life she has ever known? Turning twelve is not easy!
When I read the description of Darkbeast, I immediately thought of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Keyes’ darkbeasts sounded suspiciously similar to Pullman’s daemons, and I worried that the story would be an unsatisfying facsimile of the acclaimed trilogy. But much to my delight, Darkbeast tells a unique and compelling story. It is quite fast-paced and Keyes effectively uses cliffhangers to push readers to read “just one more chapter!” Don’t be fooled by the rather childish cover art, which initially made me think the book was for younger readers. Darkbeast is for ages 10 and up and covers complex concepts such as personal belief systems, emotions, and breaking from social norms.
Morgan Keyes will be at Hooray for Books on Friday, September 7, 2012 from 6:30-7:30 pm. Come by and meet the author of this thoroughly entertaining read!