Author: Morgan Keyes
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August, 2012
Goodreads Summary: A girl’s love for her raven may put her life in jeopardy in this gripping tale.
In Keara’s world, every child has a darkbeast—a creature that takes dark emotions like anger, pride, and rebellion. Keara’s darkbeast is Caw, a raven, and Keara can be free of her worst feelings by transferring them to Caw. He is her constant companion, and they are magically bound to each other until Keara’s twelfth birthday. For on that day Keara must kill her darkbeast—that is the law. Refusing to kill a darkbeast is an offense to the gods, and such heresy is harshly punished by the feared Inquisitors.But Keara cannot imagine life without Caw. And she finds herself drawn to the Travelers, actors who tour the country performing revels. Keara is fascinated by their hints of a grand life beyond her tiny village. As her birthday approaches, Keara readies herself to leave childhood—and Caw—behind forever. But when the time comes for the sacrifice, will she be able to kill the creature that is so close to her? And if she cannot, where will she turn, and how can she escape the Inquisitors?
What I Think: In Darkbeast, we meet Keara, a young girl who has been bound to Caw, her raven darkbeast, since she was 12 days old; however, on her 12th birthday, it is her duty to slay Caw and to welcome adulthood. Keara, though, does not know if she can live without Caw and makes a decision that changes her life.
In the world of high fantasy, very rarely is there a middle grade novel that fits the definition, but Darkbeast is just that. Morgan Keyes has built a world that is unique filled with traditions and mythology from her imagination. Her creation of 12 gods and goddess who are worshiped is a bit reminiscent of Greek or Roman mythology, but includes its own flair. Keara's world also is a bit dystopian with a ruler who ensures that all of his subjects worship the gods he worships and has inquisitors to patrol his kingdom to scare the belief into all. The world also celebrates the arts with the Travelers which are a well respected group who go from town to town performing plays either about The Twelve or about traditions within their culture. Overall, Morgan Keyes built a pretty solid world for her story to exist.In the classroom, this book would be a great read aloud. It would cause a lot of discussion about Keara's decisions and what it means to be an adult. Keara's story is very similar to many coming of age/rebellion stories yet throws in another aspect with the duty that looms over her head. Parts of Keyes's story would also fit well within a mythology unit because it could take traditional literature and transform it into a creative writing activity about creating gods/goddesses of different realms. You can even have the students use word parts. For example, Keyes's goddess of death is Mortana which literally has the word death in it. So, if a student wanted a goddess of life she could be Biotina.
Read Together: Grades 6 - 10
Read Alone: Grades 7 - 10
Read With: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Snatch of Text: "The Traveleres were even more magnificent than they'd been the night before. Their voices were louder, more sure. Their costumes were brighter. Their story was even more compelling.The goddess Pondera was visiting a market town, watching over all the goods in the market place. A merchant cheated one of his customers, placing false weights on his scales. He wasn't evil, though. He cheated because he needed coins to clothe his family, to buy new shoes for his youngest daughter, whose feet were chapped and bleeding in the winter cold.
The merchant's crimes were discovered by a boy. The boy wore a costume, like all of the Travelers, but he did not wear a mask. Instead his face was bare to the world, his dark eyes huge in his pale face. Even though this was only the second time I'd seen the Travelers, I understood that the boy looked that way so we all would trust him, we all would understand the struggle he undertook." (p. 33-34)
Mentor Text for: Suspense, Setting, World Building, Mythology
Writing Prompts: Keara made a huge decision in this book which made it so she had to leave behind her family and go on the run; do you agree with her decision? Do you think there was any other options?
Topics Covered: Freedom, Kinship, Family, Drama
I *heart* It:
**Thank you to Morgan Keyes and Simon & Schuster for providing a copy to review**