Monday, May 21, 2018

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

It was a normal night for Alys. She couldn't sleep and went out to explore when two hauntingly beautiful women passed her and briefly spoke to her. How could Alys know that they were soul eaters? When she woke up the next morning, all of the adults in the town were dead. Defaid, a nearby town, takes pity on the abandoned children for a price. These children must guard their gates at night to protect the city for the rest of their lives. Alys feels out of place and rumors swirl around her as someone who met the soul eaters and lived. This is in addition to an ability that Alys has to hide for fear of being condemned as a witch. Can she live among these supersititious people and will the soul eaters stay away from their town?

The Beast is an Animal is a dark fantasy novel that reminds me thematically of the film The Witch. Alys is surrounded by a society cowed by a specific type of religion implemented in a way to keep everyone in their place. The higher ups are obviously corrupt and the ones underneath say nothing to keep their space in society. If you step out of line, you could be ostracized, tortured, or killed. Alys is in even more danger because she has a supernatural power and she helps a healer who uses unlawful herbs and treatments to help women on top of being the only one to interact with the soul eaters and live. Alys is a restless girl who doesn't flourish in an oppressive environment. She relatably finds it hard to keep silent when authorities are clearly wrong and fights the most for the people she loves. Alys shows a more modern perspective in the face of backwards, misogynistic, and corrupt rulers.

There are two supernatural figures that are thought to be the same, but turn out to be quite different. The story of the soul eaters is a place exactly like Defaid where the girls were ostracized as children for being twins and female. Their rejection from society coupled with the death of their mother and their ensuing hatred for these people caused them to become monstrous soul eaters. They lure people away like sirens, calling names, singing songs, and tempting people with whatever they want most. The Beast is supposed to be the devil in Christianity, torturing people and luring people to sin, but it isn't that at all. The Beast is simply the force of nature personified, neither evil nor good. The only thing it wants is balance in nature, which the sould eaters disrupt, and calls for Alys' help. Alys is also a little of both. Her power can allow her to feel other's pain and heal them or consume their life force as soul eaters do. She can easily follow in their footsteps or use her power to stop them.

The Beast is an Animal is a dark fairy tale that shows this society's opposition to nature at the time and how the search for evil can create evil where there was none. The story moves a little slowly, but I was completely entrenched in the story the entire time. Alys shows an unconventional strength that is rarely shown in YA novels. She may not be physically strong or completely modern, but she has an emotional strength and a power of her own. I very much enjoyed this novel and I will look for more by Peternelle van Arsdale.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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