Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511-year-old.
He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful.
But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do.
So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan . . .
Ebenezer Tweezer is 511 years old and a horribly selfish person. He has a big house filled with a lot of things, and pots of money to buy anything he wants. He also has a Beast in his attic. Thus begins a deliciously dark middle grade tale that mixes the outlandish humour of Roald Dahl with the grim aesthetic of Lemony Snicket.
Ebenezer spends a lot of his time bringing the Beast all manner of exciting and interesting things to eat. Things like his pet cat, Lord Tibbles, and Patrick, one of only 20 Wintlorian Purple-Breasted Parrot’s left in the world (19, once the Beast is done with Patrick).
In return for his increasingly exotic morsels, the Beast vomits (yes, you read that right, The Beast and the Bethany is that kind of book) out anything that Ebenezer could wish for. Money, possessions and, most importantly, magical anti-ageing potions.
When The Beast and the Bethany opens, however, Ebenezer Tweezer has a problem. No longer content with consuming beloved housepets or rare species, the Beast has decided he would like a plump and juicy child to eat and that he won’t give Ebenezer the potion until he gets one. One trip to the orphanage later and Ebenezer returns with Bethany, a horrid little girl who enjoys stealing her fellow orphans’ comics, putting worms up people’s noses, and drawing all over Ebenezer’s favourite artwork.
Ebenezer is going to delight in feeding Bethany to the Beast. But first he needs to make her nice and plump and juicy. And that means getting her to eat. And that means talking to her. And THAT might just change Ebenezer and Bethany’s lives forever.
If The Beast and the Bethany sounds like a delightfully horrible book, that’s because it is. Brimming with fast-paced and chaotic action (captured perfectly by Isabelle Follath’s fantastically lively illustrations), this is a madcap adventure that explores greed, selfishness, friendship, and the possibility of redemption.
As the story progresses it becomes clear that neither Bethany not Ebenezer are quite as wicked as they first appear to be. Whilst both of them need to have their moral compasses firmly re-aligned, there might be hope for them yet – especially if they work together to confound the Beast’s dastardly plans.
I’m clearly not the target audience for The Beast and the Bethany but with it’s wicked humour, slapstick comedy, gross-out moments, and rip-roaring plot, I imagine the book will hook many a young reader seeking their next fix of the dark and delicious after tearing through the classics of Roald Dahl or the more recent Lemony Snicket series.
Parents might be less keen on Bethany’s antics (she’s no role model that’s for sure!) but beneath all the chocolate cake throwing and demands to “BOG OFF”, there is a lonely little girl in need of a friend and a home to call her own. As an adult reader, I really enjoyed seeing Bethany and Ebenezer’s relationship develop and how they each bought about a change in the other’s way of seeing the world around them.
And if you enjoy The Beast and the Bethany, there’s certainly the promise of more to come. Bethany and Ebenezer might have plans to subdue the Beast but it appears the Beast won’t be giving up that easily – so more adventures to come for eager readers who enjoy the raucous fun and zany capers that abound in this riot of a book.
The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips (illustrated by Isabelle Follath) is being released from the attic by Egmont Books on 01 October 2020 and is available from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, and Book Depository.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher, Egmont Books, for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Dave from The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues throughout September so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!