Reviews

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

In a dark atmospheric fantasy debut, one young woman (like so many adolescents) finds her greatest enemy is the monster within.After twin sisters tragically warped into wraithlike "soul eaters" wreak vengeance upon the adults who betrayed them, 7-year-old Alys and the rest of the surviving children seek refuge with a neighboring villageat the price of cruel servitude to their oppressive Elders. Over the decade that follows, Alys is secretly drawn to The Beast, the mystical spirit of the "fforest" widely deemed the source of all evil. To her horror, she also realizes a growing sense of kinship with the vampiric sisters, even to a compulsion to drain the souls of anyone threatening her. Van Arsdale limns a bleak, doleful world, inspired by medieval Wales, where the "white as snow," rigid, and puritanical townsfolk contrast negatively with the more ethnically diverse, gender-fluid, and carefree people of the Lakes. Alys' archetypical hero's journey meanders at a dreamlike pace: great swathes of earthy quotidian detail are punctuated by set pieces of grotesque horror and brief interludes of beauty, compassion, and perfunctory-feeling romance. Her final confrontation with the sisters (and her own inner demons) occurs in a phantasmagorical climax that is a pure distillation of all that comes before, at once achingly poetic and frustratingly opaque. Moody, ponderous, and baroque; a good choice for readers with Gothic inclinations. (Fantasy. 12-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The soul eaters kill Alys's parents and every adult in Gwenith. In her new village, suspicion falls on Alys--she had been awake during the attack. When Alys meets the Beast, the evil creature in the village elders' holy book, it confirms her connection to the soul eaters. Rock-solid setting and a Salem witch triallike culture ground readers in this psychologically intense fantasy. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 7 Up-From the night she first meets the strange twin sisters outside her village and yet feels no fear, Alys knows there is something different about her. The twins suck away the souls of all of the adults of Alys's village that night, leaving them dead. The children are compelled to take refuge in a nearby town, Defaid, where they are treated as second-class citizens, forced to patrol the town boundaries and tend to the sheep outside of town while the Defaiders are safe in their beds. Alys tries to lead a normal life, but after an encounter with a strange beast mentioned in gruesome children's rhymes and further interactions with the soul eaters, she knows she cannot be normal-but can she at least keep herself from being evil? This debut takes inspiration from darker Grimm fairy tales and doesn't shy away from horrorlike elements. The work is dominated by atmospheric writing, the tone alternately brooding and stark. But the substance of character and story fall short of the promising setup and ambience. Characters are largely two-dimensional, and the people of Defaid are stereotypical pilgrimlike religious fanatics. The prose does a lot of telling rather than showing, which can lead to a feeling of disengagement in readers. A late-appearing romantic interest is a distraction, and while the happy-ever-after ending may satisfy some, it feels too gentle for an otherwise sinister tale. VERDICT An intriguing premise that only half delivers. Not recommended.-Gretchen Kolderup, St. Helens Public Library, OR Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Debut author van Arsdale creates an eerie medieval world where fear of nature and magic create a rigid, puritanical society. In seven-year-old Alys' tiny rural village of Gwenith, two once-human sisters known as soul eaters kill all the adults, leaving only children under 15 alive. Rescued by traveling peddler Pawl, the children of Gwenith are taken in by the village of Defaid. Alys is adopted by a kindly couple, but knows she cannot share her secret she has met the soul eaters and shares their hunger for living beings. For nine years, the Defaiders use Gwenith's orphans to guard the village from soul eaters and the Beast, a legendary creature, but eventually the soul eaters invade the village. Alys is then singled out as a witch and sentenced to death. With a fast-moving plot, atmospheric flashbacks, and the lyrics of a children's song about the dangers of the Beast used to excellent effect as section markers, this is a swift and compelling read that will be popular with fans of fantasy and fairy tale retellings.--Carton, Debbie Copyright 2017 Booklist


Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The soul eaters kill Alys's parents and every adult in Gwenith. In her new village, suspicion falls on Alys--she had been awake during the attack. When Alys meets the Beast, the evil creature in the village elders' holy book, it confirms her connection to the soul eaters. Rock-solid setting and a Salem witch triallike culture ground readers in this psychologically intense fantasy. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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