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Daughter of the Beast

By E. C. Greaves

 

When her sleepy village is raided by the Vulkari, the fearsome warrior women of the Ancient Wilds, only Zyntael Fairwinter is taken.

Claimed as a daughter by their infamous matriarch, Zyntael is trained to hunt, to fight, and to kill—all for a purpose, which remains ever out of her grasp.

In the company of their unruly young, she might find sisterhood. In their unique customs and beliefs, she might find beauty. And in the violence of their raids, she might even find glory.

But it is the reason for her capture that Zyntael truly seeks. It is a truth that must be earned from the very Spirits of the dead; a future paid for in the blood of those Zyntael once called her own. It is a purpose that promises the liberation of not just she, but of all the Ancient Wilds, from an evil far greater than any marauding warrior women.

Warrior or no, however, the Vulkari are not like other women. The Vulkari are monsters.

And sometimes, only the truly monstrous have what it takes to save the world.

Steeped in Slavic Myth, and appealing to adult and young adult readers alike, Daughter of the Beast is a rich and unique fantasy coming-of-age story. It is the first in an exciting debut trilogy by E C Greaves, which blends action and adventure, with themes of belonging, identity, destiny, and a girl’s place in a harsh and uncaring world—built by men, and built for men.


 

 John Mauro:

 “I awoke in an uncaring darkness. Cold, bruised and sore, I hung from metal manacles—my bare feet just able to touch the floor beneath me.”

Daughter of the Beast, the SPFBO9 finalist by E.C. Greaves, is a strikingly imaginative story of self-discovery and found family.

The story is told from the first-person perspective of Zyntael Fairwinter, a young Kikimora girl who is kidnapped by the monstrous Vulkari during a raid of her quiet forest village:

“The stench of their damp hides and rancid breath made me gag, and brought water to my eyes. I told myself that this was why my vision swam and my cheeks were wet, but I was simply afraid. No matter how much I tried to choke back the fear, to abate the flow of tears, and to still my trembling limbs, I could not.”

Zyntael becomes the adopted daughter of the Vulkari matriarch and is indoctrinated into their culture. She doesn’t understand why she is being treated so much better than the other kidnapped Kikimora:

“I had never been so exhausted, never felt so lost, alone, and miserable as I did during those first weeks that we travelled east. But I was the luckiest of my kind.”

The worldbuilding in Daughter of the Beast is a triumph of imagination. There are no human characters, just different races inspired by Slavic mythology.

E.C. Greaves excels in delivering a coming-of-age story as Zyntael grows within her new culture and builds bonds with her found family:

“Karthak idly played with my hair and sang to herself in her own language. The yapping and howling of the Vulkari speech was ill-suited to song, but I dared not tell her so, the many times she asked me what I thought of her tune.”

Daughter of the Beast is written in six parts called Stitches. I found the writing in Daughter of the Beast to be rather inconsistent, and I could not connect at all with the first Stitch. But E.C. Greaves pulled me into the story in the second stitch as he settled into a calmer and more accessible writing style.

There were several truly touching moments later in the book, especially related to building understanding across cultural boundaries:

“I looked up at his eyes—a deep purplish colour, almost black. If I could see through them, I would have liked to. If only to understand how he saw me. I was a savage, or so he said, but those eyes saw me as so much more.”

However, the plot felt a bit aimless at times, lacking a central conflict to drive the story forward.

Overall, Daughter of the Beast was a mixed bag for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the innovative worldbuilding and themes of belonging and cross-cultural understanding. At the same time, I’d have preferred a story with more overarching direction to keep me engaged over the full span of the novel. The journey continues in Sister of the Dead, the second volume of The Vyshivka Trilogy.


Team Score: John 5, Whitney 8, Rebecca 5 Final Score: 6


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