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Darkbeast #1


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A girl’s love for her raven may put her life in jeopardy in this gripping tale.

In Keara’s world, every child has a darkbeast—a creature that takes dark emotions like anger, pride, and rebellion. Keara’s darkbeast is Caw, a raven, and Keara can be free of her worst feelings by transferring them to Caw. He is her constant companion, and they are magically bound to each other until Keara’s twelfth birthday. For on that day Keara must kill her darkbeast—that is the law. Refusing to kill a darkbeast is an offense to the gods, and such heresy is harshly punished by the feared Inquisitors.

But Keara cannot imagine life without Caw. And she finds herself drawn to the Travelers, actors who tour the country performing revels. Keara is fascinated by their hints of a grand life beyond her tiny village. As her birthday approaches, Keara readies herself to leave childhood—and Caw—behind forever. But when the time comes for the sacrifice, will she be able to kill the creature that is so close to her? And if she cannot, where will she turn, and how can she escape the Inquisitors?

290 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 28, 2012

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About the author

Morgan Keyes

2 books19 followers
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books.

Morgan started to keep a journal for a second-grade English class and never really stopped. Journal entries turned into short stories, and short stories turned into novels. In between, there were an awful lot of haikus and cinquains.

Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 105 reviews
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 152 books83.3k followers
September 4, 2013
You know this story--here's a world in which everyone has their proper role to play, from the jobs they take up in life, to the animal companions that accompany them everywhere. But trust me, you don't know this world. You don't know it at all. And that's all I will tell you--you're going to have to read this book for yourself. I have been waiting more than a year for the sequel, and hopefully it will show up in the mail before I chew my nails off any more.


(that was supposed to be a thumb's up)
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 82 books16.9k followers
July 10, 2012
A great read for young teens. Despite the title this is not a horror story - the cover art shows it better, but for some reason Goodreads hasn't updated the cover art. The Darkbeast is a very unique fantasy element and is a wonderful concept (I wish I had one). This book comes out at the end of August (I received an ARC from the author ;) Watch my blog in mid-August for an interview with Morgan about this book and for a chance to win a signed copy.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
March 18, 2013
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

In Keara's world, every newborn child is bound to a darkbeast, a magical animal that will be the child's constant companion, and with which its bound child can communicate through thought and speech. Over the years as a child grows, it will make offerings of dark emotions to its darkbeast, such as hate, fear, jealousy, or anger. In turn, the darkbeast absolves and teaches the child the error of its ways. This process of offering and absolution continues until the child reaches her twelfth year - at which point she must kill her darkbeast and become an adult member of society.

It has always been thus.

Keara has long awaited her twelfth name day - the youngest of three sisters, she longs to leave childhood behind and become a woman. Once she becomes an adult, she will move to the woman's shared tent, she will be allowed to watch the Travelers perform their revels, and she will finally be seen as a woman in the eyes of her mother. But Keara's twelfth year comes at a terrible cost, and she does not know how she will be able to kill her darkbeast, a raven named Caw, who is Keara's dearest companion and beloved friend. When the time of the ceremony comes, Keara makes a daring, rebellious choice - to defy tradition and to save Caw. Together, the girl and her darkbeast flee Keara's village home and take to the road, avoiding the pursuit of the Inquisitors, who will stop at nothing to cleanse the unpious and inflict their torture on lost souls to bring them back to the Twelve Gods. On the road, the pair find solace in the employ of a skilled troupe of Travelers - actors that move from town to town - but when Keara's presence threatens to hurt her new friends, and as the Inquisitors draw near, she must muster the strength to tell the truth, to stoke the rebellious attitude within that made her save her darkbeast.

The first middle grade fantasy novel in a planned series, Darkbeast accomplishes a tricky feat. Morgan Keyes blends a medieval religious society in a believable and compelling fantasy world - one that is nuanced enough for older readers, but still engaging and accessible for a middle grade audience. There are few books that manage to walk this tightrope - the early Harry Potter novels and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books immediately spring to mind - and Keyes' Darkbeast does this with surefooted grace. In short: Darkbeast is one effective, memorable novel.

Let's talk worldbuilding. Who doesn't love the idea of an animal familiar? Who read The Golden Compass/The Northern Lights and didn't want a Pantalaimon of one's own? In Darkbeast, Keyes takes the idea of an animal familiar and twists it - instead of golden monkeys and lynxes, the familiar beasts in Keara's world are toads and snakes, lizards and ravens. Instead of cuddly (and there's nothing wrong with cuddly!), darkbeasts are creatures that inspire revulsion or fear - which is fitting with their function as magical creatures that absorb the ill emotions of their bonded child. And this, perhaps, is one of the things that makes it easier for a twelve year old to kill its closest companion. It's a brilliant concept, and one that makes Keara's choice to save her friend Caw - whom she cannot kill any more than she can cut off her own foot, as she thinks at the decisive moment - all the more powerful. When Keara starts to question the wisdom of killing one's darkbeast, she starts down a rabbit hole of doubt and knowledge. Why would benevolent gods demand the deaths of darkbeasts? Why do the Inquisitors and tax collectors and the great Primate have so much power, while everyone else has so little? All of these questions, and more, are brought up subtly throughout the book and invite readers to question and rebel as much as heroine Keara does.

