Friday, September 27, 2013

Darkbeast Rebellion, by Morgan Keyes

In this sequel to Darkbeast, Keara, Goran, and Taggart are fleeing for their lives, trying to escape the Inquisitors and simultaneously searching for a group of renegade "Darkers" who will take them in.  As adults who have rejected the mandate that they must kill their animal familiars ("Darkbeasts") on their twelve birthdays, the three of them are not only heretics, but a deep threat to the social order.  The Darkers, it is said, shelter similar rebels.  If only they can be found!

But their problems do not disappear when the three of them find a colony of Darkers, as all is not quite as they hoped.  Instead, soon they are thrown back into peril.  By the end of the story, Keara must find a way to prove herself, without the help of her Darkbeast.

I loved the first book in the series so much that I eagerly threw myself into this one, casting aside all the other books on my pile in favor of this one when it arrived unannounced in the mail.  Even though I am not a fan of sequels, I had high hopes for this novel.

It held up surprisingly well.  I liked the first book for its originality and for the depth of its vision.  A tremendous effort was made into imagining this fantasy universe, as Keyes explains the theology, culture, and mores of these people.  She continues this forcefully in the sequel, expanding into the complicated politics of the society as well.  Even if young readers won't always appreciate it, there is an amazing consistency and logic to the world the author has created.

What young readers will certainly appreciate is the description of the changes that Keara is going through.  While the first book focused on the difficult problem of letting go of childhood, the second explores the more complicated process of navigating the beginnings of adulthood.  From the dawning of the realization that social interactions have grown more complex to the cold reality that friendships are easily betrayed to the novel need to build social bonds, Keara goes through many familiar challenges.  In this way, Keyes's complex coming-of-age story is much more honest than the more "reality" based versions on the market.  And in the safety of this fantasy world, readers can see their own difficulties exposed and conquered.  Truly, this is the glorious purpose for which middleschool fantasy was intended!

And it is also an excellent and fun read!

[Disclosure:  I did receive an unsolicited free copy of this book from the publisher (and am grateful to them for calling attention to the book).  It does not impact the nature of my review.  I look forward to finding a receptive young reader for this book in the future.]

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