Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So when some of the beasts mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath she manages to send her daughter to safety.
Alone, far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can talk to both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great powers, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no way of escaping the terrible battles to come? – Goodreads
This is easily one of the most disappointing reads for me in years. I was so excited to read this Japanese best seller that I actually bought the series in its original language and had planned on (very slowly) reading it before the translation was announced. I actually wish I had as the incredibly repetitive nature of the writing (saying the same thing in five different ways) would have been excellent translation practice.
This is a book with a gorgeous setting and really interesting ideas that are smothered beneath the repetitive, textbook style writing.
“I know. but somehow I don’t think its going to work. We can recognize words as words because we can tell the difference between sounds like “eh” and “lee.” Human languages have an incredible number of very distinct sounds. But the Beasts only seem to have a few. The differences are in pitch and length, and the echo after the note, as well as the order in which those sounds are made. But the difference are so slight that, at first, the notes sound the same. If the Beasts can pick up meaning from such tiny differences as these, then even the smallest deviation might make a sound meaningless.”
This paragraph on its own may not seem like a negative writing feature, but when every piece of world building minutia is followed by one just like it, you being to feel like you’re reading a textbook. Further, every character makes these explanations in the exact same way which results in every character sounding as if they have the same voice and personality. They all use the same word choices, style, and tone of speaking. Only Yuyan, who’s personality is essentially that she speaks in a drastically different way from everyone else, has a distinct voice. Also, the main character speaks in exactly the same way at 10, 14, 18 and 30 (in the next book) which highlights the fact that there is no character growth whatsoever, despite the book spanning a decade and huge, life changing events.
Additionally, these explanation paragraphs also follow after every event a character experiences and after every conversation they have with another character. Their thoughts, emotions, and motives are all explained so directly and as a matter of fact, that the book loses any nuance or subtlety. Uehashi manages to write a fantasy book where she refuses to risk leaving anything up to the reader’s imagination.
The Beast Player‘s biggest fault is its desperate need for every reader to understand everything in exactly the same way as every other reader. I am honestly just on the cusp of giving this two stars, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt that part of the problem with the writing sounding so sterile was the translation. I am desperately hoping that the next book will give more than 10% of its attention to actual plot.