The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication Date:
Length: 512 pages
Fantasy | Young Adult

CW: n/a

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?



This may, or may not, have been a purchase based on the fact I fell in love with the cover- the interesting plot and the fact this is a successful Japanese fantasy series was a bonus for me! After reading The Beast Player. I completely understand why so many people around the world have fallen in love with the book, and the world, because I have too.

I loved Elin as the protagonist of the novel especially as we were able to watch her grow up and develop as the book went on. Elin simultaneously felt like the 10 year old that she was at the beginning as well as feeling older than her years too which made her incredibly endearing. I loved how she just wanted to learn and understand the world around her. This stayed with her throughout the novel as she continued to grow up, it was great to see that even as she got older and became more aware of the politics surrounding the Royal Beasts that she still stayed true to herself and wouldn’t allow herself to be influenced by others. I also adored the relationship that formed with Elin and Joeun – not only did he become a valued teacher to Elin but he also became like a father to her which was so heartwarming to read. I could have quite happily read an entire novel all about their adventures.

The world that Uehashi has created is fascinating and so rich in history and in nature. Whilst I love fantasy novels, I’m often slightly disappointed that they don’t always feature creatures unique to the world – so to have a whole novel dedicated to the understanding and care of unique creatures was wonderful to read and I was easily able to completely immerse myself in the book. As I mentioned above I also love how we see Elin grow up, it’s a particular favourite trope of mine to see the protagonist grow up during the novel. Especially as we learn about the world as she does and she begins to understand more and more as she gets older. As well as the beasts, I was fascinated to learn about the politics among the different countries and how the beasts come into it. 

I am totally invested in this series and the world that Uehashi has created and I cannot wait to experience more of it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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