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The Beast Is an Animal

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A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

352 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 7, 2017

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About the author

Peternelle van Arsdale

5 books352 followers
Peternelle van Arsdale is a young adult novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Her first novel, THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL, is being developed for a feature film by Amazon Studios, produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and directed by Bert & Bertie. Her second novel, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES has been described as a "dark, magic-infused story lit by bravery and hope." (Booklist) She lives in Brooklyn, where she is at work on her third novel. Visit her at http://peternellevanarsdale.com.

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5 stars
740 (18%)
4 stars
1,305 (33%)
3 stars
1,263 (32%)
2 stars
455 (11%)
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132 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 841 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,096 reviews17.7k followers
September 29, 2020
This review can be split in two: the first half and the second half. The first half is a solid 4 stars. The second half is 2 stars.

The first half of this book is a claustrophobic, well-written, suspenseful tale of witches in the Middle Ages, with magical realism thrown in. The plotting is a bit slow, but there's a bite of tension in the air, just enough dramatic tension interwoven that it is impossible to look away. This sort of fantasy-suspense combination is honestly my favorite genre and if you're looking for that please look no further.

I appreciated the portrayal of how religion can be co-opted into hate. This is a recurring theme throughout the book; how a combination of religion and self-righteousness lead to destruction. Alys was a believable, likable heroine in the first half. She's desperately afraid of becoming a monster, and her arc seems to glow with potential.
Perhaps this was one of the things that had made her so different all along– that she saw the truth of things. That beauty could sometimes be ugly, and that you didn't always find good and evil where you expected to– or where you'd been told to find them.

Unfortunately, quite a lot went downhill in the second half.

This book tossed me straight into instalove hell. Cian isn't a bad romantic interest. As a couple, their relationship was perfectly fine and healthy. It would've been fine had Cian only shown up earlier in the book. And had he not overwhelmed the plot towards the end. This should be Alys' story, not Cian's. That's what the book has been since the beginning.

I also didn't love how the romance was the only source of character development. Alys' character arc in the second half revolves around her romance. It's subtle, but it really irked me.

When you mix these character worries with a slightly anti-climactic end, I ended up really disappointed. I don't not recommend this, but I'm honestly not sure I'd highly recommend it either.

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October 8, 2022
Haunting, creepy and fascinating. I loved it!

A supernatural story about a Beast fabled to be the ruler of the Soul-eaters, twin sisters who are part of the forest and live in the trees who float into villages at night and sing to lure adults to the forest in order to eat their souls. Alys is the one child who was found awake in her town the first time the Soul-eaters struck. This was before they began luring people into the forest, at that point they came into the town, killing all adults in their beds and leaving all the children in some sort of bewitched sleep. Though Alys was wandering in a field because she couldn’t sleep so she saw the sisters who were not interested in her because she was a child and had no fear to feed on.

Though this is a horror story and is about the Beast and the Soul-eaters, I think the true Beasts or Villains in the story are the so-called pious townspeople who take in Alys and the Orphans from the village where all the adults are killed. They act like they are doing such a good thing for these kids all along while meanwhile they treat them like slaves, and use the kid, since they were left alone, while the adults hide themselves away from the Soul-eaters.

“The lot of them act like they don’t shit brown and through their arseholes the same as the rest of us. But we know different, don’t we girl?” Pawl nudged Alys with his elbow. She withdrew her own.

I loved the story and the many themes within such as witchcraft, circa Salem witch trials, supernatural figures, and more!

Profile Image for Ninoska Goris.
269 reviews162 followers
August 17, 2018
English - Español

This book has a simply perfect cover and an interesting synopsis, but the name has little to do with it. The beast almost doesn't appear and it isn't as you think.

Our protagonist and narrator for the most part is Alys, when she was seven years old she sees the twins known as the "soul eaters". These girls ate the souls of all the adults of Gwenith the village where she lived, only leaving the children alive and sleeping. These are moved to Defaid the nearest village, but in this village the twins are feared a lot or as they call them "the daughters of the beast" and how these children came from a village destroyed by the soul eaters, consequently these children aren't very well seen and are accepted under strict rules.

The Elders, the ones who govern Defaid, decide to build gates around the perimeter of the village and will be watch at nights by the children of Gwenith. Then when Alys is sixteen she sees something that shouldn't and everything changes.

The romance, well I didn't like it. Is completely unnecessary for the story and a bit like insta love in an ancient era. I did not believe it.

I loved all the characters, even the bad ones because they are well founded. The problem: since it starts is the same and the same and more of the same and gets boring. At the end I was sleeping every several lines and so I finished it. A bit like to the bad.

Because of this book, I'm gonna upgrade my rate of Without Merit to three stars. Definetely is better than this.


Este libro tiene una portada simplemente perfecta y una sinopsis interesante, pero el nombre tiene poco que ver. La bestia casi no aparece y no es como se piensa.

