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Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

208 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 3, 2015

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About the author

Cat Hellisen

45 books263 followers
Presumably a person, occasionally a table.

I write stories.

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5 stars
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1,071 (35%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 645 reviews
Profile Image for Taylor.
767 reviews422 followers
January 1, 2016
This was such a surprising book! I was so blown away by the writing style and the plot.
Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down and I ended up finishing it in a little over 2 hours.
This book was so full of magic and I loved how deep rooted in classic fantasy the plot was. Beastkeeper reminded me the books that my mom would read to my sister and I when we were kids. She always read fantasy to us and Beastkeeper is something that would have mesmerized me as a child.
Overall, I absolutely loved Beastkeeper. Not only is it a great book for young readers, it's great for adult readers as well.
Profile Image for Dani Shuping.
572 reviews41 followers
December 31, 2014
ARC provided by Netgalley

Ever since she can remember Sarah and her parents have always moved. Always further and further south as her mother hates the cold. Til the day her mother finally walks away from the family. And something strange begins to happen. Old magic comes out of hiding and her father begins to change slowly, but surely into a wild beast. Before he fully becomes a beast he takes Sarah to the last place she expected...the ruins of a crumbling castle where her grandparents live. And the curse begins to reveal itself...and its next target may very well be Sarah herself.

I really, really wanted to like this book. As much as it seems to be coming common for authors to put new twists and turns on classic fairy tales, this one has such an interesting and entertaining premise of a curse being cast by the matriarchs of two families and being unyielding and relenting in releasing the curse, even if it means their own death. But I spent way too much time being drawn out of the story and saying “Wait, what? What the heck just happened here? Where did that come from??” And frankly it isn’t a good way for a story to be.

I had a few different issues with the book. One of the more glaring issues for me was with the character of Sarah herself, and her parents, as they felt more like empty shells instead of real people that I should care about. While her parents are not the central characters, they are the driving force behind all of Sarah’s actions. It is evident that Sarah cares greatly for them and because of that the reader should as well. But...I don’t. They don’t feel real to me. We see the mother for all of two pages, she vanishes, and then half shows up again for two more pages scattered throughout the book. And her dad, well we see him, but don’t really have any clue of who or what he is. And because of that I just can’t bring myself to care about them. Perhaps the author is relying on the fact that we all understood how a family should be and that should be enough to make us care about the characters. But that isn’t enough for me. Even just a few paragraphs more to set up the family as a “Once upon a time” would have been nice.

As for Sarah, while she is a bit more fleshed out than some of the other characters, she doesn’t seem to ever really grow during the course of the book. Instead she feels like the same child that we met at the beginning of the book as she does at the end. Which is really weird since she is tackling a curse, discovering magic, and oh yes “falling” in love. In the entire book nothing seems to change about her at all.

The second major issue I had was that the plot of the story was choppy and rushed. For example, this is supposed to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast where the girl is the one that becomes the beast. Which is great! But...it doesn’t make sense with the way the curse is setup! Which is that the females turn into birds and the males turn into beasts...except for Sarah. And maybe I’m reading too much into that. Fine. But that doesn’t explain why it felt like we glossed over so many things and why details became crammed into one book. I don’t know if its the author or the publisher’s decision, but this really should have either been two books or a longer book. I wanted to know more about the grandparents, about the magic that created this, about the beastkeeper that Sarah falls for who apparently doesn’t even have a name. Its enough to drive me a wee bit batty. And the ending! I wanted an actual proper ending, something that didn’t feel rushed and leaving me wondering what the heck just happened.

All in all its a nice premise, but the story is not up to par for me. I give the book two out of five stars.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
January 25, 2015
I suspected I might be in for a treat when I read the dedication page on this book, which mentions the author's two children: "Tanith and Noa." Tanith? You named your KID after Tanith Lee? This book CANNOT be bad!

And indeed, it is quite excellent. I wouldn't say it's derivative of, or even particularly similar to Lee's writing, but the aesthetics are all what I love.

It's a contemporary fantasy, but it succeeds very well in meshing the timeless beauty of fairy tales with a modern setting.

Sarah is a young teenager whose family is collapsing around her. At first a reader might assume that her neglect is simply the sad but typical effect of divorce and depression on any family: her mother's abandoned them, and her father is incapable of keeping up even appearances. But once Sarah is bundled off to live with the grandmother she'd always been told was dead, in a crumbling, decrepit tower in the middle of nowhere, gradually we learn that there's more to it than this: her family is the victim of a curse - and Sarah herself may be the next one to be destroyed by a bitterness and rivalry that has come down through generations.