From a character perspective, Keara is a fantastic, deserving, and endearing heroine. You know how sometimes you read a book and cannot believe in the main character - either they sound too old or too young for their purported age, or something just seems off? This is certainly not the case with young Keara, who comes across as a living, breathing, flawed twelve year old that has her missteps, but also has a huge heart that guides her actions. I think I fell in love with Keara from the beginning, when she continues to sneak out of her home, explicitly against her mother's wishes - not because she's a bad child, but because she cannot keep herself away from the revels, and cannot sit idly by when her fascination and curiosity burn so brightly. In contrast, Keara's darkbeast Caw is somewhat less defined - my only real disappointment with the book is how quiet Caw is, and how one note his frequent jokes for food and scraps to cover up his wisdom.

This flaw aside, Darkbeast is a brilliant middle grade novel that is even better upon reflection. There is so much room for more - what with formal rebellion brewing in the background - so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we will get more books in this beautiful darkbeast-filled world. Absolutely recommended, for readers young and old alike.
Profile Image for A.
146 reviews4 followers
May 19, 2015
While the story itself was well-done, I found myself disturbed with the underlying messages this book is teaching the children reading it.

First off, you're an adult by the time you're twelve, or at least the girl in the story is, so you should be too. This view is teaching children that they don't need to respect their parents, or need their advice, council, or protection. In the story, it made it ok that Keara was disobedient to her mother. Afterall, she was almost an adult...

Second, the church or organized religion is depicted as an evil thing. Chains and knives and torture masters dressed in white (not only that, but they are corrupt beings that are swayed by money and do whatever they want with their power). Sounds like those who believe or allow themselves to be caught by those who claim to believe are just allowing themselves to get themselves into a world of hurt.

Thirdly, while the 'magic of the darkbeasts' is interesting, it seems to be taking the place of Christ, His atonement, and prayer (the feeling of release and cleansing). It is also implied that no one can ever be perfect, so why bother. Yes, we are human and have things we'll struggle with throughout our lives, but we can always work on them and get better at them.

Lastly, why are children expected to KILL anything?! Why is this even an option? I can't think of anything left to say on this point, other than that I'm disturbed. Yes, I read the book and it bugged me, very much.

I will not be reading anything else in this series.
Profile Image for Michael K.
631 reviews26 followers
July 5, 2015
This little part one book is a great sampling of encouraging young adult fiction. The concept of having a companion who accepts you through your faults--and holds them in aid of your success--is something akin to the little voice of your self-conscious. Beyond concept, the execution of this writing is equally as well-tended: The details of both environment and characters hold fast in times of confusion, aiding to this dramatic but wonderfully unexpected plot mapping.

This book is of a darker caste, as it reveals quite a bit about human nature. Children can often call on the Darkbeasts to take their 'cruelty' and 'rebellion.' Obviously it addresses a culture fueled by sacrifice and death, if that's something your child isn't prepared for, this book might not be for them.

However, this is a book I can't wait to read the second installment of! Mainly--because it's a swinging cliffhanger. I suggest biting the bullet and purchasing book two when you swing by to get book one!
Profile Image for Charlotte.
1,018 reviews29 followers
September 7, 2012
Darkbeast, by Morgan Keyes (Margaret K. McElderry Books, middle grade, August 28, 2012), is a book that you can judge by its lovely cover. At least, I myself was completely taken with it--the strong stance of the girl, the raven poised to fly, the hint of danger in the falling feathers....And I bet that any ten or eleven year old (or so) girl who's a fantasy reader will feel the same way.* Happily, the story inside lives up to its cover beautifully!

Keara has lived with her raven Caw since she was a baby--sharing all her thoughts and dreams with him, and hearing his voice in return. He is her darkbeast, able to take all her faults and failings away from her when she tells them to him. Every child has a darkbeast, often a toad, or a snake, or a lizard, bound to them until their twelfth birthday, but not every one's darkbeast is their beloved friend (it is, perhaps, easier to be friends with a raven than with a snake, but regardless, Caw has tons of personality, and Keara loves him).

But the thing is, when you turn twelve in Keara's world, you are too old to have a darkbeast anymore, and are supposed to grow up and conquer your own faults. And so your darkbeast must die, in a ritual enforced by the Inquisitors.

When Keara turns 12, she cannot kill Caw. And so she must flee her village, and the Inquisitors she's offended (they are not nice people, those Inquisitors). Fortunately, she finds refuge with a band of travelling actors, and begins to make a new life for herself and Caw, pretending to still be a child. The fear of being found out is always with her, and the actors themselves are in danger for sheltering her. The Inquisitors are hunting her...and they will not rest until Caw is dead, and Keara punished.

It's a very good book. The constant danger Keara's in keeps the tension humming, the relationships among the characters (and their darkbeasts) are very nicely done, and the world building, which includes a panoply of gods, is sufficiently detailed to interest, without going overboard in dotting every socio-political i.