Nuestra protagonista y narradora de la mayor parte es Alys, cuando tenía siete años ve a las gemelas conocidas como las "come almas". Estas niñas se comieron las almas de todos los adultos de Gwenith la villa donde vivía, solo dejando vivos y durmiendo a los niños. Estos son trasladados a Defaid la villa más cercana, pero en esta villa se teme mucho a las gemelas o como ellos le dicen "las hijas de la bestia" y como estos niños vinieron de una villa arrasada por las come almas, por consiguiente estos niños no son muy bien vistos y son aceptados bajo reglas estrictas.

Los Mayores, que son los que gobiernan Defaid, deciden construir unas rejas en todo el perímetro del pueblo para y que sean vigiladas de noche por los niños de Gwenith. Luego cuando Alys tiene dieciséis ve algo que no debía y todo cambia.

Otra cosa que no me gustó es el romance, del todo innecesario para la historia y un poco como insta love en una época antigua. No me lo creí.

Me encantaron todos los personajes, incluso los malos porque están bien fundados. El problema: desde que comienza es lo mismo y lo mismo y más de lo mismo y llega a aburrir. Ya al final me estaba durmiendo cada varias líneas y así lo terminé. Un poco como a la mala.

Por este libro, voy a subir a tres estrellas al libro Without Merit. Definitivamente es mejor
Profile Image for Meli.
628 reviews407 followers
September 18, 2021
¿Premisa? Increíble
¿Narración? Fantástica
¿Ambientación y atmósfera? Impecables
¿Y la trama? ¡¡Doña, vuelva que se olvidó de la trama!!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews843 followers
March 24, 2017
Gaaaahhhh. This was so good! What did I just read? I'm mystified and intrigued by this story. It has an original fairy tale vibe to it. It was wonderful!

***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

What I Liked:

The Beast Is an Animal is one of the strangest and most intriguing books I've read in a long time. It's one of those books that made me think, what in the world did I just read? But in a good way. From the start, I was hooked into the story and there was no stopping until I knew how it ended. I haven't seen a lot of my fellow blogging peers read this one (yet), but I certainly hope that changes, because this book is one for the ages.

Alys was seven years old when she saw the soul eaters - the night they found her wandering in the fields, and left her alone. The next morning, every single adult in her village was dead, but all the children were alive and sleeping. Alys and the other children of Gwenith are taken to Defaid, where the Elders allow them to live, but keep them under strict rule. The children of Gwenith are charged with guarding Defaid's new Gate, to watch for the evil soul eaters. Alys has never feared the soul eaters. In fact, she has seen them many times since that night when she was seven - and she has seen the Beast too. The Beast has spoken with her, and warns her that the soul eaters must be stopped. Alys must find a way to stop them before even more people are hurt.

This book has a fairy tale vibe to it. This story could fit right in with Grimm's Fairy Tales, or some of the classic, old fairy tales that we all know and love. It has a mystical, creepy atmosphere to it, which a lot of the original fairy tales had. It's not a cutesy, happy story. It's dark and heartbreaking, but there a hopeful tone to it, especially towards the end.

The story is written in third-person, limited to Alys's POV, and occasionally, a short narration of the soul eaters' wanderings. Having this story told in third-person was the best way to go about it, because it added to the dark fairy tale vibe. There is a Beast, and there are creepy soul eaters that are never satisfied. I am glad that van Arsdale gave us their backstory as well, to see how they grew to be what they became.

I liked Alys a lot, and my heart ached for her during the story. Her parents die, she is taken to an unfamiliar place with rigid rules and cold, harsh people, and she and her Gwenith peers are isolated from each other. Alys and the others live in Defaid for about nine years, and then things change. So about half the story takes place from Alys being seven to Alys being sixteen. This lengthy period of time is so necessary to understanding Alys, and seeing how she grows. She fears a darkness in her, a darkness that she didn't always have.

The story was so engrossing and intriguing, and there was no way I was going to put the book down until I was finished. It went by very quickly, especially since I was so hooked. I was alternating between biting my nails and turning pages, because things started to get intense pretty quickly. Life in Defaid is cruel, and life outside of Defaid isn't much better, though it's definitely not worse. When Alys finally leaves Defaid, she finds a little comfort, but she is still trying to understand a darkness that hangs over her head.

There is a little romance that gets stronger towards the end of the book! I thought Alys and her boy were adorable together. Cian is so happy and good, and Alys is cautious and hardened from years of folding in on herself and letting no one in. The two of them are complete opposites, and yet they are exactly what each other needs. The romance is in the background and it's very subtle. The pair don't even meet until about halfway into the story, so don't think that the romance is the biggest part of the story (because it isn't). And yet, it's one of the few sweet and hopeful parts of the book.

I don't even want to begin to describe what starts to go down in this book, as it gets closer to the end! You'll have to read it to really understand. There are wonderful people and awful people in this story, and there are terrible parts and heartwarming parts. I was really satisfied with the story overall, as well as the character development, the romance, and the ending. The ending wrapped up so perfectly and neatly and I have no complaints about that.

