Wednesday 19 August 2020

The Beast and the Bethany, Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illustrated by Isabelle Follath

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This post is part of the ultimate blog tour for the novel. Thank you to Egmont Publishers and The Write Reads for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Ebenezer Tweezer is 511 years old but looks like he is in his 20s thanks to a potion provided annually by the beast. All he has to do in return is to keep it well fed. He felt no qualms about feeding it the last dodo or any number of other rare and precious creatures or objects, but when the beast requests a child he is forced to question his own motives. It doesn’t take long before he decides he values his own life more than that of any child and goes in search of a suitably unpleasant child, choosing Bethany as the beast’s next victim.

From the choice of names to the little nods to other well-loved creations, there’s a lot in this book reminiscent of the likes of Roald Dahl. Ebenezer is truly terrible but grows throughout, realising that perhaps he hasn’t behaved admirably. ‘Ebenezer had always seen himself as the helper who had no choice over what he was doing. Now, however, he realised that this was not the case.’ This isn’t the only moment of clarity where the book offers insight into humanity and the choices we make. Early on we are told ‘A wonderful life can turn someone into a terrible person. It makes you forget that there are people in this world who have problems, and this can stop you from really caring or worrying about others.’ Not only does this instantly give you an idea of what to expect from Ebenezer, but is an important moment for reflection for readers of any age.

Ebenezer may have lived a selfish, comfortable life, but we see how lonely he is with only the beast for company, something he only becomes aware of as he realises the possibility for a different kind of life. Bethany too misbehaves as a result of her parents' death when she was too young to remember them and her harsh, loveless upbringing in the orphanage. For all her outward bravado and mischief we are offered a glimpse of her softer side, reminding us not to judge others without knowing what they’ve been through. It soon becomes clear that they have the potential to help each other find happier, kinder lives, but will Ebenezer be willing to give up immortality for it?

A wonderful debut full of wit, evil plans, and compassion, with brilliant illustrations by Isabelle Follath. It will have you giggling to yourself one moment, tearing up the next, and wondering how they’ll ever be able to avoid the beast’s wrath. Meet these colourful characters when the beast is unleashed this October.

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