Beautiful writing; highly recommended for everyone who loves stories based in folklore and fairytales.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,232 followers
April 12, 2015
[I find this difficult to rate, but I'm going to say high 3/low 4]

Occasionally, I come across books that I find difficult to review. Whether it's because I don't like them and wanted to, like them too much and don't know how to express it, or am in some weird limbo where I can't even begin to tell you what I liked or didn't like, and why, there are some reviews that just stump me a little.  And sometimes, as I work through what I felt about the book, these reviews can get a little long, and maybe a smidge circular. I'm not saying that my review of Beastkeeper will be one of those reviews, but... (it's totally one of those reviews.)

I want to start off by saying that I liked it. I did, and I want to make that clear, because I may undermine that statement, and I don't really mean to. It feels original and unique, and not only because of the role reversal of the female lead being the cursed beastly one (which I loved, btw). Though it morphed into something beyond a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the elements that shaped it are clear and present, and this made it have a fresh feel, while also feeling familiar and reminiscent, and that's a style that's really well-suited to me.

I do wonder if this would have been better served as an older YA novel, though, even though I like the middle-grade feel of it (and I like a middle grade book that's willing to go a bit dark). But I feel like, maybe some things would have been more fleshed out, or the darkness and gray area better explored if it were YA -- though I'm torn, because I think there's something about MG styles of storytelling that is perfectly suited to fairy tale retellings! I guess I kinda wanted both, and both would have offered me different things, and I think I've worked my way around to an odd sort of back-handed compliment, because in saying I wanted more, it's kind of a good thing: when I really like a story or concept (or character, or world), I want to keep exploring it. I want to see it from every angle. So the fact that I want means something. That I want X and I want Y, and I want more means that I didn't want to let it go, but wanted to keep digging into what was there, keep discovering its facets.

I also wish it would have been longer, which is a thing I think I also said about Cat's The Sea is Rising Red.  There's a tendency in some authors to have an almost meditative build-up, then a really interesting reversal that gets rushed straight through to the end, It's not an overriding thing, it's not that it feels incredibly rushed, or anything like that. It's more...there's a point where things got especially interesting for me, and I wanted more of it. The last 25% of the book, say, could have been stretched out a bit, and made me a very happy camper. (And this may go back a bit to the idea of being YA and exploring things a little more fully and slowly -- though I think I said the same thing in When the Sea..., which was YA, so who knows.)

I think people will love or hate how things play out in the end, and I'm really not sure where on the spectrum I fall. I love when something doesn't go down predictable paths, or doesn't give easy answers to difficult questions, and for that I appreciate Beastkeeper, and Cat Hellisen's writing in general. But at the same time, sometimes when you lay a groundwork of the familiar, and you reinforce it and bolster it, only to tear it down at the end, it can either make things seem delightfully subverted, or it can make things seem unplanned and unfocused. I had a suspicion that things were not going to follow the predictable HEA route, so I wasn't terribly bothered by this, but it has that comforting, summertime middle grade adventure feel to it* that may make some people, if not irritated by the end, maybe puzzled or uncomfortable about it. It probably won't be what the majority of readers are expecting (and that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the type of reader you are, and what you want from a story).

In the end, I was left feeling a bit like I did with When the Sea...: I felt so close to falling head over heels for it, but I just couldn't quite get there. With a touch more development, a more slow-simmering plot and a chance to really get to know the characters more intimately, I think this would be something I'd be pushing on people for many years to come. I hate to say that it fell just shy of that, especially because I said the same of When the Sea..., and then found myself constantly thinking about it for years after I'd read it. The characters still pop into my head, unexpectedly and uninvited, to this day; I can't shake them. And when a story worms its way into my head like that, that means something.

So I don't want to leave you with an impression that I didn't like this, because I did. It's hard, in reviews like this, because when a book is so close for me, I end up talking about all the things that would have pushed it over the edge into a fast favorite, and feel like I end up giving the impression that it had a lot of problems, or that I flat-out didn't like it. But if I don't like a book, often there's not much to say; I end up indifferent. It's only when I really like something that I'm so close to loving, that the reviews come out in this tangle of emotions that makes me feel like I have to explain away everything I've said, so that you're left with the impression I want you to take from it, rather than the one I'm afraid I've actually given...
Or maybe I'm just a little neurotic.

*Don't ask me what makes this feel like a "summertime middle grade adventure" because I don't think it could really be described as any of that, on more than a very shallow level. It's more a feel I associate with some books, probably based on some weird synesthetic process, from books I've long since forgotten, and I really couldn't begin to justify or explain...
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews247 followers
January 5, 2015

Arc provided by Henry Holt & Company through Netgalley
Release Date: February 3 rd

I had to re-read this story immediately after I had finished it for first time, because with only one read, I honestly did not know what to say.