What I Did Not Like:

I don't think I have anything specific to complain about, really! This one isn't quite a five-star read for me (those are reserved for new favorites), but it's good and I'm very pleased.

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book for those who love fantasy, or fairy tales, or retellings, or any of those types of stories that involve a stretch of the imagination. This story belongs among the classic fairy tales, the fantasy stories that you hear about centuries later. It is dark and intriguing, with a somewhat creepy tone to it. And yet, it is hopeful and powerful too.


4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I am very glad that I took a chance on this book, despite knowing nothing about it before reading it. I sort of can't believe it's only van Arsdale's debut - she is such a wonderful writer! I look forward to reading more books by her.
October 26, 2019
A proud DNF. But I'll award it 5 starting stars just for the benefit of the doubt.
-1 star for the powers being so fucking secret they were kept confidential, all right, even from the reader. Whip up some NDA, fast, so that we wouldn't disclose the scraps that we learned about this sensitive subject. Oh, wait, we learned nothing about it! If the powers are such a big deal, maybe they could've been detailed out in some way? Also, the Beast, what was up with it?
-1 star for all the 'ash this' 'ash that' going on.
-1 star for the way too simple language. It did nothing good for the book.
-1 star for the dragged out plot and nothing going anywhere and/or making much sense. Like, how the villagers just thought that maybe, if they expel the girls, it might rain before winter. What the fuck for? You don't get foodstuffs grown during the course of just autumn so it would have been plenty pointless.
Or the gals' wolf debacle. What, you just open a bunch of doors and wolves are going to just come in and feast on whatever they might find?
+1 star for the retelling-ish concept. Well, it didn't work for me all that much.
So, 2 stars if the overall rating.
Profile Image for Geo Marcovici.
1,285 reviews299 followers
August 20, 2020
Translation widget on The blog!!!
Un roman dark fantasy cu accente de thriller, mult suspans și pericole. Ne arată cât de speriați pot fi oamenii de ceea ce nu cunosc, cât rau pot face celor din jur doar de teama de a nu păți ei ceva. O lectură stranie și incitantă în același timp. Eterna luptă dintre bine și rău.
Recenzia mea completă o găsiți aici:
Profile Image for Tala .
192 reviews90 followers
March 1, 2017

THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL has officially been crowned as "Nina's First Five Stars of 2017".

Yes, that is a thing. (Or at least, now it is. Shhh.)

It's been quite a long time since I've loved a book this much.

A very, VERY long time. Really. The last 5 stars I gave before this one was Crooked Kingdom, and I read that in November.


What is this. This is unacceptable.

As you can probably imagine, my relief at finally finding a fabulous book (look at that alliteration. I'M ON A ROLL) worthy of shoving into friends' faces is enormous. Enormous, I say.

I mean, really. How could I not give this all the stars? It's everything I wanted it to be. Everything.

More elaboration, you ask? Coming right up. Via a list. That's just how I roll.

- The writing style is delightfully poetic. And I simply adore poetic styles. Lines are quotable. Action scenes flow. Descriptions are vivid. Van Arsdale's writing style reminds me of Marie Rutkoski, (and everyone knows how much I love Rutkoski), and that's saying something BIG.
If I was the type to highlight lines I like in books, know that THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL would have resembled my college textbooks.

-The subject matter is daaark. I mean, soul-eaters? YES PLEASE. (to read about, mind you, not be killed by *shudders*) The synopsis is creepy. The setting is creepy. Even the cover is creepy. I love this, I do. BRING ON THE CREEPINESS, PLEASE.

-The pace, though admittedly slow, is captivating. No, this isn't fast-paced. At all. And please, do be aware of this, because if you're expecting epic fight scenes and action sequences, they aint coming. This is not that kind of book. The slow-mo pace builds up the suspense though, so the finale is, indeed, epic. It's a 'wait for it' kind of story. So wait for it. You won't be disappointed.

-The atmosphere feels almost like a fairytale. It starts off with the birth of two twin sisters, Angelica and Benedicta, who are -you guessed it- soul eaters. And they scare people. And suck their souls. And continue on their way. I cannot stress how enjoyable their story is. Really, I cannot. WHERE HAS THIS BOOK BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

So, all in all? Can you tell how much I loved it? YOU SHOULD. This was amazing. Amazing. Dark and gritty, magical and captivating, THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL will simultaneously thrill you, excite you, and most importantly, SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU (I'm here for this last part, and I hope you are too).

Thank you, Simon and Schuster, for sending me an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,740 reviews711 followers
February 26, 2017
I was 100% in on this book. I loved the cover and the synopsis and yet I literally have no idea what I just read.

I liked Alys well enough. She's smart and curious and cares for the people around her. There were several other characters, but no one really stood out.

