Jack Meggitt-Phillips’ debut read is cracking original story-telling featuring a rather unpleasant man, a very unlikeable little girl and a repulsive beast. It makes for a ‘mouth-wateringly’ good read and I devoured it in one go, much like the beast eats his ‘food’.
Ebenezer Tweezer is approaching his 512th birthday. He has managed to reach such a ripe old age thanks to the Beast that he keeps in his attic. The Beast has the power to grant whatever Ebenezer desires and keeps him looking young with a magical potion that it vomits up in return for a special ‘feed’. The Beast demanded only small things in the beginning but over the years it has grown and now only the best and tastiest things will satisfy its hunger. And what is tastier than a child? When the Beast makes its most demanding request yet, Ebenezer has no qualms in setting off to find the perfect child.
After seeking guidance from a rather confused pet shop owner, Ebenezer finds himself at the orphanage which is where he meets Bethany. Before she is ready to be fed to the beast she needs fattening up and so the two are forced to spend a few days in each others company at Ebenezer’s house. But orphan Bethany is not your average little girl and there is time for bad behaviour, practical jokes and plenty of food before the big feed. But when the big day arrives will the Beast get his feed or has Bethany got one more trick to play?
This is a thoroughly engaging fantasy read that children will devour. It is fun, dark and humorous all rolled into one delicious serving. Be warned, there are some gruesome parts as Meggitt-Phillips is not afraid to portray the beast in all it’s gruesome glory, happily feeding both animals and people to it!
None of the characters are at all likeable at the start. Ebenezer lives a lonely existence. He is vain, self-indulgent - enjoys getting things from the Beast that he has no need for just so he can show off his wealth to passers by, and is willing to pay whatever price to look forever young. As such, he has become detached from life and and his naivety of the real world is exhibited on more than one occasion - failing to sell a child sweets for hundreds of pounds, attempting to buy a child from a pet shop and the trying to smuggle a child out of the zoo. Bethany is mouthy, naughty and a right little horror. She takes great joy in making the lives of others miserable and always has a sharp comeback in any conversation. The skill of Phillips’ writing is transforming these characters into people that you root for as a reader. As details of their pasts are revealed, two characters who I really couldn’t have cared less for at the start had me feeling differently at the end and I did not want Bethany to be fed to the Beast or Ebenezer to die.
The story has important messages on valuing what is important in life. This is explored through the changing of the two characters and also a day out where activities are ticked off a bucket-list.’ There are also messages on loss, friendship and what it means to be good.
I must add that I love the character names; Ebenezer Tweezer and Miss. Fizzlewick - brilliant. The illustrations by Isabelle Follath that feature throughout the book are great and bring the characters to life. I was most thrilled to find that the ending of the story perfectly sets it up for the next course and I can hear my stomach grumbling loudly for it already.
The Beast and the Bethany is a book that readers will be sure to gobble up, bon appétit!
Recommended for 7+.
With thanks to Netgalley and Egmont for the review copy.