First of all, I loved its first pages: They had that bitter-sweet tone of well done magical realism, and they held so much promise.
We get immediately thrown into this family's live, and we can see that something isn't quite right. Besides the obvious that is...
Page after page we get sucked into Sarah's life, and how in the span of a few days everything she knows gets replaced by something out of a fantasy book.
Sarah is only thirteen, and she's not ready for what is coming into her life...in fact, I don't think anyone would, because all of a sudden she finds herself surrounded by a strange reality and sharing an existence with characters that aren't exactly loving, or trustworthy.
This means that there's a lot of crying, which is comprehensible.
Especially since this tale follows the path of the "old school of fairy tales", the one in which things happen because so...in which events mostly take a turn for the worse...where most characters are as flawed as possible, and finally where HEA is mostly a vague dream.

There are however some elements here whose presence, I found somewhat strange considering this is a supposed middle grade book ...
First Sarah has some serious tstl actions. Number one, the walking alone in a wood part, because doing things that adults say you shouldn't do are appealing...
Then there's meeting an older boy in those same woods because so.
Yes, it is vital for the plot, but...
*shakes head*

For me this book has a serious identity crises.
First of all, I don't think this will appeal to the middle grade readers: the writing, the plot, the *oh, there goes my heart!* part. Too cruel for them, I think.
For the YA audience?
They want romance. Thankfully there isn't one in here. There's seeds _really strange seeds considering the characters ages. THE DIFFERENCE! _, but there isn't an actual romance.

Yes, I think we are the most logical target, but once one starts analysing this and that.. *sight*
For instance, there's a part in which we are told that the curse affects the women and the man differently ...but in reality that's not quite so.
Then we have characters who apparently have thousands of years, and I wanted to know more about their lives.
I needed more backstory.

For me this had everything to be a five star book, but I could have used more development in certain parts of the narrative...however, _and especially with the re-read _ I have to say that despite the TSTL moments, and other elements, I ended up "falling" for this book.
And, now I am curious about the author's other works.
106 reviews10 followers
April 25, 2015
I love retellings of Beauty and the Beast, but I disliked Beastkeeper. The premise was great: the prince is cursed to turn into a beast as soon as he falls truly in love for the first time. The curse will only be broken when his true love loves him in return. Sounds great. It wasn't.

This book felt like a rough draft with a loosely sketched-in plot. Dialogue was sparse, broken by pages of description and self-reflection from our heroine, Sarah, a twelve/thirteen year-old.

I didn't like any of the characters. Alan, her "true love" (because of course a thirteen year-old girl's first crush is her "true love") turns out to be a

Also, Alan appears to be around seventeen, but he is possibly thousands of years old. Creeper. Keep in mind that Sarah is still on the cusp of twelve/thirteen.

Parts of the curse made no sense. The heroine's father is just beginning to turn into a beast at the opening of the book, yet supposedly he has been "in love" with his wife since they met twelve years ago. So the curse is slow-acting, it seems. Only when Sarah falls "in love" with Alan, her transformation is instantaneous.

My biggest problem was the way the curse was broken. Why hasn't Sarah's mother broken her father's curse? Because, we are told, "love doesn't last forever." And if she ever falls out of love with him, he turns into a beast again.

Lots of curses here. Lots of unlikable people. A generally unlikable book.
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews288 followers
December 27, 2014

As expected from Cat Hellisen, this novel is a beautifully-written, mesmerizing and strange little book that takes familiar concepts and shapes them into new, original and bizarre forms. Beastkeeper is in all likelihood the most original Beauty and the Beast retelling I've ever read, and probably the most honest, too.

This novel takes the familiar fairy tale and reshapes it from a story of eternal love and idealistic romance, to one of sacrifice and loss where the human heart is at its rawest and most honest and every ugly thing about us that fairy tales ignore is shown. This is being marketed as a children's book, but I'd say it straddles the line between MG and YA, because, like with her riveting debut When the Sea Is Rising Red, Hellisen doesn't shy away from pain, rawness, honesty or brutality, and this one has plenty of those to spare. This might be a fairy tale, but this is hardly a sweet, happily-ever-after sort of story. It's heartbreaking, shocking and it sheds light on the twisted sides of the human condition, on the things we feel and how we act on our emotions, especially the ones that hurt.

