- Age Range: 10 - 14 years
- Grade Level: 5 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 820L (What's this?)
- Series: Darkbeast
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 28, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1442442050
- ISBN-13: 978-1442442054
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,513,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Darkbeast Hardcover – August 28, 2012
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"Challenges and adventures abound, but Keara is strong-willed and feisty. . . . Tightly woven and carefully constructed fantasy."--Kirkus Reviews
"It's a well-wrought tale that finds that difficult balance between accessibility and depth; Keyes talks to young readers without talking down."--Publishers Weekly
“The book’s unusual premise is sure to draw readers, and the intriguing, medieval-esque world with just a touch of magic will both entrance fans of fantasy and satisfy those who prefer their stories more grounded in reality….a thoughtful, magical tale with a message that kids on the cusp of adulthood will find comforting.” (BCCB)
About the Author
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, DC, spending time reading, traveling, reading, writing, reading, cooking, reading, wrestling with cats, and reading. Because there are still lots and lots of books. Visit Morgan online at MorganKeyes.com.
Top customer reviews
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What makes that twelfth nameday so important, as children become adults, is that they have to sacrifice their darkbeast. These are special animal companions which are assigned to infants when they are twelve days old. Children have a special telepathic link to their darkbeasts, and are supposed to confess all of their sins to them. The act of sacrificing a darkbeast thus symbolizes carrying off the sins.
Ordinarily, performing the sacrifice is no problem. Most children don't much care for their darkbeasts, be these toads, lizards, snakes or spiders. The children can't wait to be counted as adults, with all of an adult's privileges. To refuse to carry out the sacrifice is unthinkable.
But that is exactly what twelve-year-old Keara, of a small rural village named Silver Hollow, is forced to contemplate. She loves her darkbeast, a magnificent raven named Caw. While most children communicate with their darkbeasts in silence, Keara speaks to Caw out loud, and gives him extraordinary freedom. She is always indulging him with treats, spoiling him shamelessly.
Keara's failure to sacrifice Caw will spark a major crisis, both in her life and, ultimately, in the world around her. She is forced to flee Silver Hollow before the dreaded Inquisitors can arrive to take her away. They have ways of bringing the Lost back to the fold, with their knives, whips and endless words.
With only Caw as a friend, and one she doesn't dare be seen with, what will she do? Where can she go to be safe?
All she can think of is to try to catch up to a band of Travelers who recently passed through Silver Hollow. A band of theatrical performers, they fascinated Keara to the point that she kept disobeying her mother's strict orders not to slip out of the house to see them after dark.
But will they take her in? What can a twelve-year-old runaway contribute to such a close-knit clan? And what happens if and when they find out about her crime?
I have to say, I just loved this story, and inhaled it in one sitting. I'm well past the target age for this book, but no matter. There are a handful of children's or young adult novels I've read over and over again through the years -- Narnia, The Hobbit, DragonSong and DragonSinger all come to mind. I think Darkbeast may join this list.
Morgan Keyes has created a very believable world filled with memorable sights and sounds and characters, both human and animal. The first person narrative allows us to see everything through Keara's eyes, giving it a greater immediacy.
I'm usually pretty good at guessing what's going to happen, but the story's ending caught me totally by surprise. I'm certainly hoping there will be other books in this series. There's certainly room for more.
The reliance the people of this book place on their darkbeasts is a blessing and a curse, and the growth of the characters is a palatable thing. The story was smooth and easy to read, making it a fabulous book for young readers or struggling readers (one of the reasons I read young adult literature). However, there is a depth to the story that makes it a page turner for adults as well.
I am looking forward to more of Keara's story, along with the rest of her companions.
Author Morgan Keyes gives us all of those in her debut novel, Darkbeast. Keara is a believable, feisty, and courageous heroine, whose dedication to her companion Caw makes me root for her even when she makes mistakes. The world-building is fabulous, and reminds me of the classics of my youth, when authors created new lands I wanted to return to over and over.
This book is called a "Middle Grade" novel, and in fact I would recommend it highly to anyone looking for a good read for the younger set (it's a fast and easy read, perfect for the kid who doesn't "like" to read). But as an adult, I also found it satisfying and fun; I think it would suit anyone from 10 to 100.
If you like fantasy, you won't want to miss Darkbeast! (And if you have a favorite animal companion of your own, I'm sure they'd agree.)