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“I take your tears. Forget them. They are mine.”

Darkbeast (and its sequel, Darkbeast Rebellion) by Morgan Keyes is really only an honorable mention at best as far as the Girls Underground archetype is concerned, but I enjoyed the books enough to want to include them here.

Keara lives in a medieval-type society, where children are assigned a darkbeast at birth – a black-colored animal (usually something supposedly unpleasant like a rat or spider or snake) that is magically bound to them. Their darkbeast can communicate with them telepathically, but its main function is as a sort of sin-eater. When the child is too full of anger, or jealousy, or impatience, or any other negative emotion, the darkbeast can lift it from their hearts, at least temporarily. This actually feels wonderful, and yet the children usually hate their darkbeasts, and when they turn 12 (the age of adulthood in their culture) they are required to kill them in a ritual dedicated to the god of beasts.

Keara defies tradition and refuses to kill her darkbeast, a raven named Caw. Forced to flee  her village in fear of the repercussions of her act, she joins a travelling band of actors and gains a few companions. But there is a betrayal, and she is given up…. only to discover that she is not the only person who has spared their darkbeast.

There isn’t a real adversary in this story – she hides from the dreaded Inquisitors, but no single one emerges for her to confront and defeat. And there is no dramatic change at the end, she simply finds a place where she belongs. But nonetheless, it’s worth reading, and I loved the relationship she developed with Caw especially, who is wise and thoughtful but also still a raven at heart, always hoping for another treat.

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