Darkbeast Rebellion, by Morgan Keyes

When I reviewed Darkbeast, by Morgan Keyes, about a year ago, I said: "It's a very good book. The constant danger Keara's in keeps the tension humming, the relationships among the characters (and their darkbeasts) are very nicely done, and the world building, which includes a panoply of gods, is sufficiently detailed to interest, without going overboard in dotting every socio-political i."  And so when Darkbeast Rebellion (Margaret K. McElderry Books, September 24, 2013), arrived in the mail, I was eager to pluge right in.

In Keara's world, each child is bound to a Darkbeast, a creature who takes all their negative thoughts from them.   When a child turns twelve, the Darbeast must be killed. But Keara couldn't kill the raven, Caw, who has been her closest friend all her life...and so, in Book 1, she fled from the Inquisitors and found sanctuary with a group of travelling players.  There she found she was not alone--her friend, Goran, and his grandfather had both spared their Darkbeasts too.

But they are betrayed, and this book opens with the threesome venturing out into the winter, hoping to find the Darkers--the secret fellowship of those like them.   The Inquisitors are hunting them down, to kill their animal companions and torture them to find out the identity of other Darkbeast lovers.   Even in the face of fresh betrayal, Keara can't stop hoping that somewhere there is a place for her to live with Caw in saftey...

Darkbeast Rebellion is somewhat misleading named, as the book does not deal with a large scale revolt against the edicts of the Inquisitors; "Darkbeast Rebels," prehaps, would give a better idea of the smaller scope.  The story takes Keara and her friends through escapes, falls hopes, imprisonment and the threat of torture, to a safe haven where they, may, at last, be welcomed...or not.  Threats to the safety of the friends and their Darkbeasts dominate the story, keeping things tense (though mercifully Keara escapes true torture).
Keara can do little to control her destiny, except to try and trust strangers (who may or may not have her best interests at heart) and to try to mold herself into a person worthy of trust.  It's interesting to see how both the danger she's in, and her relationship with Caw, her Darkbeast, seems to have shaped her--he has been her best friend her whole life, and it's a bond that has kept her, I thought, from being able to reach out with empathy to other people and make friends easily.  In this installment of her story, she's forced to think about these things, because her life depends on it, and the seeds are planted for future character growth.
The world building faltered somewhat in this sequel, when Keara and her friends are taken to the central temple of Bestius, the god of the Darkbeasts.  There the dark creatures are breed, to be taken out into the world and bound to children throughout the land, which seems to me a logistical nightmare.  It's unclear how the communities of Darkers, living outside the law, will get Darkbeasts for their own children.   And although irrational superstition is easy to accept, as is the hatred felt by those who killed their own Darkbeasts toward those who didn't, I never found myself really accepting why it was such a big deal in the grand scheme of Inquisitor-run things....

Still, the animal compaion aspect of the story has huge kid appeal, and the dangers Keara and Caw face make for exciting reading.  A new characer is introduced, who ups the political ante of it all, and sets up the series for further adventures--perhaps even a true rebellion that topels the existing order of dictatorial rulers, both political and religious.

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher

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