It's a story that I think will be taken straight to the heart of girls reluctant to grow up (like me when I was eleven). The crisis of emotion that Keara, and every other child, to some degree, must face when they turn 12 is the center of the book, and it packs a powerful punch. And I must say that I really really appreciated a book in which the central girl character, though strong and determined enough, is an ordinary girl. She's not, for instance, a theatrical wonderkind, stepping into the lead roles in the plays her new community performs, though she does make a useful place for herself. She never grabs a sword to start whacking inquisitors. No handsome dude falls for her (she's still a kid). There's wish fulfillment in plenty--Keara's relationship with Caw is something that I bet many girls will envy**--but Keara is always someone who it's easy for a young girl to imagine being.

That all being said, even if you are not suffering from the angst and loneliness of adolescence, you might still really like it. Like I said, it's a good book. And even if you are a boy, you should still try it.

*I have little data to back up my feeling about the cover--just one reaction, from my grown-up friend Anamaria, of Books Together, who came over for a visit and spotted it first thing amongst the books I had out to talk to her about...And the fact that my boys, despite it being left enticingly face out for days, don't seem to have noticed it.

**hands up anyone like me who was eleven in the early eighties who really wanted a fire lizard

disclaimer: review copy very happily received from the publisher
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 93 books2,269 followers
December 4, 2013
Darkbeast began as a short story in the anthology Fantastic Companions, edited by Julie Czerneda. Which now has me thinking how cool it would be to try to do the same thing with my own story from that anthology… But that’s completely off topic, sorry. I blame this cold, which has turned my brain into overripe cauliflower today.

In Keyes’ story, the companions in question are darkbeasts, creatures given to each newborn by the gods to take the children’s negative feelings and impulses into themselves. For example, when our protagonist Keara disobeys her mother, she’s sent to her darkbeast Caw, a crow who takes Keara’s disobedience into himself. This arrangement lasts until the child’s 12th birthday, at which time the child is expected to kill his or her darkbeast as part of a religious ceremony marking their transition into adulthood.

But unlike most children, Keara loves her darkbeast. She loves their telepathic bond, the comfort and companionship Caw provides. So when the time comes to kill Caw, she refuses. She flees her village, the only home she’s known, and joins up with the Travelers (actors and storytellers who tour from one town to another.)

Caw tends to steal the spotlight. He’s fun, always demanding snacks and treats, and always accepting Keara and all of her faults. But keeping him alive violates one of the core laws of the priesthood, and if the Inquisitors catch Keara, both she and Caw will suffer.

This is a YA middle grade book, relatively short, quick-paced, and easy to read. But I found myself wishing it was longer, with a bit more exploration and discussion of the world, the gods, the religion, the magic… I wanted to know more about how and why things worked the way they did. The structure of the novel means we discover things along with Keara, and many of the revelations don’t show up until the very end of the book.

The book tends to raise questions obliquely, circling around the true roles of the darkbeasts, the place of the Inquisitors, and more. But those questions, while thematically central, are often a step removed from the plot. Keara makes friends and enemies among the Travelers, learns their ways, shares their urgency to create a new and daring performance. And in the midst of those conflicts and struggles, we see how the darkbeasts fit into the children’s lives, and the cost those children pay when they kill their darkbeasts and become adults.

Maybe it’s a matter of taste, but a part of me wishes the story had addressed some of those questions more directly. But it’s not until the end when we finally rip the curtain aside.Fantastic Companions
101 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2017
I'm not sure about anyone else, but I could NOT find "Darkbeast" by Morgan Keyes. I COULD however find "Rebel Flight" by Mindy Klasky. Seems to be the same book, so if you can't find the book, look for that one

Darkbeast Synopsis:
A girl’s love for her raven may put her life in jeopardy in this gripping tale.
In Keara’s world, every child has a darkbeast—a creature that takes dark emotions like anger, pride, and rebellion. Keara’s darkbeast is Caw, a raven, and Keara can be free of her worst feelings by transferring them to Caw. He is her constant companion, and they are magically bound to each other until Keara’s twelfth birthday. For on that day Keara must kill her darkbeast—that is the law. Refusing to kill a darkbeast is an offense to the gods, and such heresy is harshly punished by the feared Inquisitors.
But Keara cannot imagine life without Caw. And she finds herself drawn to the Travelers, actors who tour the country performing revels. Keara is fascinated by their hints of a grand life beyond her tiny village. As her birthday approaches, Keara readies herself to leave childhood—and Caw—behind forever. But when the time comes for the sacrifice, will she be able to kill the creature that is so close to her? And if she cannot, where will she turn, and how can she escape the Inquisitors?

Rebel Flight Synopsis:
Sometimes, rebellion is the only option.
In the sheltered village of Silver Hollow, Keara knows exactly what is expected of her: Worship the twelve gods, pay the Primate his head tax, and follow her mother’s unreasonably strict rules. But Keara’s twelfth birthday is looming, along with an obligation she dares not meet. Keara must sacrifice her darkbeast on a holy altar or be branded a heretic forever.
Other children despise their bonded scapegoat animals. But Keara loves her raven, Caw. He’s the only creature in Silver Hollow who truly understands her headstrong ways.
When a traveling theater troupe passes through the village, Keara glimpses a way to escape. But the Great Road comes with its own dangers, including dread Inquisitor priests who hunt down infidels.
Will Keara find the strength to flee the only home she’s ever known? Or will she be forced to slay her closest friend on the altar of the gods
Profile Image for Melissa Posten.
142 reviews32 followers
August 31, 2012
In the grand tradition of Tamora Pierce, Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper (as well as the contemporary tradition of PLAIN KATE, UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS, and Shannon Hale) comes DARKBEAST. Keara lives in a world where babies are bound to a darkbeast, an animal companion whose purpose is to absorb all of Keara's darker emotions so that she can grow into adulthood as a better person. However, on the day she turns twelve, Keara is supposed to kill her darkbeast - a crow named Caw - and continue into adulthood alone.

