Path of Beasts

Path of Beasts is the resounding conclusion to Lian Tanner’s The Keepers trilogy. The action is non-stop as our characters fight to remain true to themselves while still somehow freeing the city of Jewel from its oppressors.

I loved this book, and the whole trilogy in general. Tanner deftly infuses her initially simplistic characters and world with increasingly interesting layers of complexity until I was wholly invested in the adventures and world of Goldie and her friends. Even more importantly, Tanner managed to create three volumes whose central conflicts are self-contained, with a broader arc across the whole trilogy that concludes very satisfactorily in Path of Beasts. So many authors these days seem to fall into the trap books that either don’t end (innumerable fantasy series) or end so finally that it completely cuts the reader off from the work and leaves no space for continued engagement after closing the last book’s cover (Harry Potter). The Keepers trilogy manages to avoid both pitfalls, and left me as satisfied as I was after finishing the Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimeus Trilogy or Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (although without the same level of emotional upset that accompanies Hunger Games).

One last thing that deserves calling out is that throughout The Keepers trilogy treads an interesting line with regards to violence: it’s pretty common in science fiction and fantasy for authors to take violence for granted as the obvious way to solve problems. However, Tanner’s protagonists fight increasingly difficult battles to avoid taking the easy path of violence in favor of more creative solutions. This is one of the few books that I have read where I felt like the thieves really were thieves, and it was refreshing to find a children’s book that treated violence as something to be avoided at all costs, even when suffering violence at others’ hands.

As you might guess, I highly recommend you go grab Museum of Thieves and get started reading if you haven’t already.

Plot summary

The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.

Why are you reading this?! This is the final book in the trilogy; you absolutely should not need this plot summary! I have only published it on the very slim chance that Lian Tanner decides to write other books in this world, and I don’t feel like re-reading the whole series (which is unlikely; they go pretty quickly, and as I said above the trilogy is excellent). So go read the actual book!

The story starts with Goldie, Toadspit, and Bonnie sneaking back into the city of Jewel, which is occupied by the Fugleman and his hired mercenaries. Although they wish to visit their parents before getting to the museum, they are waylaid on the way when they discover the Blessed Guardians dumping something in the bay. After investigating, they find that the Fugleman has stabbed the his sister, the former Protector, and dumped her thinking her dead. Fortunately, she was saved by a thick vest she was wearing, and although close to death Goldie and Toadspit manage to get her back to the museum.

Goldie finds herself constantly fighting against the wolf-sark and Princess Frisia, and is frightened when the other keepers tell her that sometimes people come out of Big Lies with past lives stuck in their heads, inevitably driving them insane. Despite her fear, she listens to Frisia’s advice about how to deal with the Fugleman in the city, and they go about trying to divide his forces (the mercenaries and the Blessed Guardians, who are already at loggerheads).

Because the Fugleman has brought in a piece of heavy artillery to use against the museum of its keepers fight him, Goldie and company disguise their thefts of the mercenaries’ wages as the actions of a made-up rebel group. Their parents take up the group’s name, and publish information about the Fugleman’s crimes, as well.

To strike back at his unknown assailants, the Fugleman brings the dreaded slaver Lady Skint to town, and hands over a large group of the townfolk’s children, including Bonnie and Mouse. Blessed Guardian Hope shows up back in town as Pounce is trying to sell information about Goldie and Toadspit to the Fugleman in exchange for Mouse’s release, and they set a trap on Lady Skint’s ship by sending Goldie and Toadspit’s parents to the slavers. Goldie falls for the trap, after sending Toadspit and Pounce off to get the ship they sailed to Jewel in from Stoke (Pounce having double-crossed the Fugleman).

Fortunately, Goldie planned to be caught, and convinces the pirates that the entire group of children has come down with plague. Although Lady Skint is leery to believe it, her opinion turns when her second-in-command pretends to be sick, as well (after having been on the ship while the slavers were in town being wined and dined by the Fugleman). They abscond with the ship, and it turns out that Double, the second in command, is actually Goldie’s long-lost Aunt Praise who Goldie has always viewed as a role-model, not realizing she had been snapped up by slavers and eventually wooed to their side.

Everyone returns to the museum, to find it being bombarded by the Fugleman’s artillery. The wildness in the museum is going mad, and Toadspit goes to duel the Fugleman to buy them time (rather than sending the Protector, who would likely just be killed on the spot). In desperation, Goldie goes to tread the dreaded Path of Beasts, which no one has ever returned from.

She manages to get through the ordeal, but only by giving into the wolf-sark, and leads an army of brizzlehounds and idle-cats (who have all been sleeping deep within the museum) to fight the Fugleman.

Upon exiting the museum, Goldie’s army of beasts turns out to be illusionary, but it is still able to scatter the mercenaries, Blessed Guardians, and return the plague rats and ancient army that was in the process of marching into Jewel back to the museum. Goldie battles the Fugleman, who surrenders when she disarms him, and with difficulty escapes the wolf-sark without killing the Fugleman.

Unfortunately, the Fugleman has lied about surrendering, and takes Goldie’s sword. When his mercenaries refuse to support him (going back on his word to surrender being the last straw) he goes to escape through the illusionary brizzlehounds, daring them to do their worst. Broo, hidden in the pack, breaks his neck.

In order to send the army of beasts back into the museum, Goldie must give up the wolf-sark and the remnants of Princess Frisia. As Goldie feels the city returning to normal—albeit now dirtier, a little wilder, and likely less safe than before—she decides once and for all that she will indeed serve as the fifth keeper for the Museum of Dent.

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