Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror
Author Peternelle Van Andale's The Beast is an Animal is an novel that I choose to request & read because of the synopsis and the cover. It ended up being one of the strangest stories that I've read this year. The story features a girl named Alys who lives in the village of Gwentil. Alys, like the other children of her village, has been told scary nursery rhymes about a so called beast. "The Beast is an Animal; It has a pointy chin. It eats you while you sleep at night. It leaves nothing but your skin behind."
Whey Alys was (7), two mirror image sisters, both born with a star shaped birthmark, entered the village of Gwentil and leave all the adults dead. Alys, who saw the two girls named Angelica and Benedicta, seems to have some sort of connection to them. A connection that will gradually grow clearer as the story reaches its apex. The rest of the children have no clue that soul eaters have just visited their village. Thanks to a traveler named Pawl, the surviving children are taken to a nearby village of Defaid. Defaid isn't a place that things happen that have me questioning what era this book is set to.
These are puritans who call each other brother and sister. Alys new "mother" is someone who is actually interesting because she was not only a mid-wife, but also has a few dark secrets she's kept locked away. These are also the folks that Alys has to worry about after discovering that she herself has some unusual abilities which leads her to the Beast, and an interesting and twisted dilemma. After being caught spying on a young couple, Alys is accused of witchery. Thanks to her friends, she escapes to find her own way to deal with the sisters, and the beast. I should also mention that the only other characters that are even remotely interesting are Pawl, Beti, & Cian.
Here is where I pause to explain my reasoning for the rating. I really wish there had been a bit of world building instead of just jumping in feet first. Is this supposedly a country called Byd? Are the villages part of Byd, or are they different territories? What time frame is this story supposedly set? From the folks in Defaid, and the way the author writes about witches, and how they are burned, or drowned, or stoned to death, I would gather this takes place sometime during the 15th century? Or, is this a dystopian type deal where a major event forced humanity back to the dark ages? Also, what was the deal with the spelling of Forest with two F's? (fforest) Was this a Welsh thing? This is a fairly dark story with both a heroine and a so called villain who are neither evil, nor truly good. There is a bit of romance, and the author isn't afraid to insert a bit of diversity into her story either.