When her nameday arrives and Keara is unable to kill her lifelong friend, she is forced to flee the Inquisitors who will come and try to force her back into the flock of the Twelve (the Gods that this world believes in). She runs away with the Travelers, a roving band of players, into a future she could not have possibly imagined.

Keara: made of awesome. Fantastic and flawed and feisty and Full of Feelings.
Writing: very skilled. Compelling story. Characters with real depth to them.
World building: truly excellent. Complex but well explained, so younger readers won't be totally lost.
Sequel: desired RIGHT NOW.
Profile Image for Simon.
Author 74 books159 followers
July 22, 2012
A change of pace and setting from my usual reading material, but that just made it even more refreshing and enjoyable.

Keara is a headstrong girl, and like all children in her world she's bonded to an animal soon after birth. During childhood the animal absorbs all those excesses kids are prone to, from temper fits to disobedience and everything in between.

(Can I just say that if Darkbeasts could also induce kids to clean up their rooms, I'd put an order in for two right now.)

But onwards. Keara's strong will puts her offside with her family and fellow villagers, culminating in some life-changing decisions.

I'm not here to summarise the plot, so I'll just add that I enjoyed every page and I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

(I received an ARC of Darkbeast for review purposes.)
Profile Image for Nancy Kress.
Author 449 books832 followers
August 28, 2012
A book I liked for young readers (age 10 and up): DARKBEAST, by Morgan Keyes, published by Simon & Schuster. As a former 4th-grade teacher, I sometimes read kid-lit. This one has an appealing protag, a richly drawn fantasy world, and an ending I didn't see coming.
Profile Image for Max.
1,170 reviews7 followers
September 23, 2022
Sometimes I distinctly remember why I added a book to my TBR list. Other times, like this one, I completely can't remember. But as I was flipping around looking for something to take off the TBR list next, I figured this would be a fun one since I recently reread His Dark Materials, so following up with another book about kids with magic animals seemed appropriate.

In a way it's too bad Pullman already used the word daemon, because that almost seems a more appropriate label to be used in this story. A darkbeast is a creature bonded to a child shortly after their birth, meant to take away their sins and flaws and shape them into a perfect member of society. Children ritualistically sacrifice their darkbeast at the age of 12, signifying the passage from childhood into adulthood. And, of course, the obvious conflict here is the center of this book: Keara doesn't want to kill her darkbeast.

The story kicks off shortly before her 12th birthday, giving time to establish her life in a small village within a nation clearly inspired by Ancient Greece. There are 12 gods ruling over various aspects of life, though in something that feels like it's mixing in the Middle Ages, the gods have inquisitors and their churches have much power in the world. Keara spends the first few chapters rebelling against her mother so she can watch the traveling performers who have come to her village to stage plays about the gods.

When push comes to shove and Keara refuses to kill her darkbeast, the creatively named Caw, it takes her a little while to run away from home. But once she does, she joins up with the traveling players and the story's stakes shift. Now Keara has to avoid being discovered, but she's also trying to help the troupe prepare for the annual theatrical competition. If they can impress the ruler of the nation, they'll win renown and the freedom to travel the country more easily, allowing Keara to continue to escape with them.

I really enjoyed the way the story develops the world of the traveling players. It's clear the author has done research on the challenges they'd face in bringing their shows around and thought about the logistics involved. Only a few of the players get much development as characters, but there's enough of a sense of the group as a whole that it works okay. And I like that a major conflict in the story is that when they try to mount a completely new religious play, everybody is afraid of the change and they're forced to give it up.

The blurb does seem to promise that the story is larger and more dramatic than it actually is, with the idea that Keara's decision might change the whole world. It feels like the story could eventually head in that direction, but for now this book is mostly concerned with Keara and Caw surviving, and eventually discovering they're not alone. It seems like there are only two books in this series, and having looked at the reviews for the second a little, I suspect that the plot does start to get larger in scope but also that the second book doesn't resolve things and there doesn't appear to be any signs of a third.

This was overall an enjoyable read. It does explore it's premise well, with different characters showing different attitudes towards darkbeasts, and the worldbuilding is relatively in depth for a kids book. I appreciate that the reader can see why Keara doesn't want to kill Caw but also why many others are happy to kill their darkbeasts, and it feels like it's trying to make the question a more morally complex one to grapple with. I think kids who like talking animal stories will definitely enjoy this, and while it didn't blow me away, it's a nice little book with some good storytelling that I had fun reading.
Profile Image for Frances.
189 reviews17 followers
December 13, 2018

Cross-posted from Nightjar's Jar of Books.