The story line was a bit too vague. I spent a good portion of the beginning feeling like I was dropped in the middle of s story. Nothing was explained, yet it seemed like I was already supposed to know the backstory.

I'm giving it two stars because something compelled me to keep reading. It is quite atmospheric and I did enjoy parts of the story, but overall, nothing made sense to me.

**Huge thanks to McElderry Books and Edelweiss for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,746 reviews6,672 followers
March 31, 2017
The Beast Is an Animal is a young-adult fantasy novel written by Peternelle van Arsdale. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The writing is simple and the theme felt fantastically dark like all of the best fairy-tales are. It was engaging, suspenseful, creepy, scary, unfair, with a setting that felt very historical. I loved the heroine in this book. Her character was surprisingly complex and I felt a great deal for her and her situation. The ending could have been a bit more climactic in my opinion but overall, an excellent debut novel. Check it out!

My favorite quote:
"This was happiness. This was what it felt like to be happy. To be grateful for your own skin and bones. To believe you had a place in the world and you were loved completely – all parts of you, light and dark. And to love someone back – completely."
Profile Image for Chelsea.
316 reviews2,793 followers
November 1, 2018
This eerie little fairytale doesn’t really fall into any sort of category. The writing is unlike anything else in the YA or MG market. The plot depicts blind ignorance of middle aged religion vs witchcraft perfectly and builds up a lot of dramatic tension about the soul eaters. But I wouldn’t say that it feels dark. Told through the eyes of an adolescent, the story has more of a magical coming of age feel to it than a witch hunt. I can’t really express the feeling I had while reading it, but it was damn magic. I ate up this writing and these characters and couldn’t wait to get back. The only thing keeping it from a five star rating is that the ending seemed a bit anti-climatic. I don’t know why this book isn’t talked about more, it deserves so much credit.
Profile Image for Billie.
930 reviews79 followers
August 23, 2016
Using simple but evocative language, Arsdale weaves a dark fairy tale with a heroine and a Beast who are neither as simply good or simply evil as such characters in these stories often are. There's a love story (but not with the Beast--this is not a Beauty and the Beast re-telling), but it doesn't really enter the narrative until close to the end and never devolves into some lurid love triangle or angsty drama.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this was the way even the soul eaters were given backstory and made sympathetic. They weren't evil to start with, but were made that way by the assumptions of those around them and the stories that were told about them.

This is, ultimately, a story about story and how the tales we tell about ourselves and others shape who we and they become.
Profile Image for Ivka.
375 reviews116 followers
April 16, 2017
Nečakajte nejaký mega strašidelný horor, z ktorého vám budú vstávať vlasy dupkom. Netvor je zver je niečo ako creepy rozprávka o dobre a zle. Keď má Alys 7 rokov, všetkých dospelých v jej dedine vysajú požieračky duší, Alys a zvyšné deti odídu žiť do susednej osady a dedinčania, ktorí sa ich boja, si z nich urobia nočných strážcov na ohrade okolo dediny. Príbeh potom preskočí o pár rokov na momenty, keď má Alys 12 a 15.

Alys sa ale nedokáže stotožniť s ustráchanými dedinčanmi - naopak sa cíti dobre v lese (respektíve lesse, lebo autorke prídu zdvojené hlásky strašne cool), ktorého sa celá dedina bojí. A tu prichádza tá rozprávková metafora. Je less zlý? Zrodili by sa v ňom požieračky duší, keby sa ľudia lessa nebáli? Čo ak Netvor, monštrum, ktoré lessu vládne, vlastne nie je tvor... ale niečo iné? Väčšina príbehu tejto knihy sa skrýva medzi riadkami a pri druhom čítaní som ho vnímala úplne inak.

Autorka píše tak príjemne poeticky a aj keď väčšinu knihy Alys v podstate len zíza do tmy, úplne z toho sála tá atmosféra zimy a chladu a prechádzky po lese... Jediná moja výhrada je koniec, ktorý mohol byť viac dramatický. Myslím, že to nie je kniha pre každého - nie je akčná ani v duchu toho, čo vo fantasy momentálne vychádza - ale pokiaľ máte radi také pomalé atmosférické chuťovky, smelo do toho. 8/10
Profile Image for Miguel.
239 reviews
February 9, 2017
Remember last year's immensely magnificent, where-did-this-book-come-from Uprooted? I knew from the synopsis alone that it was going to be an fantasy of epic proportions but still I was blown away with how goooood it was. This year's breakout fantasy comes in a more subtle albeit still epic tale called The Beast Is An Animal.

The story starts off with a very creepy, myth-like origin story of the soul eaters - who are in the form of orphaned twin girls. And our protagonist, little 7-year old Alys encounters them for the first time while she was awake and her whole village was asleep. Long story short, the soul eaters come for the adults and spare the children. And there's another supernatural being - the Beast, which they believe is the ruler of their world.