The characters are all so interesting, so mesmerizing. Hellisen weaved the feeling of fairy tales into every single aspect of her novel, from the plot to the characters, and even as the story shifts, the characters darken and a bittersweet ending approaches, you are still full of that magical feeling. Through Sarah, an engaging heroine barely more than a child, we see these events unfurl and we feel the magic as it happens through her, we see the wonders and ugliness of this world as she experiences it, and it is so achingly beautiful.

Though this one has Hellisen's signature gorgeous writing slightly toned down for younger audiences, there's still plenty in this story for adults to enjoy and the many lessons it imparts still hit home with an intensity I've never expected from a children's book. This is technically a retelling, but Beastkeeper stands on its own as a thoroughly original and achingly beautiful story that's profound beyond its small size and intended audience. Another lovely book by Hellisen.
Profile Image for Melissa Chung.
904 reviews326 followers
March 4, 2018
A lovely middle-grade fairy-tale.

Sarah (Sarahbear) is a 12 year old girl who lives in a magical world of boxes and new schools. Her mother Merete has raised her on magical stories and fairy-tales. But one day her mother has decided she is done running from Winter. She is afraid of the curse that she knows has been put upon the family and makes a run for it. Meaning she leaves Sarah and her father Leon. Leon is heartbroken. He can't cope with the sadness and sends Sarah to stay with his mother. Sarah finds herself at a broken down castle in the middle of nowhere outside the With-in.

Everyone in her family is cursed. How can Sarah, only a gir, break the spell?

This story is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, being the curse is because of vanity and jealousy.

I really enjoyed the story. If you don't go into this book with expectations it is a really cute story. I loved how horrible the curse was. How selfish the villains were. How Sarah never gave up even though everyone else around her did.

The ending was not what I was hoping for...but then again there was a "happy" ending :D
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,280 reviews1,655 followers
January 16, 2015
For more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

Lately, I’ve been less and less interested in middle grade fiction. It’s been with sadness that I’ve watched a number of YA authors switch to writing middle grades. In fact, I initially thought Beastkeeper was going to be young adult, but alas no. Even so, it was by Cat Hellisen, so fuck yeah I was going to read it anyway. One does not simply skip a Hellisen novel.

Reading Beastkeeper was one hundred percent the correct decision. Cat Hellisen’s writing is absurdly gorgeous. I wish I could roll around in it, but I’d have to dismantle the book which I am unwilling to do. The volume may be slim and look every bit a book for children, but there’s no reason that adults should not appreciate this macabre fairy tale every bit as much as their kids do.

If you’ve not read Hellisen, you probably don’t know, but Hellisen does dark well. Just beautifully. Beastkeeper surprised me with how dark it got for a children’s story. When trying to decide if it’s for you, think of original fairy tales and not their fluffy Disney counterparts. Beastkeeper is in some part a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it hearkens to a number of classic fairy tales.

I’d thought that Beastkeeper was a straight up retelling, but it’s part retelling and part continuation. Sarah is, in fact, the grandchild of the beauty and the beast, her family suffering under their curse yet. Hellisen has put her own spin on the original tale of the beauty and the beast, one that I love, and also played with what happens after true love. Beastkeeper is all about love and humanity. It’s not a love conquers all story.

The titular beastkeeper is Sarah’s sort of love interest. This is not, however, really a romance. I’m glad of that since I don’t ship it. I mean, maybe eventually, but in the confines of this novel, no. Alan’s an interesting figure, but I also don’t really know what to make of him. I’d have liked more about his background. He seems to exist mostly to move plot along, rather than as a strong character.

Additionally, I wanted more of Sarah’s parents. The resolution happens pretty abruptly and I would have liked to find out more about what was going to change after that point. It just ended and I was left wanting more.

Beastkeeper is enchanting and at under 200 pages, there’s really no reason for you not to read it, unless for some strange reason you hate fairy tales.
Profile Image for Ella.
94 reviews39 followers
July 27, 2016
Unconventional but beautifully written.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
624 reviews99 followers
March 16, 2017
A Beauty & the Beast retelling where the girl is the beast? Sign me up now, please and thank you.
Profile Image for Kinsey.
309 reviews7 followers
September 4, 2016
(no spoilers)

To be completely honest I actually finished this book yesterday but kept finding myself staring off into the distance and murmuring 'huh' to myself, so I figured I'd wait to write a review. The first 50 or so pages will probably go down in history as the fastest I've ever fallen in love with a writing style and the very IDEA of the novel is so unique. Honestly this book would've been a perfect five stars if not for a few issues:

1) Clocking in at under 200 pages, I felt like there was a wonderful story that just didn't have quite enough room to grow.

