cover image Darkbeast


Morgan Keyes. S&S/McElderry, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4424-4205-4

In Keyes’s fable of conscience and loyalty, Poe’s Raven, Collodi’s Talking Cricket, and Pullman’s Pantalaimon are adeptly distilled into Caw, the raven familiar, or darkbeast, of 12-year-old Keara. Every child in Duodecia grows up being told “Take it to your darkbeast.” All petty sins, bad intentions, and rebellious thoughts, properly confessed to the darkbeast, are taken away, so that a child is ready to become a good adult on his or her 12th nameday. On that day, the darkbeast is ritually sacrificed by the child whose sins it has cleansed. But Caw has been Keara’s constant companion during a lonely childhood: talking with her, watching over her, begging shamelessly for treats. Not to kill the darkbeast is heresy, punishable by the Inquisitors. Can Keara leave her village, elude the Inquisitors, and survive on the road? Perhaps—if she can persuade a band of traveling players to take her on. It’s a well-wrought tale that finds that difficult balance between accessibility and depth; Keyes talks to young readers without talking down. Ages 10–up. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Associates. (Aug.)