As the story progresses, Alys grows from a child to a teenager and discovers her secret talent that she can tell no one - for fear of being tried as a witch. She also feels connected to the soul eaters and the Beast.  What in the world is Alys?

Right off the bat, The Beast Is An Animal earns major points for me for taking the YA Supernatural/Witch genre and twisting it into this original and refreshing tale. I'm quite picky when it comes to anything supernatural/fantasy so kudos to the author for delivering all the goods!

Another thing I loved about this book is the simple yet effective storytelling. You know how in most fantasies the author tries to use glittery words to describe places and objects just give it that good 'ole magical vibe? Well, I'm not a fan of that lol. And this book is no purple prose. It was like reading a children's fairytale - only way creepier.

And the characters! Man, do I love the cast of characters in this book. Of course, my favourite would have to be Alys. She was absolutely fantastic and I also really geeked out on the part where she uses her secret gift (*wink*). I also quite surprisingly liked the soul eaters. They were creepy antagonists but at the same time they're only humans who were shunned by the world. There's a sense of realism and identification with the characters even though it's set in a fantasy world.


You should totally read this book before the year ends. It's a must, it's a hit, and it's freaking good.
Profile Image for Scrill.
408 reviews205 followers
April 8, 2017
The beast is an animal
Hear it scratch upon your door
It sucks your soul then licks the bowl
And sniffs around for more
The beast is an animal
It has a pointy chin
It eats you while you sleep at night
Leaves nothing but your skin!

So, first of all, this book doesn’t really have a lot to do with the beast. I mean…it’s in it yes, but I’m not sure why it’s the title subject to be honest. Second of all, it drags on and is sort of boring. As a whole, the story is sort of good, but the pitch was just, ZZZZzzzzzz.

So this story follows a little girl named Alys. She’s seen the soul eaters and even the beast and feels a connection with them. After the soul eaters ravage her village leaving just children, she and her fellow survivors take refuge in the next town over. There the new village lives in fear of the soul eaters and Alys grows up knowing she is different, that maybe she is just like the soul eaters that killed her parents and have been killing her friends.

I liked the idea of this gated up village that the children take refuge in. It really gave me the same vibe that M Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” gave me. All these God fearing people keeping close tabs on people, controlling them, shaming Alys for being different - all the while there’s this monster lurking in the woods that only hurt people when they’re misbehaving.

The characters themselves were great too. The problem with the book was just that there was so much time spent creating the world, talking about the characters and building up to this point in the story that ended pretty anti climatically. The whole time we get to hear Alys talk about how she thinks she might be bad, when really she’s just being this good timid little girl.

I am not sure what I was expecting really. I was hoping it would at least have something exciting. Unfortunately, the ending was quite like the beginning and middle – drawn out. By the time I finished, I thought to myself, great, finally!

Profile Image for Maťa.
1,105 reviews16 followers
July 1, 2017

Wow! Tak toto bolo niečo! Určite jedno z najväčších prekvapení tohoto roka (príjemná zmena po toľkých sklamaniach).
Malo to skvelé postavy, príbeh, ešte lepšiu atmosféru a skrátka to bola krásna temná rozprávka :)
Profile Image for Jenny Baker.
1,286 reviews194 followers
December 9, 2016
I first heard about The Beast is an Animal from a Simon and Schuster newsletter when they announced a reading study they were doing with Jelly Books. All participants could select an eBook from a list of six books. I was torn between this one and The Diabolic. Both sounded intriguing, but this one sounded like it might be more enjoyable and I loved the cover. Now that I've finished the book, I wish I had selected The Diabolic.

I loved the story concept and at first the story was engaging, so I thought I was going to love this novel. The storytelling quickly became incredibly boring to the point where I just didn't care what happened. When I got to the middle of the book, I started skimming it just so I could finish the reading study. I have some better books waiting for me and I just want to get started on them.

Here's the Goodreads summary of this book, which you can also read here.

A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

I'm so disappointed. Granted, I should never judge a book by its cover, but look how beautiful that cover is! Doesn't it look like it would be a beautiful and engaging story? Well, it wasn't. The story is just poorly executed. Some people loved this book, but this just wasn't for me.

Author 4 books295 followers
January 5, 2017
This is a spooky, gorgeously dark fairy tale that lures you deeper and deeper in, like you're chasing something through its pages. A lot of YA novels are about a girl lost in the forest of her teenage years, and struggling to understand her heart. This one has the courage to suggest that there may be some scary things lurking in there. At the outset of the novel, seven-year-old Alys is mysteriously spared when a pair of not-quite-human, soul-eating twin sisters ravage her town and leave everyone else for dead. She suspects the sisters let her live because she's like them somehow and, as she gets older, she is both appalled and intrigued by the possibility. Alys is taken in by the citizens of a nearby town, only to find it's a puritanical place gripped with fear of the soul-eaters and a terrifying figure they call simply The Beast. She is tasked with helping stand guard against the very forces she feels growing inside herself. "The Beast is an Animal" is a surprising, highly original work—much more like Hawthorne than a Disney-fied retelling of some classic fairy tale. Van Arsdale's sentences are elegant and timeless, and her novel gets weirder and more visceral as it goes. You're going to want to follow Alys into the woods.
Profile Image for Jill.
546 reviews801 followers
April 17, 2017

