I came across The Beast is an Animal a while ago, and I was so excited to read it – horror is probably my all time favorite genre, so I expected to be pretty scared when I picked this one up. After all, the creepy cover and the first sentence of the synopsis really draws the attention of someone who likes to terrified by books, right?
From the time that a copy of this found its way into my mailbox (a huge thanks to Simon Teen for this!) until I finally curled up one night (at bedtime, of course) and expected to get lost in this deliciously dark novel, I was super excited. And don’t get me wrong, I was really excited when I started this book, too. It was creepy. It was dark. It was bizarre. It was everything I love in a book.
But for whatever reason, I found myself unable to really fall in “connect” with the book, the setting, or any of the characters. I also found myself not too scared by The Beast is an Animal, either – as dark as it was at times (and oh, it was such a dark book), it just lacked the absolute horror that I expected to get out of this. That’s probably my fault, actually – I’m used to reading some really bone-chilling books that keep me up for weeks on end.
However, I was not disappointed by this. It was dark and more of a fantasy kind of story than anything horror related, and if you look at it as a dark fantasy, it probably fits much better.
The story starts off with a creepy rhyme, talking about the beast, and wow, is that unsettling. That was probably my favorite part of the whole book, to be honest – that creepy little rhyme that is repeated throughout the book, constantly reminding children (yes, children) of how awful the beast can be.
So after the creepy poem, we get a bit of a backstory about the “soul eaters” that are discussed in the synopsis. We learn about the two girls, and how when they were born they were essentially “mirror images” of each other – one girl had a birthmark on one leg, and the other had it in the same spot, but on the other leg, etc. People around the village thought they were strange, and when there was no rain and crops started to die, they blamed the little girls and said that the mother had given birth to two witches. They gave the family one chance to get rid of the mother and her daughters – so the father took them into the woods and hid them, bringing them supplies and taking care of them. Until one day he stopped coming. The little girls, who had turned into something terrifying over the years, decided that because they had to live without a mother and their father had moved on with his life, they were going to do something horrible to all of the adults in the village. They took the souls from every adult, killing them and leaving them as shells of their former selves, and left all the children alive.
Alys, a young girl at the time, was out of bed and actually met the soul eaters. They left her live, but killed all the others. Alys met a traveler, who took her home, only to discover the horrible thing that had happened.
So the children from that village were moved to another village, where they are placed with other adults. While Alys isn’t really too keen on her new “parents” at first, she spends many years with them, staying away from “The Beast” and the soul eaters. When soul eaters begin taking the souls of those in the village, Alys and the other children from the previous children are made to take watch at night, to be sure the soul eaters stay away from the village.
During this time, Alys is starting to notice some weird things about herself. However, she doesn’t put things together until later, when she starts to wonder if maybe she is actually a soul eater. She has always been able to speak to the Beast, and she seems to have some weird connection with the soul eaters. Could it be possible?
Alys tries to hold onto who she is while dealing with who she might be – and who she might be is even more terrifying than just sitting back and waiting for the soul eaters to come for them all.
One of my favorite parts about this book is that we get to meet the main character, Alys, as a child (she is seven at the beginning of the book), and watch her grow to the age of fifteen. I love books that really allow you to form connections with characters by watching them grow up during the story. Alys clearly has had a difficult life, and things don’t get any easier for her as she gets older. She is fiercely protective of the other children who lived in the same village as she did, as well as the children of the older kids as they aged.
The soul eaters in the book were slightly frightening, but I honestly thing the scariest part of this book was when Alys had to have a battle against herself as she fought to stay who she was instead of becoming a soul eater.
The other characters in the book were not all that memorable, but they were good supporting characters for the story. I especially liked Cian, who Alys got to meet up with later in the book – the budding relationship between the two was sweet.
The Beast is an Animal was definitely an interesting book, and it had such a thrilling and original premise that I found myself loving the book, despite the issues I had with it. If you, like me, like dark, weird books, this is definitely one to add to your list.