2) Some of the characters that are so integral to the story experience little to no character development, although this could be because of the Narrator's age and lack of awareness.

3) I felt that the ending of the story directly contradicted the "moral" of the fairy tale the Author spent the previous 150+ pages expounding upon.

Despite these issues, I fell in love with the characters and the idea of the novel (even if the end product feels like a severely stripped down version of a longer tale?) and I honestly cannot stop thinking about it!
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,854 reviews30 followers
October 13, 2016
I don't give many one-star ratings. And I don't say this very often about a book--but this was terrible.

Our main character, Sarah, is not particularly likable or believable--within a few pages, she goes from completely normal teenager to being perfectly comfortable with magical forests, talking ravens, and humans-turned-beast--no questions asked. The book reads like she's older than 13, and much of what she says and thinks feels far beyond what a 13-year-old is capable of.

I feel like this started out as a mildly-interesting short story...and then the author decided to make it a novel and added 160 pages of flowery description and pointless character interaction. I'm not exaggerating when I say nothing exciting happens until page 175. And there are only 197 pages.

There's zero character development, the "curse" is never fully explained and is convoluted at best, and the weird time lapse stuff is never explained. Don't even get me started on the ending: completely anti-climactic and contrived. Ugh.
29 reviews11 followers
February 10, 2017
I thought this was an interesting book because the book was very creative. Like what the story was about was fascinating and I like how it was good through out the whole book. I do wish it ended better because it left me with some questions. Otherwise I think this is a good book . This is what I thought about Beastkeeper.
Profile Image for Intisar Khanani.
Author 16 books2,261 followers
May 7, 2015
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

An enjoyable read with twists of both the predictable and the "Wait--what?" variety. For most of the book, it felt like this was a MG book in YA trappings, or maybe the other way around. With a 13 year old protagonist, age actually becomes important towards the end of the book, but for most of it, I kept thinking--she's a bit naive for a YA read, and the writing's a bit advanced for MG. But I definitely enjoyed it. I'm still not sure about how I feel about the ending, including both the death and forgiveness involved, and also the apparent lack of forgiveness. Actually, that last really bothers me. Given that it appears to (maybe?) be for middle graders, I can't like that. If it's for YA readers... well, the way it's written, it's a bit of a stretch to expect YA readers to really stick with it. A few too many tears and holding on to stuffed animals. BUT, it is a fascinating twist on Beauty and the Beast, so if you're a fairy tale lover, pick it up anyway!
Profile Image for Stefani Sloma.
405 reviews120 followers
August 27, 2015
You can read this review and more on my blog, Caught Read Handed.
NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Henry Holt and Co. for letting me read this!

One freezing cold night, Sarah’s mother leaves her and her father. Her father starts to change – he’s lazy, wild, strange, and yes, his hair is out of control. Beastkeeper is said to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it is, but also isn’t. There’s more than one beast, for instance, and Sarah might become one of them. There’s more than one prince, two witches, no rose, no servants. But the main difference is that love doesn’t break the curse – it stimulates it. Beastkeeper is more its own fairy tale than a retelling of another.

It’s been a few days since I finished Beastkeeper and I still can’t stop thinking about how beautifully written it is. It’s simple but descriptive, subtle but not. Here’s one of my favorite passages:
Sarah…wondered what flavor silence was, and if it grew hard and brittle if you threw it away, or if people sometimes stepped on wads of discarded silence and it stuck to the soles of their shoes and made their footfalls softer.” – Location 50, ARC

My favorite thing about the character is the uncertainty of whether they are good or evil - no one is all the way on one side. The characters make choices that end up trapping them or other to their fate. One character’s choice, which is decidedly unwise, and it sets off the chain of events. But other characters react and it continues the chain.

I will say that it took a little too long for Sarah to find out about the curse and to believe in magic. Beastkeeper is a short book, and it took at least a quarter of it for her to accept her fate and to decide she believed. One other thing that was weird was the romance. Sarah is thirteen yet she falls in love and enacts the curse. There’s really no chemistry (especially since he’s kind of a jerk and very obviously thinks of her as a child) or much of a hint that she sees him as anything else as a friend. It was sudden and strange.

The bottom line: Despite these two reservations I listed at the end, I really enjoyed Beastkeeper. The writing was gorgeous and the story was interesting, magical, and dark. Weird romance aside, this one is great.
Profile Image for Valerie.
393 reviews169 followers
May 20, 2015
Are you looking for a wonderful, happy fairy tale? One with a happy ending and all that jazz? Well then, you are in the wrong place! If you thought this would be a cute MG retelling, you are wrong.

