When Gabby’s hand turns to steam, her mom hires an engineer to build her a clockwork glove. It’s the last thing Gabby wants—if only she could be normal. But when her mom is attacked by something monstrous, normal is no longer an option. Now the only person she can turn to is a grizzled detective, who promises to help her become something … more.
Meanwhile, Kemple’s foster dad treats him like a slave. And the beatings are getting worse. So when a rebellious girl named Josephyn arrives—with a plan to escape to the city—he doesn’t hesitate. But there are creatures in Iron Bay whose slashes are worse than skin-deep. And as Kemple evolves into something inhuman, his search for a cure begins.
They are strangers in a city where carriages rattle, airships rumble, and where their own dark pasts continue to haunt them. Soon their paths will collide, and the girl who slays monsters will come face to face with the boy who is becoming a beast.
The carriage they take is rickety, painted the color of spoiled meat, and smells like the inside of a barn. Every time the scruffy driver hits a new patch of cobbles, the whole coach jitters and shakes, and Gabby learns to hug the jar to her chest, just to stop it from slipping right off her wrist and shattering against the floorboards.(Beast Heart, pp. 16-17)
It brings a new question to mind, one she hasn’t wondered about before: what would happen if the jar really did break? Would her steamy hand just hover there, clinging to her wrist like a ghost? Or would her fogged knuckles keep spreading apart until her whole hand drifts away, forever lost in the open air?
And would it hurt, either way?
She makes a point of remembering these questions so she can ask them aloud later. The engineer might have an answer or two.
“When my hand is back to normal,” she tells Mom, raising her voice over the noise of the carriage, “I’m going to learn to play the piano.”
Mom squints out the coach’s grimy window, then looks over at Gabby blankly, as if she’s been thinking about something else this whole time. “What’s that again, dear?” she says, rubbing Gabby’s hair.
“Piano,” Gabby says. She lifts her jarred hand, holds it beside her good hand, and does her best imitation of fingering an invisible row of ivory keys. “I want to learn.”
Mom frowns, and it’s the saddest looking frown Gabby has seen on her in a long time. “Why would you want such a thing?”
Gabby crumples her face. Why does Mom always need a reason for everything? Can’t she just want something for the sake of wanting it? “I don’t know,” she admits. “Maybe so that everyone can watch me play and say things like, Oh, what a lovely, two handed girl, or, And to think, she used to have a ghost hand in a jar!”
She smiles as she says this, but when she looks up, Mom’s mouth is tight and quivering, and her eyes look swollen with tears. Mom turns away and presses her nose against the carriage window. “I’d like that for you very much, Gabs,” she says quietly. Then, with a brighter tone to her voice, one that sounds almost forced, she adds, “Or, if things don’t work out with the engineer, you could always learn to play the drums.” She glances sideways at Gabby and musters a smile, but her eyes look red and damp.
Gabby stays quiet the rest of the ride, with Mom’s voice echoing in her head, like a charred heart pumping out burnt, tarry blood.
. . . if things don’t work out with the engineer . . .
It’s the first time Mom has suggested that things might not go as planned, and the thought alone makes Gabby’s heart wobble. She frowns and stuffs her jarred hand into the shadows below the seat cushion, just so she won’t have to look at it anymore.
✪ Beast Heart was listed as a Finalist for the 2020 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award by Foreword Reviews (Publication Year: 2020 / Category: Young Adult Fiction).
“An explosion of action … Iron Bay is all dark alleys and howls in the night.”
— FOREWORD REVIEWS (starred review)
“Gritty … Imaginative … Evocative …”
— KIRKUS REVIEWS
“A richly multilayered book . . . incorporates myth, fantasy and horror to form an increasingly tense and very moving story.”
— Linda Hepworth, NB MAGAZINE (5 stars)
“Kyle Richardson pumps blood into machinery in Beast Heart, bringing his characters to life in this clever, emotionally engaging novel. Richardson is a writer to watch.”
— Kaaron Warren, award-winning author of INTO BONES LIKE OIL and TIDE OF STONE
“A wonderful and original mix of action, psychology and suspense. Blending steampunk and horror, it captures readers and leaves them wanting for more. Very highly recommended, for adults and teenagers alike.”
— Seb Doubinsky, award-winning author of the CITY-STATES CYCLE series
“Adventure, transformation, and two peculiar young characters searching for meaning in the hands they were dealt. An unexpected delight. Richardson brings us a deftly-written adventure that zigs when you expect it to zag, and begs for a sequel.”
— Jacqui Castle, award-winning author of THE SECLUSION
“A rare treat that manages to seem familiar from the start yet surprise at every turn.”
— G.D. Penman, author of THE YEAR OF THE KNIFE
“Beast Heart beats with beautiful whimsy and honesty about the pains of adolescence, abuse, and bullying. It also nurtures hope that its heroes can hold on to their humanity.”
— Rebecca Gomez Farrell, author of WINGS UNSEEN