The Beast Player Review

by Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano (Translator)

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Print Length: 512 pages

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Year: 2018 (US)

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.14

Available at Amazon, B&N, or check you local library/Libby

Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So when some of the beasts mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath she manages to send her daughter to safety.

Alone, far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can talk to both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great powers, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no way of escaping the terrible battles to come? (Goodreads)

I would like to put in a formal request for Studio Ghibli to make this into a film; because the whole time I was reading it I continuously visualized it animated in that style. Ah— it would be a dream! 

The Beast Player is a beautifully crafted story full of whimsy and wisdom. The story tackles issues such as animals being raised in captivity, favouritism in an educational setting, and the effects of the loss of tradition (both negative and positive). In such a short time we are introduced to such a beautiful world and with realistic characters, and a story that spans a decade. Readers are given a view of the world often clouded by modernity, and are given a chance to view nature and it’s beasts for they are: magnificent. 

For some reading this book may not come easily for a number of reasons (none of which— I believe— should dissuade you). The most evident and unique being the world-building. The Beast Player utilizes soft world-building with expertise comparable to Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. This lends to the whimsy of the book, as much of the world is left to the reader’s imagination, guided by a skilled hand that only shows us the details we must know. Additionally, being a translation of a book originally published in Japanese, The Beast Player often reads a little odd to native English speakers. Of course, this is a result of inherent differences between the two languages, English being much more literal than Japanese. This is easily ignored, as the story is so beautiful and I can only give the highest praise to the translator who took on the challenge of translating such a masterwork. The end result is still a coherent and cohesive story with what I would consider above-average writing. 

I would honestly recommend this book to anyone, even those who have yet to read a translated book. If fact, I would recommend it with much fervor to those in that situation as the book is just that good. 

Please note: There is, in fact, an animated adaptation of this series titled Erin, as well as a manga adaptation.

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