Beastkeeper is a nice, quick read about a girl, Sarah, longing for magic, but unfortunately she really doesn't know what she's asking for. Once she encounters it through a family curse, one that turns her grandfather, her father, and even herself into a beast if their first love doesn't love them. After finding that out, after living a semi-normal life, who wouldn't want to go back to being ordinary?

I used to be a huge fan of Newgrounds, a site dedicated to animated shorts and movies. One of the animated movies I watched featured this character, Bitey the last of the Dashkin. So the whole "beast" concept really reminded me of him. Art link on image.

There are a number of aspects I loved about this dark MG, one being that it questions the little things other fairy tales often ignore. How are curses passed down through the family? Who does it affect? What happens if love doesn't last? Is love real if it's only based on outside beauty? Do happy endings actually exist?

The curses in the book all revolve around the two families, and it's fascinating to see how everything weaves together and affects one another. So many coincidences! And it's all up to Sarah to fix everything, which ends up seeming more and more impossible as the story goes on. I did like Sarah, but I was more fixed on the whole story rather than the characters. Though I do want to know more about Alan, even though I may or may not hate him.

Also, guess what? No romance! Don't get me wrong, I love romance sometimes, but I'm just glad this didn't have any because it doesn't need it. And yes it is MG, which is why. The focus was on the plot and the story, and no meaningless fluff was added in to detract from that. My one gripe is that I'm not entirely sure I understood the ending, but that is so typical of me. And also, when does this take place? At first I thought it was in our normal world, but then we were whisked away to this medieval, forest like place which held a lot of magic, and from then on I didn't know when or where.

Beastkeeper was overall, executed very well, and it's a great refreshing take on retellings, even if it isn't exactly a happy one.
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews1,014 followers
January 30, 2016
3.4 stars
Kids in stories are always going where they shouldn’t and discovering hidden treasure and evil plots and unmasking villains.

Beastkeeper is a middle grade fairy tale. But it is not childish but utterly magical. This is a rather short story and I read it in a few hours. But this little story has a mood and an atmosphere. This is not your typical beauty and the beast retelling. Moreover, this book is original in it's own way. You will meet enchanted forest full of magic, speaking ravens,strange grandmothers, frightened beasts and one little brave girl. This book is about friendship, royalty. This book breaks the conman laws of fairy tales and that's why it is original and interesting to read.
But no story ever comes to an end, at least not one so neat. There are voices silenced, characters erased at the storyteller’s whim.” The bird clacked its beak. “They do not tell you what happens when the children have eaten their way through the witch’s treasures and face another starveling winter, when the glass slipper no longer fits the crone’s swollen foot, when the beauty doesn’t fall in love with her beastly prince.”

This is a story about what happens when laws of magic do not work as they should, when there's no hope in the future, when the curse is so tangled that there's no hope to break it and even love has no power in this world.
“People fall out of love slower than they fall in, to be sure, but there’s the story no one wants to tell. It’s dull. Boring. The good ones don’t always win. Nothing lasts forever.”

This story is utterly nice. Read it on your own or with your children. Yes, it is not all sunshine and butterflies but it is a fairy tale and you will find your happy ending on the last pages - bitter one - but still...
66 reviews32 followers
November 14, 2015
I adore this.
Like, ah. door. I'm going to be throwing it at my teens' heads when they come into the library like "READ IT. READ IT AND LOVE IT AND LEARN WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN/WOMAN."

These days I feel like I rarely come across authors who genuinely love language, who understand theoretically simple but often tricksy devices that can be abused or over-used, like metaphor, and who treat words with respect, finesse, and care. Cat Hellisen does. She gets it; she has a beautiful relationship with this crazy language.

The story itself is a fairy tale in the Grimm tradition -- instantly classic, dark, inspiring, achingly beautiful. Hellison's variety of otherness is whimsical and melancholic, reminiscent, in places, of J.M. Barrie, but still her own; barest traces of the familiar -- of Rapunzel, Rose Red, Beauty and her Beast -- come through, but they are faint and fleeting, leaving this tale wholly original.

In this modern quest, "you can't lift curses with kisses," the prince is a loyal slave who makes a mistake that is in no way charming, and "love is fickle," anyway. Our heroine, thirteen-year-old Sarah, falls in and out of love herself within pages, yet there's nothing off-putting or immature about it; her emotional evolution occurs naturally within the plot.
Speaking of growing, the character development in this novel is spot-on for everyone involved; as our understanding of the curse and the family's history evolves, so does each character's involvement, motive, personality, and fatal flaw become more evident.