The main reason why I didn't enjoy this book was probably because I've been in such a terrible reading slump lately. I didn't like really any of the characters. The romance was literally so cringe worthy and was too fast and just unneeded. This book was creepy and definitely felt like a fairytale. But meh I just really wasn't a fan. I just could not connect with the story at alllllll.
Profile Image for Pamela.
152 reviews
March 25, 2017
I read this book early on and am still thinking about it today. I don’t typically read fairy tales or fables or even much YA, but this book by Peternelle van Arsdale made me want to rethink all of that. The Beast Is an Animal opened up a world to me, its world, yes, magnificently, and also a world of thought and of reading options I might not have considered before.

The main character Alys feels things and we feel things alongside her. The weather changes, and we experience snow melting, the way the air feels, and what it’s like for Alys to move through her landscape and her life. The author writes so WELL, with such exquisite precision and ease. It’s not often I feel as swept away as I was by the first few paragraphs of any novel. But this one. This one. READ IT. It’s a slam dunk if you’re looking for something that feels easy to read (a relief, really, because it’s so beautiful) and it’s a sure thing if you want something that offers complexity of thought at the same time. Yikes, I want to say so much more but I don’t want to spoil it for any of you.

I'll say this: The novel went beyond a run of the mill story of good versus evil. It made me think about the struggles I used to hear from clients in my therapy office… people wondering aloud, am I good? or bad? or different? The Beast Is an Animal made me consider the ways in which we all wrestle with our selfhood. It made me feel love and grace and curiosity and oh my god is it possible to make someone feel bleakness without making things bleak because the author did that. There’s not a single character in the story written in one dimension. Alys is a character I will come back to in my mind. And her story is one I would read again, this story or another Alys tale if there is one. Someone please tell me there is one.

Second Review:

When I first read The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale, I wrote a Goodreads review in a flurry of excitement. I wrote passionately and flew through my thoughts and impressions in an effort to capture how thrilled I felt, how impressed, how bowled over. I felt so sure of it, so convinced this beautiful novel would move other readers the way it had moved me, but I knew, too, that a reader should sit with a book, to wait, to see if it sticks, to find out whether it continues to feel meaningful.

Time has passed, and I can promise that The Beast Is an Animal holds up over time, significantly so. I’m as excited about it today as I was months ago, having found myself thinking about it and marveling over it long past the original reading. I’ve recommended it to friends, family, strangers, and to young and not so young readers. This book falls into the YA category, but isn’t limited in any way. Readers of any age will be absorbed by it.

In The Beast Is an Animal, you’ll find suspense, a dark creepiness, a deep sense of seeking and searching, a feeling of what it’s like to look out at the world and then inside oneself and to fear what you might find. You’ll experience the atmosphere and the landscape through Peternelle van Arsdale’s exquisite writing. You’ll feel it. You’ll luxuriate in it and you’ll notice something worshipful about the experience. Read it and tell me if it feels as beautiful, even holy, to you as it does to me.
Profile Image for Sheila G.
506 reviews96 followers
April 13, 2017
Alys, in fact, had never been afraid. Her favorite nursery rhymes were the scary ones. The ones about The Beast sucking out your soul and leaving behind nothing but gristle and skin. Those were the ones Alys liked best.

At first, I was terrified to pick up this book. The cover is horrifying in some, unexplainable way, and the nursery rhyme in the beginning gives me the creeps. I don't do well with horror. Hence, why I don't normally read anything having to do with it (besides the rather harmless Gothic horrors that I ironically love...)

However, despite my fear, this story ensnared me. It was so unique, and unlike anything I've ever read. Not to mention, there is so much to take away from this book! (I won't discuss everything here because then my review may end up surpassing the length of the book itself. But I'll discuss a few.)

The setting in The Beast Is An Animal isn't really disclosed, other than it taking place in a region/country/continent called Byd. But I couldn't help but feel similarities to the setting of The Scarlet Letter. Not only are the time periods similar, (i.e. clothing, social norms, gender roles, ways of living, etc.) but also the nearly superstitious religiosity that plagued the time period. Instead of piosity being beneficial for the community, it forced hypocrisy onto its followers. As clearly pointed out in both of these books, the devotees were taking part in sinful nature behind closed doors and refused to confess their sins, rather than make them openly known for fear of mankind's judgement, rather than allowing the judging, and mercy, falling to God (referred to as "The Shepard" in this tale.)

Despite the so-called strong beliefs, of the elders and High-elder of each community, we quickly see the duplicity of their speech. They believe that the Good Shepard will watch over them, yet, their own fear cripples them. Ultimately, their fear, anger, and worry bring their demise.
They're not building a Gate to keep folks out. They're building a Gate to keep folks in.

