Book Reviews

Review: The Beast Player by by Nahoko Uehashi & translated by Cathy Hirano

I decided to challenge myself for the LitCelebrasian last month to read a translated book. I haven’t done this in what feels like years – and probably is. So when I discovered The Beast Player I fell in love.


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?


The Beast Player is one of those underhyped gems. It’s a book about crossing borders, defying expectations, and being brave. If you’re a fan of animals in fantasy, then you have to pick this up because not only does it feature animals, it discusses their ethical treatment, our responsibility, and the ways our culture and values are tied to them. And it’s heart, we are also asked what responsibility we have to our kingdom, to our family, and to our friends.

I have to admit, the story line with Elin and the animals was my favorite, I basically only read the other story lines, to get back to Elin. Because there’s a lot about the country, brewing tension, and politics, but I came for the animals! It is so fascinating to me this oath we take to protect the animals – and what that means when they could be used for destruction. Where do our ethics and morality lie when the people we are supposed to be loyal to, are about to go down a dangerous path?


In The Beast Player everyone has their own histories and lives, unfolding on a grander scheme. There are about a million different lenses to read The Beast Player in – our search for family, the way that the education system doesn’t work for everyone, how to make friends, and what we will do when our values are questioned. How do we deal with earnest mistakes, with fixing what we’ve done and mitigating the consequences? When love becomes weaponized.

Find The Beast Player on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite fictional animal?

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6 thoughts on “Review: The Beast Player by by Nahoko Uehashi & translated by Cathy Hirano

  1. I’ve had this sitting on myself for awhile, but this is the only review I’ve seen of it and lol, “I’m just here for the animals.” I have to pick this up….someday soon lol ><!

  2. Great review, Lili! I also loved the relationship between Elin and the animals, the worldbuilding and storyline were so refreshing and I wish there were more translated books from Japanese to English.

    I thought it might interest you to know that there are sequels to these first two volumes, which were compiled into one book in The Beast Player. They’re unfortunately not translated into English so far (and it could be unlikely, considering there’s a huge time jump and Elin’s much older, so it’s pretty unconventional for YA in English). I guess the book did come to an end in some ways but I’d love to see more of the characters again.

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