City of the Beasts, by Isabel Allende
Translator: Margaret Sayers Peden
Series: Memories of the Eagle and the Jaguar #1
Published by Flamingo, 2nd June 2003
Genres: Young adult, fantasy
Source: Purchased (second-hand)
When his mother is taken seriously ill, fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold is sent to live with his forbidding grandmother. Kate is not your typical warm and cuddly grandmother, rather she is brusque, adventurous and no-nonsense. Kate is preparing to embark on an expedition into the Amazonian rainforest and, rather than change her plans, she takes Alexander along with her.
They set off with their team, including a local guide and his young daughter Nadia, deep into the rainforest. Their aim is to locate an isolated and potentially headhunting tribe, as well as a legendary marauding creature known only as “The Beast”. As they get further from civilisation, and expedition members start disappearing, they will discover much more than they bargained for about the mysteries of the jungle and its inhabitants.
I have been wanting to read Isabel Allende for quite a while now, so when I spotted this book in a charity shop, I just had to get it. It also fitted into my 2021 Reading Women Challenge, for the prompt: “a book by a South American author in translation”.
As an avid traveller, I love when a book can really transport me to a new place and this one did just that. The way Allende describes the journey on the Amazon and the incredible diversity of the jungle drew me right in. I have always been fascinated by the Amazon River and Rainforest and this book really fed my imagination.
I also thought that the world-building in this book was remarkable. Drawing on elements of native cultures, Allende has created this rich and somehow very natural magical world, populated by mystical creatures. Although I loved it, I did think that it sometimes became a bit far-fetched, strange and hard to follow.
One of my favourite characters in this book is the daredevil adventurous grandmother. I just think that she is an amazing character, so matter-of-fact and brave, but also secretly really cares and has a heart of gold. It was very refreshing to discover a female character of a certain age, who is very much in charge of an expedition and doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone, especially pompous men. I loved her!
My rating: 4/5