Another incredibly important point this book has to offer, is not to judge people by face value. As our main character, Alys, finds out, people who appear as foe may end up being your friend. Secondly, there is a place for good and bad in everyone. But that doesn't necessarily make them good, or make them bad.

If I'm special at all, it's because there's something terribly wrong with me.

For a seven-year-old, Alys is faced with some truly terrible dilemmas. Not only has she lost her family, let alone majority of the town folk of Gwenith, she thinks it may somehow be her doing. On top of that, she is blamed for being responsible behind her back. What seven-year-old is capable of such treachery!? This book shows just how powerful gossip and slander are. Rather than digging down to find out the truth, people prefer speaking about hearsay. Rather than facing their fear of being wrong with their naivety, they amass into group think.

I really appreciated the pacing of this story, and how the writing grew and matched Alys' age. The transformation she makes from being a child into a young adult, is, well, devastating. The plight she is forced into when she and the other Gwenith children are taken in by the folk of Defaid is depressing and oppressing.

The soul eaters: The obviously ironic, but well-assigned symbolic names of the twins made them all the more interesting. Angelica (meaning "angel" in Latin) and Benedicta (meaning "blessed" in Latin) were so...creepy.

A few things I wish I could have known more about:

1) How, exactly, does one become a soul eater? Is it a choice? Are you born with it?
2) Where is Byd, and is there more out there?
3) The Beast: What is It? Where did It come from? Does it symbolize more than what is revealed in the book?
4) How could Alys' make choices in her fate when the others like her seemed unable to do so? Was it merely by choice, or did something truly make her different?

Besides these points, I can't help but admit that they aren't necessary to know for this read. They are personal tidbits that I want to know more about.

There is a lot the reader can take away from The Beast Is An Animal. Frankly, I think that's what a good book should offer. I would highly recommend this read.

5 stars.

You can also view this review on my blog: She's Going Book Crazy
Profile Image for Macarena Yannelli.
Author 1 book957 followers
February 25, 2017
Este libro tiene una hermosa portada y una ambientación increíble pero el resto del libro es cualquier cosa. Los personajes no evolucionan ni un poco en los años que pasan en el libro y el argumento es inexistente, pero, no es joda, no hay argumento. CERO.
Una lastima.
Reseña completa proximamente
Profile Image for Denisa Lesniaková.
Author 3 books202 followers
April 29, 2017

Tak konečne pridávam mini recenziu (na blogu bude... no za pár dní snáď :D)

Takže... nečakala som toho veľa, lebo síce Slováci knihu milovali, ostatné hodnotenia sú dosť také všelijaké a presne taká bola aj kniha. Všelijaká.
Veľmi pomaly sa budoval príbeh a ak mám byť úprimná, tak sa veľa ani nemalo čo budovať, pretože to bol jednoduchý príbeh, ktorý mohol skončiť za pár strán, no celá kniha stojí na tej atmosfére.
Do polovice máte pocit, že čítate nejakú creepy rozprávku, v polke sa diali také veci, že som nevedela knihu položiť, jednoducho som musela vedieť, čo sa stane ďalej, ale od toho momentu to potom išlo už len dolu. Ten koniec mi asi pokazil celý dojem z knihy, pretože jednak som poriadne nerozumela, čo sa deje, keďže autorka píše dosť poeticky a viac opisuje pocity a emócie, ako čo sa v skutočnosti deje, a taktiež to bolo rýchle vyriešenie problému. Celkovo od tých skvelých pasáži kniha strácala tú desivú atmosféru, ktorú si vybudovala a to mi bolo veľmi ľúto.
Ľúto mi bolo aj toho, že okrem hlavnej hrdinky boli zvyšné postavy také nepodstatné, aspoň ja som mala ten pocit, pretože som o nich nič nevedela a nič som k ním necítila, takže mi bol ich osud ukradnutý.
Ale celkovo to nebola zlá kniha. Fakt to má takú atmosféru, ktorú nedokáže vykúzliť len tak hocijaký autor a ani neviem poriadne opísať, aké to bolo. Rozprávkové, desivé, absurdné, temné... A aj napriek tomu, že to nie je kniha plná akcií, autorka píše tak pekne (a to myslím vážne, nemyslím tým, že píše dobre, ale naozaj pekne - Krásne myšlienky, metafory, prirovnania), že vás to dostane. Celé to bolo také surreálne! - presne takýto som z toho mala pocit.
Ak teda máte chuť na niečo, čo nečítate len tak bežne, tak určite po knihe siahnite :)
Profile Image for Yoda.
575 reviews113 followers
September 17, 2017
One of the best books I´ve read, I can´t believe how engaged I was in this story that barely had any dialogue. Peternelle van Arsdale is incredible at describing scenery and what is happening without the need for dialogue. Absolutely incredible.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
May 24, 2023

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Admittedly, it felt a little rushed towards the end, but overall I loved my time with this story!