In a world where every child is bound at birth to a darkbeast - a creature that will take their faults through childhood, before being ritually killed - Keara is preparing to leave her childhood behind. But Caw, her darkbeast and her oldest friend, will not be an easy sacrifice to make.

Keara was a really great protagonist, and she - and the relationships she formed throughout the story - were by far the best things about Darkbeast. The book is structured around the different flaws that she's (tried to) offer to her darkbeast, but those flaws are also her strength, making her feel incredibly realistic. Individually, Caw was less developed, but Keara's affection for him was clear, even though she spent much of the book trying to hide it. I also really enjoyed her friendship with Vala (and, to a lesser extent, Goran), although I didn't always like her that much - and their contrasting views made for some interesting plot developments.

The defining trait of this world is its strict religious society, which was interesting. Unfortunately we're not shown much about the belief system beyond the darkbeast tradition, but the role of the Inquisitors, who find and punish the Lost (those who go against religious tradition), was given some emphasis, lending the book an almost dystopian air - and when they appeared in the story, Keyes did a good job of making their presence genuinely threatening. As much of the story takes place in the midst of a travelling troupe that performs religious plays, there were  a lot of opportunities to expand upon the history and mythology of this world that could have made it feel a lot more real and fleshed out, but these were sadly missed.

The plot was mostly focused on Keara's life with the Travelers, which I enjoyed, but I didn't find myself particularly invested in what looks like it's going to be the series' overarching storyline; either about finding a place where darkbeasts don't have to die, or else social and religious reform... Probably the latter, since the sequel is called Rebellion, but I don't know if I'll be sticking around to find out.

Although on the whole Darkbeast didn't really resonate with me, I do think it's a good book, and reading it made for an enjoyable few hours. I didn't feel that it was quite up to the same standard as, say, Tamora Pierce's books (which I found myself comparing this to as I read), but it will likely appeal to a similar fanbase, and to the younger part of that fanbase in particular.

Profile Image for Linnie.
88 reviews70 followers
January 13, 2019

I was really impressed at the beginning. The imagination, the world really was painted well and maintained its overall appeal throughout the book.

And that's pretty much it. I can say that this book was a pretty good IDEA, but if the IDEA never really works out, you can't do anything with it.

Because it's the part that bothers me the most, I guess I have to skip to the end. It ends. And that's it. There is no more. They practically leave you hanging in the middle of the almost happy ending. I guess its a cliffhanger for an upcoming sequel? But its not worth reading more.

And Kala-- oh, Kala. Yuck. I don't like her character. There's never there but a----- not gonna say it cuz of spoilers.

If you're interested, read it. There's nothing to lose. The worst thing can happen is that you feel the way I did. But its a quick read, and if you find yourself feeling like you wasted your time it probably only took you a half hour to two hours depending.
Profile Image for Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids.
1,952 reviews204 followers
August 18, 2018
Keyes's debut fantasy is rich in detail, lore, and introduces readers to a strong, courageous heroine who isn't to stand for what she believes is right. With animal companions (I loved Caw), magic and a bit of danger, this book easily sweeps you into intriguing world. This is a book that reminded me of the stories I loved reading when I was a kid. One where the story telling easily engages you, and the vivid world building whisks you away to the world in which the story is set in. Targeted for upper elementary school & lower middle school readers, this is a book readers of all ages can enjoy.
Profile Image for Potato.
218 reviews57 followers
August 2, 2018
I actually really liked this book!

The premise of this book was very interesting to me and I really liked the plot. I found the main character, Keara, to be very relatable, and I liked her Darkbeast, Caw. I've heard this series is similar to Rebel Flight, but I've never read that book, so I don't know. Overall this book is pretty good and the cover is sooo pretty!
Profile Image for Emma.
322 reviews8 followers
July 5, 2017
It was decent. I read it at least a year ago and forgot to add it.

Although I guess I didn't like it well enough to bother reading the sequel. And I don't think I'd bother rereading in order to do so.
Profile Image for Megan.
546 reviews86 followers
June 26, 2017
So irritated by the inaccurate portrayal of Caw the raven.
Profile Image for Sugarrr.
392 reviews4 followers
November 19, 2018
This book was great ! I loved the story it felt VERY original. I am looking to get the second book I wish there were more books in this series :)

Recommended !
Profile Image for Morvling Bookink.
158 reviews
April 7, 2020
This book is an exact replica of if you mixed together His Dark Materials and The Girl Who Drank The Moon.
Profile Image for Seregil of Rhiminee.
590 reviews40 followers
October 29, 2012
Originally published at Risingshadow.

I became interested in Morgan Keyes' Darkbeast when I saw it being mentioned in Lynn Flewelling's LiveJournal. The story seemed interesting and original to me, so I'm glad that I had a chance to read and review Darkbeast.

In my opinion Darkbeast is one of the most positive reading experiences of 2012. I enjoyed reading reading it, because it was a sophisticated, nuanced and complex story about a young girl who dared to disagree with the norms of the society.

Before I write more about my feelings about Darkbeast, here's a bit of information about the plot and the world of the book:

The events take place in a world called Duodecia. Duodecia is a fascinating world, because people worship twelve deities and chilren become adults when they reach the age of twelve. The children in Duodecia have a telepathic link to the darkbeasts. They have to sacrifice their darkbeasts when they become twelve in order to be righteous. If somebody doesn't obey the rules, the feared Inquisitors are sent after them.