Sarah starts off as a child balancing on the brink [and I do mean see-sawing between the two worlds; it's painfully sweet] between child- and adulthood;
sometimes when she woke in the dark she would play little games with herself--games that she knew she should have already outgrown, so she never spoke of them to anyone. They were silly, childish things, and she knew enough to understand that there was no admitting to silly childish things when you were past a certain age.

When she meets Alan, the boy/spirit of the forest, she begins to understand the way her classmates ogle their celebrity crushes and gush over eyes, muscles, hair, etc.; she's not sure she likes the sensation, or the new comprehension, but it's there nonetheless.
By the end of the story, she has proven herself more mature, more courageous, and more aware of the workings of the world -- both the real realm and the magical -- than any of the adults in her family, for whose faults she is paying, and whose mistakes she is fixing. She is an excellent female character, curious, determined, good-hearted, strong-willed, and utterly sympathetic; Sarah is one of few female protagonists read in recent memory with whom I have not become disgusted.

Readers have the opportunity to think about and learn so much from this little book. Middle graders will surely enjoy this particular twist on a fairy tale, high school students will sigh and nod in commiseration when Sarah realizes that people don't just stay in love forever and that sometimes you have to save yourself, and more mature readers will be astounded at the profound, feel-it-in-your-gut-right wisdom included in these pages [in the most nondidactic, sneaky, not-preachy, natural way possible], like--
Wronging those who have wronged you makes nothing right, and curses only beget more curses, but forgiveness will wipe out that curse.
A person's pride will eventually destroy them.
Rage, jealousy, selfishness, and vanity are overcome by courage, love, wit, and faith.
Being small does not make you weak.
Self-sacrifice is possibly the truest measure of love.

There are just so many excellent one-liners to be pulled from this, and I haven't even talked about the setting [includes The Forest. because all forests are united, they all 'remember' histories and one another and they are all pieces of a great Whole -- what a fabulous fantasy world-building concept, right? sort of Narnia-ish], or the awesome, horrible witch-grandmothers who are more than they seem, or the juxtaposition of Sarah's old life with her new reality, which is handled remarkably well.

This short novel demands readers to consider the question of what makes us human, what makes us any different from the birds and the beasts, and then, when we have confronted a few hard truths about humanity, the book answers itself beautifully.
I loved it, I hope you love it, the end.
Profile Image for Karissa.
3,972 reviews195 followers
December 29, 2014
I got a copy of this book through NetGalley to review. This was an absolutely wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I loved the writing style, there was wonderful description here and wonderful characters.

Sarah has a mother who hates the cold and constantly has their family chasing summer from one location to the next. When Sarah’s mother finally walks out on her and her father, the family is thrown into discord. Sarah’s father becomes more and more unkempt and reclusive and eventually decides that Sarah should go and live with her grandmother in an old abandoned castle. There Sarah finds that her family is twisted with curses upon curses.

This was such a creative way to retell this fairy tale and is the best retelling of The Beauty and the Beast that I have read. This book is set in modern day but has a distinctly gothic and fairy tale feel to it. The story is moody and dark, very atmospheric. The writing style just fits a dark fairy tale like this so well.

Sarah has been through trial after trial and her sadness taints the whole story. Yet coupled with her sadness and loneliness is a determination to make things right. When she meets a mysterious boy who is strangely old , she finds help in unraveling the sad history of her family.

Sarah has to unravel curse upon curse to untwist the sadness that has damaged her family so severely. On her journey she meets talking animals, evil sorceresses, enchanted castles, and a forest filled with magic.

This is a melancholy story filled with beautifully lyrical writing. There is beauty and hope hidden underneath all the sadness and loneliness. I really loved the atmosphere of the story and the clever way that curses and fairy tale elements were woven together to write a story with many twists and turns,

This was a quick stand alone read that was a joy to read and absolutely stunning.

Overall I adored this creative and beautifully written retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I loved the writing style and beautiful description throughout. I loved the determined and sad heroine who fought to make things right. I loved the magic and curses and the fairy tale feel the whole story had to it. Highly recommended especially to those who love lyrical writing and fairy tale retellings.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
778 reviews38 followers
June 16, 2015
You guys, this book. With its fairy tale vibe, it's so very much the kind of story I loved to read when I was in middle school and high school, without seeming dated. It was a solid four stars until the end, and then it just hit the perfect note, somber and hopeful, and I just want to smoosh-hug it forever.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
304 reviews21 followers
September 22, 2015
The book was fairly good. The rushed ended rather ruined the story.
I love fairy tale retellings. This one was good, up to the last 1/5 of the book.
3 reviews
October 26, 2017
This book is about curses that Sarah has to break before she turns into a beast. My emotions for this book can’t be described.