The sections involving the Soul Eaters felt like an original Fairy Tale coming to life in front of my eyes. In the other aspects, this was a fairly straight-forward story, and I appreciated that.

I feel like at times, some authors try to do too much with flowery prose with Dark Fairy Tale stories and it ends up burying the plot in excessive, at times nonsensical, wording; not the case here. This was really well presented by van Arsdale, IMO.

Full review to come...stay tuned!!!


Book #16 for my TBR-Haul Project!!!

I hauled this book all the way back in January 2019. I never hear anyone talking about it, but the premise of this Dark Fantasy has me intrigued. I am finally ready to give it a try.

Let's do this!!!
Profile Image for Heather Fawcett.
Author 15 books2,302 followers
February 4, 2017
This is one of those books that sticks with you--a quiet, eerie, and utterly compelling fairy tale about monsters and heroes, and how those two categories sometimes overlap. Peternelle van Arsdale's writing style is lush but not flowery--sometimes, books with this amount of worldbuilding can drag in places, but this story starts off with a bang and never really lets up. I absolutely loved her descriptions of the dangerous but beautiful fforest (also just a really fun word to pronounce) and Alys was a character I connected with and rooted for. Highly recommend, one of my favourite 2017 reads so far.
Profile Image for Moon Stream.
179 reviews70 followers
July 21, 2019
İndiyədək oxuduğum ən fərqli romanlardan biri oldu. Doğrusu, mövzusunu oxuyanda elə bilirdim ki, qorxu janrında yazılmış bir əsər oxuyacam. Ama elə deyildi.
Baş obraz olan Alys ətrafında dönür hadisələr. Ruh yeyicilər onun yaşadığı kəndə basqın edib ailəsi daxil bütün hər kəsin ruhunu yeyirlər. Bircə Alys və digər hələ 16 yaşına çatmamış uşaqlara toxunmurlar. Alys onları görən yeganə insan olur və zamanla da bunun səbəbini bilmək üçün özünü sorğulayır.
Kitab tamamilə bundan ibarət deyil. Onsuzda çox uzun bir roman olmadığından nəsə deyib spoiler vermək də istəmirəm. Məncə yazarın oxuyuculara çatdırmaq istədiyi əsas fikirlər tamam başqadı. Əsərdə deyilən fikirlərdən biri budur ki, hər şeyin içində həm pis, həm də yaxşı tərəf var, odur ki, bizim etməli olduğumuz şey hər ikisini görməyə çalışmaqdı. Halbuki insanların demək olar ki, hamısı pisi görməyə daha çox maraqlı olurlar və bu da çox vaxt günahsız insanların və ya varlıqların məhvinə səbəb olur. Əlbəttə pisi gördüyümüz zaman ondan qorunmaq istəyi yarana bilər; bu normaldı, lakin unutmaq olmaz ki, biz nə qədər mərhəmətsiz olsaq dünya da o qədər mərhəmətsiz bir yer olacaq.
Digər bir fikir isə, qorxularımızla necə başa çıxmağımızla bağlıdır. Qorxunun gözümüzü kor etməsinə, bizi aciz birinə döndərməsinə və sonda fəlakətimizə çevrilməsinə izin verməməliyik. Əksinə qorxular bizi hərəkətə keçirən bir vasitə olmalıdır. Qorxudan qaçmaq deyil, onunla üzləşməli və bu qorxunu yaradan şeyin artıq yox olub getməsi üçün lazımlı tədbirlər görməliyik(nəzərdə tutduğum şey bu qorxunu yaradan şeyi məhv etmək deyil, qaydasına salmaqdır).
Əsərdə həmçinin uşaqlığın məsumluğu, qorxusuzluğu, hər şeyi, dünyanı öyrənməyə maraqlı olması və bu baxımdan onlarla yetişkinlər arasındakı fərq gözəl bir şəkildə çatdırılmışdı.
Əsəri oxumağınızı tövsiyə edirəm. Məncə, olduqca axıcı və sonuna dair həyəcan oyadan bir əsərdir. Amma onu da deyim ki mənə qorxulu gəlmədi. Əsərin nağılvari dilindən irəli gəlirdi bəlkə də bu. Və bir də zənnimcə, hər kəsin bu əsərdən alacağı fərqli anlamlar olacaq. 5 deyil 4 verməyimə səbəb isə bəsit qalan yanlarının da olduğunu düşünməyim oldu və sonda olan bir şey üzündən. Ama dediyim kimi olduqca maraqlı əsərdir 👍❤
Profile Image for Maggie.
453 reviews56 followers
August 15, 2017
Bolo to zaujímavé, ale nič, z čoho by som vyslovene padla na zadok. Plus ten koniec mi prišiel taký divný a vedela by som si predstaviť, že to skončí inak...ale inak sa mi to dosť páčilo :)
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