Book Review

The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

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.

The Beast Player opens with 10 year-old Elin, and her mother who is a Toda steward. Toda are fearsome beasts which are sacred to the Aluhan people. So when they all mysteriously die in her mother’s care, there is only one punishment suitable: death. Unable to save her mother, Elin finds herself alone with a confusing secret her mother told her which she is still too young to understand. Determined to find the meaning behind her mothers cryptic words, she does everything she can to keep learning about the world around her.

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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