I enjoyed this book; I give this book a five star because it is about family and rescuing which makes it interesting. Spoiler Alert: Sarah moves in with her grandmother and tries to stop the curses makes this interesting on how she is going to stop the curses reaching to her. I gave this book a five star because through the novel Sarah’s emotions are shown which made me want to read more on how her emotions are going to change.

This book shows so many emotions and it is fun to see them change or express their thoughts. The emotions describe Sarah which makes the book full of Sarah’s thoughts since she is the main character. The book to me is described as strong emotions, kindhearted, and unstoppable. Sarah establishes all of these! This book if fun to read and I highly recommend it for someone else who likes books about family or rescuing. We see Sarah growing in the book, so we see her emotions and likes change. I love this book and will highly recommend it to people who like books similar to this one!
Profile Image for Mary.
146 reviews81 followers
October 17, 2014
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. And so I am honestly reviewing it.

Beastkeeper and I got off on the wrong foot a little bit. It was a bit hard for me to engage in the story because of the main character, Sarah. Luckily, she grows quite a bit by the end of the story but I still have some caveats about liking her.

The story is a tale as old as time. (Sorry. Not sorry.) It's a mid-grade retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a few spins on it. Sarah's family has been cursed because both grandparents are incredibly vain and super into themselves. So the second her grandfather falls in love with her grandmother, like truly and really, he'll turn into a beast until her grandmother learns to love him. Then he'll be human again.

But love, above all else, is fickle.

The curse is passed down through generations, so the second Sarah falls in love, she'll turn into a beast too. So she wants to break the curse because duh.


The plot is fairly straight-forward. Sarah's mother leaves one day, her father goes into blind mourning and forgets to take care of his daughter, and then daughter goes to live with grandparents at a castle that she always thought were dead.

I did have a bit of problem with Sarah's father completely forgetting about his daughter. I understand that it sucks when your significant other leaves you, but you've got a daughter. I don't know. I don't have kids and plan on never having children, so I'm not sure what that love feels like, but I'm guessing it's pretty strong.

HOWEVER! He was turning into a beast, so there's that.

Also, without giving too much away, the book gets a solid star just for the last twenty percent. The author didn't shy away from showing the darker side of love and devotion. It was beautiful and there is one very specific point, one very specific line, that made me go from "This is alright" to "Holy shit this is a good book."

The author handles the learning to love, learning to forgive, and learning to let go with brutal honesty. This is a mid-grade book, but it doesn't treat its younger audience like they're mindless or too young to hear some hard truths.



I really liked Sarah at the end of the book, but she was the reason that it took me so long to get through the first half of the book. I understand this is a mid-grade book, but one of the biggest reasons I was a bit sucked out in the first half is because Sarah just comes to accept magic WAY too quickly. She also comes to conclusions very easily without a ton of knowledge beforehand.

There's a talking white raven and she's just okay with it because she's in "shock." Yes, alright, leaving your parents is very traumatizing, I understand that, but after being in an absolutely magic free environment and then having a conversation with a white raven and being totally cool with that?

I suppose I would have just liked a bit more time acclimatizing to magic. There is a portion where she thinks it's all a trick, but that's the day after she gets into the castle. So she's already seen a talking white raven and a beast stuck in a cage.

Other than that, Sarah just wants her family back, as any young girl would. She's willing to go to any lengths to accomplish that.


Is a bitch. I don't know how else to describe her. She was content to place her husband in a too small cage because he was a beast and only fed him. That's literally all the interaction she had with him because if she left him, she would die.

I'm still not sure WHY she put him in a cage, except that maybe she thought he would eat her, but that's a pretty large leap in logic.

Also, she was more than happy to let her granddaughter die in the cold.


Perhaps the most nuanced character in the book. Alan has a sort of Puck the Fairy vibe going on. He's a boy in the forest and speaks in riddles to Sarah. I won't ruin anything, but he's the reason I love this book.

Also, minor spoiler:

Alan is such a nice character, but he doesn't get that way until the end. And I'm not going to spoil that for you because that ending is beautiful.

The White Raven

Also very reminiscent of Puck the Fairy but far more selfish than Alan.

Again, ending. No spoiling.

The book as a whole reminded me a lot of Once Upon a Marigold, but far less happy. Which is good. I love Once Upon a Marigold.

So I would definitely recommend this book. Just don't expect a "clean" happily ever after.
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