At the beginning of the book, Keara is fascinated by the Travelers who come to her village. She's almost twelve. Her mother has hidden her from the Primate's titheman, because she hasn't paid her head tax (paying tax can be difficult for girls who have become women, because they may have to borrow money to pay the tax). Keara wants to live in the Women's Hall and be free of her mother, but despite her need to be independent she knows that she loves her mother. Caw is Keara's darkbeast. Keara shares her thoughts and feelings with Caw. When Keara has to sacrifice her darkbeast, she doesn't accept the rules of the society and decides to follow her own heart (Keara is a strong willed girl who refuses to submit to rules of the society, because she can't imagine a life without her darkbeast). Keara is forced to flee from her village, Silver Hollow, with the Travelers...

Morgan Keyes has created a believable, vivid and detailed fantasy world. The first narrative mode works perfectly, because the reader will see the happenings through Keara's eyes. The worldbuilding is subtle and the reader gradually learns more things about the world.

Darkbeast is a beautifully written and touching coming of age tale for children and young adults. Morgan Keyes has a talent for storytelling and she writes captivatingly about Keara's life, problems and feelings. I think that several readers will be able to identify themselves with Keara. It doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl when you read this book, because Keara's problems will be of interest to both boys and girls.

In today's overcrowded YA fantasy market Darkbeast is like a beautiful rose bush in the middle of a garbage heap. I've noticed that at this moment there are several urban YA fantasy books in the market, but it's difficult to find good traditional YA fantasy books, which is a shame. That's why books like Darkbeast are important to the YA fantasy genre - they remind us how entertaining and fantastic traditional fantasy can be.

Everybody who reads this book will - without a doubt - admire the way Morgan Keyes writes about Keara and the happenings. I think it's great how the author brings Keara to life with her nuanced writing.

Darkbeast reminds me a bit of the old classics by Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper. It's slightly related to them in the terms of charming storytelling and magical atmosphere. It manages to be a bit different kind of a YA fantasy book, but it's loyal to its roots, which lie deep in the traditional YA fantasy genre.

The sequel, Darkbeast Rebellion, will be published next in the fall of 2013. I'm sure that it will be worth the wait, because Darkbeast is an excellent YA fantasy book, which appeals to both young adults and adults.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Amanda.
1 review
August 21, 2016
Originally Reviewed on Amanda's Book Fix

In the world of Duodecia, children are bound to magical creatures known as darkbeasts shortly after birth. These beasts are physical manifestations of the children’s bad behavior and emotions and they relief the children of these faults so that they can become a successful adult. On a child’s twelfth birthday they are required by law to sacrifice their darkbeast in a coming-of-age ceremony. While most children are eager to be free of their beast and all that they represent, Keara’s bond with her darkbeast has turned into a real friendship. As much as she wants to be like everyone else and make her mother proud, she can’t imagine a life without her beloved darkest.

I want to start of by saying that I absolutely loved this book. I couldn’t put it down despite my lack of sleep over the past few weeks. Morgan Keyes does a fantastic job in her writing and world building. She used all the details one could ever ask for when discovering a new world, including mythology for twelve different gods and goddesses. I truly felt immersed in Keara’s adventure and now I want a darkbeast of my own…just without the whole sacrificing it to the gods part.

What really makes this story besides the world building, is the role behind the darkbeasts and how they help the character develop like real people. Once a child reaches the age of twelve and slays their darkbeast, they are meant to become an adult. No more childhood, it’s done and gone. Even though Keara has reached the age at which she is considered an adult and shows some adult like qualities, she still acts childish at times. Some people might associate this with her sparing her darkbeast, but if you look at some other characters who both slay and spare their darkbeast, it’s harder to make this connection and easier to see these characters as more realistic.

After Vala slays her beast it seems like she seamlessly transitions into the adult world around her, but the story later reveals that she also holds on to some of her childhood behaviors. She also feels lost within this new stage of her life because she no longer has her darkbeast to guide her like before. Some of the older characters, who spared their beasts, have all the wisdom and maturity of adults despite never giving up this link to their childhood. They’ve been able to integrate themselves into adulthood because they have lived long enough and experienced enough, not because they completed one superficial task that is supposed to magically change them.

For generations, the people of Duodecia have been made to believe that a darkbeast is supposed to take away their faults, but that’s simply not true. As Caw explains to Keara,
“You’re not evil. You’re human… You identify your failings and I take them. My action makes you more aware of your fault than you were before. After that, you try to avoid doing wrong. You aren’t perfect—no one is—but you’re better than you would have been. Because you believe in me, you come to believe in yourself.”

It is because people believe in the power of the darkbeast that the system works. Children learn to recognize their faults from an early age which makes them mature faster, but they still can’t become mature adults at the flip of a switch. They still mess up once in a while, but, for the most part, they can recognize when they need to change what they are doing to become a better person.

