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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's not much to worry about in Darkbeast. Although a central theme is the ritual slaying of children's companion animals when the kids reach adulthood at age 12, no slaying is described. The Inquisitors are scary enforcers, and it's hinted that they use torture, but again, not described. Wine is mentioned once but no one's shown drinking it. Twelve-year-old heroine Keara still has a lot of lessons to learn, but she's a good, hardworking, loyal kid, and her character struggles set everything up nicely for the follow-up, Darkbeast Rebellion.
What's the story?
In the fantasy world of DARKBEAST, children are magically and psychically bonded with animals as infants -- and then, on their 12th birthday, must kill their companions as a rite of passage to adulthood. Unlike most kids, heroine Keara loves her darkbeast, a raven, and can't bring herself to go through with the ritual. She joins a traveling company of actors and tries to earn a place among them while hiding from the harsh punishment of the Inquisitors. Her choice to save her darkbeast will change her life forever, and quite possibly the lives of everyone around her, too.
Is it any good?
Author Morgan Keyes creates a richly imagined, fully realized story. The dystopian elements of a central government with powerful oversight of individuals' lives provide a solid backdrop for the building tension, adding interest and realism to a world where kids talk to animals. There's a lot left unresolved at the end, no doubt to leave room for future installments, but this does prevent Darkbeast from standing solidly on its own.
Keara is believable and relatable. Kids will empathize with her as she's torn between wanting to become an adult and wanting to hold on to her childhood; the wide-open ending should leave them excited for the next installment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why fantasy novels are so popular. What do you enjoy most about books with fantasy elements?
Do you wish you had a darkbeast that could solve your problems for you? Would that help you really solve them? Do you have someone you can talk to about your problems?
Keara suspects the darkbeast tradition works well for society mostly because people believe it works. What would happen in her world if people stopped believing in it?
- Author: Morgan Keyes
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
- Publication date: September 28, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 280
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.