{book} path of beasts

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Sean expressed surprise that I was reviewing the final installment in a series, that is how infrequent I manage this.

pathofbeasts coverPath of Beasts (Book 3 of the Keepers Trilogy)

by Lian Tanner

Delacorte Press, 2012

hardcover 377 pages

The city of Jewel is in peril once again, as it is held captive by the frightful Fugleman, his band of Blessed Guardians, and an army of merciless mercenaries. There’s no doubt that Goldie and Toadspit want to get their city back, but how can a small group of children fight against such overwhelming forces of evil? And how, as Goldie is determined, can they avoid bloodshed in a war that will set thieves against soldiers, and trickery and deception against a mighty cannon that shoots cannonballs bent on destruction? ~publisher’s copy.

I adore Museum of Thieves and it really is a must for middle graders. It stands alone rather nicely, but then Tanner is so enjoyable the second book is all too tempting. And City of Lies is an adventure of its own imagination and preoccupations, not the typical bridge. Path of Beasts draw both books to a close, and in ways unexpected.

One of the difficulties Goldie must face in the first novel is how, for the sake of “safety”, the adult population of Jewel has given most all of their self-will over to the guidance of The Protector and the Blessed Guardians. Over the course of time, generations have been crippled by this “utopic” culture. The citizenry are a cowed populace, terrified of any hint of wildness. The parental figures, who are doing this out of love, right; not just (ir)rational fear?, have not fared well in the eyes of the reader.  Alongside Goldie and company, the reader would perceive them to be mindless and inept. Not so in Path of Beasts—with some of the parents, at least. Those who are determined to fight back, in sometimes brash but also very quiet subversive ways.

“If His Honor had said such terrible words to her six months ago, Blessed Guardian Hope would have cowered before him and begged for mercy. But her time in Spoke had changed her.” (181)

Tanner even attends to Blessed Guardian Hope’s progression over the course of the trilogy, moving the simpering figure to one with her own mind and a voice to go with it–to an extent. Hope’s self-discovery is a consequence of the adventures in service to the Fugleman. And hers is one example of how a person can choose to abide their oppressors or rebel against them. Costs are measured, are weighted. And in the end we come to a central theme to Path of Beasts: “Hold to your true self ” (283). And allow it of someone else while you’re at it.

pathofbeasts

We remember that Goldie left the Big Lie (in Book 2) with a passenger. While Bonnie had mastered Princess Frisia’s bow and Toadspit was now a gifted swordsman, Goldie had another person residing inside her—a bloodthirsty one. The military strategy Frisia offers is reason enough to listen to her, but Goldie is not keen to take a life. Her tools are trickery and deception, and truly these are the instruments best suited to retaking the city. Frisia takes over at moments and Goldie fears madness. Tanner writes with the smoothest of transitions in and out of Frisia’s consciousness. She also moves Goldie so close to her boundaries we fear she may be overcome. We are certainly curious how Tanner is going to relieve her heroine.

The publisher’s copy mentions a lone walk of Goldie’s and Toadspit in a duel to the death. This comes late in the book and each protagonist’s challenge is a culmination of all they’d been working toward. Toadspit aka Cautionary is all his names imply when we first meet him and he is downright charming by book 3. Goldie (and the reader) are reminded that for all the risks and all the terrible things she’s endured, she made the right decision.

“They were kind, in a rough sort of way. And after a while, what they did began to seem normal. They gave me another name and I forgot who I was. Kindness can do that to you, quicker than cruelty. (226)”

These are the words of a child turned Slaver. You see the sort of challenges Tanner is unafraid to present to her reader: that kindness could make a person become/do evil things? This makes sense as we, with Pounce, wonder how some of the parents do not fight for their children—sense punctuated by Goldie’s father’s “brave” act. Path of Beasts interrogates self-preservation as well as how are unnatural notions/ways normalized to the detriment of self and/or other.

pathofbeasts brizzle_colourTanner’s imagination, the action and the adventures, the villains and the heroes, all of it is highly entertaining. I tend to go on about the issues that create much of the conflicts because they are so unusual and so incredibly relevant to the audience. Tanner’s children are clever and capable, they are creative and exercise self-control, they have fears, but they have incredible courage—born of a willingness to risk themselves (let alone their discomfort over uncertainties) for someone they love. Someone needs to remind children of this–and their parents.

my review of Museum of Thieves and of City of Lies.

{cover illus. by Jon Foster; interior illus. (2 seen above) by Sebastian Ciaffaglione}

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lian Tanner says:

    Hi Leslie, thanks for the wonderfully thoughtful review, I’m so very very pleased that you liked all three books so much. And I’m glad to see you like Frances Hardinge, who is one of my favourite authors.

    Lian

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