Darkbeast certainly qualifies as a favorite for me. I am currently reading the second book, but haven’t seen any plans for a third books, so hopefully it will leave me satisfied with Keara and Caw’s story. I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of fantasy or middle grade books.
Profile Image for Audrey.
43 reviews3 followers
November 11, 2012
The idea of a world where every person is bound to a spiritual animal isn’t new, and makes most of us think immediately of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy. However, Megan King in her new book Darkbeast gives us another unique take on the concept.

In this world, these spirit animals are known as darkbeasts. Every child is bound to one at birth, and as they grow up, give them all of their failings - their fears, rebellions, angers, jealousies and despairs. Darkbeasts become embodiments of all a person’s wrongs, and often take on the form of more repulsive animals such as snakes, rats and toads. Most children hate their darkbeast, and can’t wait until their thirteenth nameday when they will kill it, and become adults.

Keara is different. She loves her raven darkbeast Caw, and decides to flee her village instead of completing the ceremony. She convinces a troupe of actors, known as Travelers, to let her join them as they preform across the kingdom. Keara is drawn to them because their performances and depictions of the Gods look like magic to her. The more time she spends with them, the more she views them as family; the children, Vala and Goran, become her siblings, and Taggart, the troupe’s strong leader, is a father-figure. As she gets closer to the Travelers than she ever was with her family, Keara is almost happier than when she was at home; she feels safe and loved. However, if anyone, even one of her fellow Travelers, found out that she was supposed to have killed Caw, she would be branded as Lost, and turned over to the terrifying Inquisitors, responsible for tracking down heretics who disobeyed the kingdom’s traditions.

This undeniably has many similarities with past fantasy series (mainly Pullman’s), but it brings in enough new elements to create a fresh story. You can almost imagine that this takes place in one of the Pullman’s parallel worlds, except that this time, the religious authority has succeeded in getting people to break their bonds to their spirit animals. We realize that after the children kill their darkbeasts, all that is left is a shell of a human who is easily manipulated by the powerful religious authority. Like Pullman’s Lyra, Keara questions the authority of the religion that is at the center of her society. However, King’s story is a lot less controversial, drawing less ties to our modern religions (Keara’s polytheistic beliefs sound more like something out of ancient Greece than anything we see today), and focusing instead on rebellion against a more general over-powerful and manipulative authority. King also does a nice job of addressing how our many faults make us human, and are ultimately our strengths.

Darkbeast is the first part of a series, and definitely leaves you wanting to read more. However, this isn’t a story that I can see lasting through many books. Its nature is such that you want to see how it ends; you can only keep reading about how a character escapes and defies authority for so long before you want to see a resolution.

The book, overall, was a very fun read. It is fast-paced, immediately drawing you in and continuously making you want to read more. Keara is easy to like, and she is well depicted as a thirteen year old who thinks that she knows more about the world than she does, but who slowly discovers how much more she has to learn. King takes ideas and themes that we are familiar with, but changes them enough to create a new and interesting world.
Profile Image for Kellee Moye.
2,452 reviews415 followers
December 3, 2019
*In Darkbeast, we meet Keara, a young girl who has been bound to Caw, her raven darkbeast, since she was 12 days old; however, on her 12th birthday, it is her duty to slay Caw and to welcome adulthood. Keara, though, does not know if she can live without Caw and makes a decision that changes her life.

In the world of high fantasy, very rarely is there a middle grade novel that fits the definition, but Darkbeast is just that. Morgan Keyes has built a world that is unique filled with traditions and mythology from her imagination. Her creation of 12 gods and goddess who are worshiped is a bit reminiscent of Greek or Roman mythology, but includes its own flair. Keara's world also is a bit dystopian with a ruler who ensures that all of his subjects worship the gods he worships and has inquisitors to patrol his kingdom to scare the belief into all. The world also celebrates the arts with the Travelers which are a well respected group who go from town to town performing plays either about The Twelve or about traditions within their culture. Overall, Morgan Keyes built a pretty solid world for her story to exist.

In the classroom, this book would be a great read aloud. It would cause a lot of discussion about Keara's decisions and what it means to be an adult. Keara's story is very similar to many coming of age/rebellion stories yet throws in another aspect with the duty that looms over her head. Parts of Keyes's story would also fit well within a mythology unit because it could take traditional literature and transform it into a creative writing activity about creating gods/goddesses of different realms. You can even have the students use word parts. For example, Keyes's goddess of death is Mortana which literally has the word death in it. So, if a student wanted a goddess of life she could be Biotina.

Snatch of Text: "The Traveleres were even more magnificent than they'd been the night before. Their voices were louder, more sure. Their costumes were brighter. Their story was even more compelling.
The goddess Pondera was visiting a market town, watching over all the goods in the market place. A merchant cheated one of his customers, placing false weights on his scales. He wasn't evil, though. He cheated because he needed coins to clothe his family, to buy new shoes for his youngest daughter, whose feet were chapped and bleeding in the winter cold.
The merchant's crimes were discovered by a boy. The boy wore a costume, like all of the Travelers, but he did not wear a mask. Instead his face was bare to the world, his dark eyes huge in his pale face. Even though this was only the second time I'd seen the Travelers, I understood that the boy looked that way so we all would trust him, we all would understand the struggle he undertook." (p. 33-34)

Mentor Text for: Suspense, Setting, World Building, Mythology

**Thank you to Morgan Keyes and Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for me to review**
Profile Image for Kathy Martin.
3,394 reviews73 followers
August 19, 2012
DARKBEAST creates a rich and creative fantasy world filled with numerous gods and myths. Keara is from a small village, the youngest child of her widowed mother. At twelve days old she was bound to her darkbeast, a crow she calls Caw. She and Caw have been inseparable companions. Caw's purpose is to take all the destructive emotions from Keara so that she will grow into adulthood and fit in to the life that is planned for her. Then, on her twelfth birthday, Keara must sacrifice her darkbeast and take her place among the adults.

