Guest Review Post – At One’s Beast by Rachel Barnard reviewed by Sheri J. Kennedy

Sheri J. Kennedy is the author of Secret Order of the Overworld under pen name Kennedy J. Quinn.You may have seen some of her images or read some of her blog posts on her blog SheriJKennedyRiverside. She participates in both local events (such as the Bard & Starlet Radio Hour at Boxley’s in North Bend) and nationwide events (Such as with SnoBoot SkethhCats in the Sketchbook Project and the A to Z Challenge). For more about Sheri, visit her blog at sherijkennedyriverside.wordpress.com

The following is Sheri J. Kennedy’s review of At One’s Beast, available here from Amazon. Thanks Sheri for you thoughtful review of At One’s Beast. 

AT ONE’S BEAST is billed as a fairy tale twist and a low fantasy. I think it elevates both sub-genres by taking the basics of a moral tale and adding rich psychological complexity and atmosphere.

First, let me say, I was ‘in’ immediately and was driven to keep reading to the end – always key to a great read!
It starts with fairly traditional basics of Zos absorbing all the hate and evil of the town, and Alcina moving from fear and wanting to take him down, to seeing that he is something more. But the way the journey unfolds is uniquely modern from my perspective. For one, there’s a tricky twining of three characters that create a love triangle with Aethon. He is supposedly a friend, but has a fierce or even controlling streak that is a definite character flaw. Zos, while supposedly dangerous, shows gentleness and encourages Alcina’s strength. He is fearsome but magnetic in his caring and vulnerability.

Alcina, while having fears and showing her impetuous youthfulness, comes from a general stance of strength and independence that makes the reader believe she will conquer the beast. But as she spends time with Zos and on her own away from her family and community, she shows a vulnerability to love of nature, adventure, and love in general. Instead of making her seem weaker, her genuine emotion and new experiences develop her into her own woman – not Zos’. That’s not trite or typically fairy tale black and white. When she then comes to appreciate Zos, it makes her even stronger in my eyes and she lives and breathes instead of being a one dimensional fairy tale ‘princess-type’ heroine.

The only weakness to the tale I thought was the townsfolk, especially families, seem a little too hostile toward Alcina. This is chalked up to the evil influence, like a spell on them, so I can let it go. It’s just that all the other emotion in the story is so realistically supported that this actual fairy tale simplification of that point seems out of place in comparison. (Kind of a back-handed compliment!)

There is a lovely mix of grey tones throughout this story. There is a well-crafted atmospheric quality to the world – kind of an abstraction that allows complex contemplation while the clear action proceeds without dropping the reader for a single moment.

After reading Barnard’s debut novel, ATAXIA AND THE RAVINE OF LOST DREAMS, I was interested to see where this promising young author would go next. AT ONE’S BEAST exceeded my expectations and is very well developed. It’s a solid work that I would highly recommend.

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