The Beast Player

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Beast Player Book Poster Image
Teen bonds with magical beasts in captivating fantasy.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Beast Player contains a lot of information about bee keeping. It also encourages discussions of how animals should be treated in captivity.

Positive Messages

People and animals can develop strong bonds that benefit them both. It's better to be gentle and compassionate with animals than to train them through force.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Orphaned at age 10, Elin bravely faces life without a mother. She has the patience, love, and dedication to learn how to train Royal Beasts. She's gentle and compassionate, but she's also ready to die for her beliefs.


Until the climatic battle, there is not much violence. A spooked Beasts bites off a handler's fingers, and another human is killed. When the Beasts face off against their enemies at the end, there's much destruction, death, and injury.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nahoko Uehashi'sThe Beast Player won a 2020 Michael J. Printz Honor. It's a fantasy novel about an orphaned girl who learns to train dangerous Royal Beasts. Set in an alternate version of Japan, the book is fairly gentle and contemplative until the final chapters, when the narrative culminates in a bloody battle. Elin is an engaging protagonist, dedicated to her beloved Beasts. There's no strong language, sex, or substance us. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byImveryweird May 22, 2020

missed some

Good book just some use of alchohol and a sexual reference in song form.
Teen, 17 years old Written byzaharex December 26, 2020

A very decent read!

I'd say this has some educational value as well as great role models. This book emphasizes the fact that Elin will take a lot of time pondering he... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THE BEAST PLAYER opens, 10-year-old Elin watches as her mother is about to be executed for having failed to protect the water serpents who play a large part in the kingdom's amy. Elin herself is saved at the last minute by her mother but is washed far away, only to be rescued by a kindly beekeeper, Joeun. Joeun raises her as his own daughter. Gradually, Elin learns that she can command both the water serpents and the dazzling Royal Beasts, and when she is sent to a boarding school, she learns why the Beasts are so important to the ruling class -- and how dangerous the animals can be with the wrong training.

Is it any good?

Stories about kids training wild animals come in all sorts of configurations, but this well-crafted, pseudo-Asian fantasy brings more imagination to the project than most. The Beast Player mostly moves at a measured pace, with Elin gradually learning about the care and feeding of Royal Beasts, magnificent flying creatures. Author Nahoko Uehashi builds the narrative's tension slowly, so that readers are well prepared for the changes that Elin goes through as she and her charges mature. By the time Elin becomes into a pawn in a civil war, she is ready to unleash the Royal Beasts' full potential.

Deft in its character development, rich in theme and incident,The Beast Player will appeal to readers who like human/animal stories, especially if the animal is as captivating as the ones presented here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Beast Player addresses the topic of animal cruelty. Why does Elin refuse to use a Silent Whistle against the Beasts? How should animals be trained to perform for humans?

  • What can people learn about human behavior by studying animals?

  • How do governments attempt to change the behavior of their citizens? How can citizens stand up to the demands of their leaders?

Book details

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