But Keara can't kill this friend who has been part of her for all her life. She chooses, instead, to leave the village and go off after the travelers who are troops of wandering players who travel around the country performing plays about the gods. She needs to keep out of the sight of the Inquisitors who are charged with finding and correcting those who flout the rules. Keara does make a place for herself among the players and makes friends with two other children - Vala and Goran - but she is always afraid that the Inquisitors will find her.

As readers, we learn about the various gods through the plays the travelers perform. We learn about the beliefs of the people in the country by want they do. There are no large "info-dumps" to tell us what is happening. We see the world through Keara's eyes. We get to see the strong, positive, loving relationship between Keara and Caw. And we see what happens when Vala reaches her twelfth name day and sacrifices her darkbeast.

Caw is a fascinating character in his own right. He dispenses all sorts of wisdom while still remaining a crow with a constant appetite for treats. I think Keara lucked out in the darkbeast department. I found Caw a much more sympathetic companion than Vala's serpent or Goran's toad.

I was fascinated by this new world, by Keara and Caw, and by the travelers and couldn't put the story down. I think fantasy readers who like a strong heroine willing to go to great lengths for what she believes in despite a huge amount of social pressure to conform will enjoy this story. The ending is not exactly a cliffhanger but there is certainly room for a sequel or two. There are lots of unanswered questions remaining.
Profile Image for John Young.
14 reviews
August 1, 2013
The premise of this book is what hooked me. Morgan Keyes creates a world in her novel, Darkbeast, in which all young people are literally assigned dark beasts. They could be frogs, snakes, rats, or as in the case of Keara, a raven. This creature is presented to them when they are twelve days old and it is intended to magically remove all their evil deeds and emotions like anger, pride, and jealousy. Keara names her darkbeast Caw, and when her twelfth birthday arrives she is faced with a problem. All children must ceremoniously kill their darkbeasts at the age of twelve. The ritual is intended to mark their entrance into adulthood at which time they leave behind all their evil deeds.

The assignment of an animal to each child reminded me of the animal partnerships characters had in Rowling's Harry Potter series and I thought it was a very clever and engaging idea of Keyes to extend that natural interest children have to animals in her story.

The main character, Keara, faces the challenge of whether or not she will destroy her darkbeast when the time comes. For most children in the fictional world of Silver Hollow, the day cannot come soon enough when they get to destroy their darkbeasts. But Keara is different. She has bonded with Caw and finds herself willing to risk her own safety and her family's safety in order to spare her companion.

The story is set in world in which the gods have led Inquisitors to enforce the law of the land which includes hefty taxes on everyone's head, strict dogmatic worship, and accepting a life of simple poverty in exchange for the safety provided by the Inquisitors. Keara dares to challenge the status quo and tries to find a safe place to escape with her darkbeast, but can there be a safe place when all the land is under the control of the Inquisitors?

Overall, I would recommend this book for kids in the age range of ten to fourteen and I think teachers would enjoy leading students through this novel to explore such themes as: rebellion and when it can be justified to rebel from authority or even what it means to be brave. Keyes has followed this book with a sequel.
Profile Image for Shanshad Whelan.
648 reviews33 followers
January 9, 2013
I'm rather surprised this one didn't come across my desk last year--but very glad to discover it now. This is a delightful fantasy tale where one girl's love of her darkbeast causes her to challenge to order of her world. Our young protagonist lives in a world where children are bound to a darkbeast when they are named, and for twelve years, they are to give to their darkbeast all their failings and faults. But in their twelfth year they must kill their darkbeasts in order to become adults. But how can our young protagonist kill her closest friend and confidant?

I was concerned at first that this tale would pull too much on the ideas of Philip Pullman in his Golden Compass series, but the author manages to create the idea of soul-bonded animals without coming across as explicitly derivative (though there are obvious echoes). With that concern out of the way, this is a coming of age story set in a vividly imagined world where people are kept in strict control under the thumb of oppressive religion and those in power who use that religion. Perhaps the main reason I couldn't quite give this story 5 stars is that the "misfit girl rebelling against an oppressive religious regime" storyline is hardly a new one.

That said, the author manages to make you believe in the characters and in the world. There are wonderful touches to the world building that signal the author really took time and attention to imagine the details. From the description of routine chores, to details of human behavior, the author does not simply take the lazy way out and allow the readers to fill in a generic village or landscape--it gets built and vividly described without dragging down the text or slowing up the story. There's a real skill with the writing here--enough so that I'll happily read the next installment in this series and look for anything else written by the author. I'm just sorry it took me so long to find out about this story!
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