THE BEAST PLAYER by Nahoko Uehashi
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Elin’s mother has always cared for the water serpents, the Toda. She is the best Toda doctor in all of Aluhan. But when the most powerful Toda mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is blamed and sentenced to death. After failing to rescue her mother, Elin flees and takes refuge with a beekeeper in a neighboring territory. There she learns of her own gift of communication with the Toda, of her mother’s connection with the mystical Ahlyo people, and of her own place in the civil war between the country of her birth and the country where she found refuge.
An award-winning novel with masterful world-building, THE BEAST PLAYER will appeal to YA fantasy fans despite the protagonist’s youth (age 10 at the novel’s start). For graphic novel fans, there are manga and an anime TV series!