Title / The Beast Player
Author / Nahoko Uehashi
Publication Date / 2018
Series or standalone / book 1 of 4
Page no. / 508
Overall Rating / ★★★★★
Originally written in Japanese and published in 2006, this edition is translated by Cathy Hirano. At the heart of this book is a coming of age story but there is so much more to it then that. Set in a fictional fantasy world, the story starts when a young Elin’s life is thrown into disarray when her mother is sentenced to death.
I have to admit that the cover drew me to this book first. I am very glad it did because this book was fantastic. From the very beginning I was hooked. Once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down and once I’d finished I just wanted more from these characters and world. Since I haven’t (and can’t) read the original Japanese editions I can’t comment on the how good the translation is, but I will say that I thought the writing was fantastic. It immerses you in this world and characters from the very beginning. At just over 500 pages this is quite a lengthy book but even in the slower moments the writing and characters mean this is a compelling read throughout. The overall pacing of this book is quite slow as it does focus more on the characters and their relationships (especially Elin’s and Leelan). There isn’t a lot of action, until towards the end of the book, so if you’re looking for a fast paced, action packed fantasy then this isn’t it, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t try out this book. I would say the first half of the book is slower then the second half. Although it does have a slower pacing and a rather meandering plot line, I personally found this to be a very compelling read.
One of the main strengths of this book and the characters and their arcs. When we start the book, Elin is roughly 10 years old but by the end of the book she is in her twenties. I loved that we got to see this development of the main character. Yes, there are skips in time, which I find can sometimes distance you from the character, but that is not the case with this book. She is a wonderful female protagonist and I think a lot of people will love. It was such a pleasure to see her develop from a young child to a young woman. Despite the fact we mainly follow Elin, we do get some other perspectives throughout the book. The other characters are just as well written as Elin, which is quite impressive when you think about the size of the cast. There are quite a lot of characters, but there is a character list provided if you need a little help keeping track of them all. The author did a fantastic job at developing the relationships between characters too, especially between Elin and Leelan. Another strength of this book was the lack of romance. I feel sometimes authors write in romance because they feel it has to be a part of a book, so I loved that the main character doesn’t have a love interest. It would have felt so unnecessary to the story and it was so refreshing to not have it included.
The world is another strength of this book. The author did a fantastic job of creating this world and slowly revealing things to the reader as the story progresses. I loved that although we focus very much on the world around Elin, we also get a wider look into the world as a whole and the cultures are all so interesting to read about. The author has a PH.D. in cultural anthropology and I think this shows in her writing. There is such depth and clarity to her world building, which makes it so enjoyable to read. The only thing I would say is that it is a shame there isn’t a map of the world included within the book.
Overall, I adored this book. It has gone straight onto my favourites list and I cannot say enough good things about it. From what I understand this is part of a series and there are about 4 books out in Japanese, but only one has been translated so far. I am unsure whether this translated edition is the first Japanese book or whether it’s a combination of some or all of the already released 4 books in Japanese, if that makes sense. There is another series by this author that has been translated, which I fully plan on checking out. If you are looking for a new fantasy book to read, then I highly recommend checking this one out. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Have you read this book? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.