City of the Beasts

City of the Beasts

by Isabel Allende

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When Alexander Cold's mother falls ill, the fifteen-year-old is sent to stay with his eccentric grandmother in New York. A tough and prickly magazine reporter, Kate Cold takes Alex along with her on an expedition to the Amazon to verify the existence of the fierce, gigantic, legendary creature known as the Beast. Joining them on their adventure are a celebrated anthropologist; a local guide and his daughter, Nadia; a doctor; and a local entrepreneur. But not everyone's intentions are pure—and dangerous discoveries await Alex and Nadia as they embark, with the aid of a jungle shaman, on an epic journey into the realm of the mythical Beasts of the Amazon.

City of the Beasts is the first book in an extraordinary trilogy by Isabel Allende, one of the world's most acclaimed authors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062254474
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 116,063
File size: 833 KB

About the Author

Isabel Allende is the author of twelve works of fiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Maya’s Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, Inés of My Soul, Daughter of Fortune, and a novel that has become a world-renowned classic, The House of the Spirits. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California.


San Rafael, California

Date of Birth:

August 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Lima, Peru

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Alexander Cold awakened at dawn, startled by a nightmare. He had been dreaming that an enormous black bird had crashed against the window with a clatter of shattered glass, flown into the house, and carried off his mother. In the dream, he watched helplessly as the gigantic vulture clasped Lisa Cold's clothing in its yellow claws, flew out the same broken window, and disappeared into a sky heavy with dark clouds. What had awakened him was the noise from the storm: wind lashing the trees, rain on the rooftop, and thunder.

He turned on the light with the sensation of being adrift in a boat, and pushed closer to the bulk of the large dog sleeping beside him. He pictured the roaring Pacific Ocean a few blocks from his house, spilling in furious waves against the cliffs. He lay listening to the storm and thinking about the black bird and about his mother, waiting for the pounding in his chest to die down. He was still tangled in the images of his bad dream.

Alexander looked at the clock: six-thirty, time to get up. Outside, it was beginning to get light. He decided that this was going to be a terrible day, one of those days when it's best to stay in bed because everything is going to turn out bad. There had been a lot of days like that since his mother got sick; sometimes the air in the house felt heavy, like being at the bottom of the sea. On those days, the only relief was to escape, to run along the beach with Poncho until he was out of breath. But it had been raining and raining for more than a week -- a real deluge -- and on top of that, Poncho had been bitten by a deer and didn't want to move. Alex was convinced that he had the dumbestdog in history, the only eighty-pound Labrador ever bitten by a deer. In the four years of his life, Poncho had been attacked by raccoons, the neighbor's cat, and now a deer -- not counting the times he had been sprayed by the skunks and they'd had to bathe him in tomato juice to get rid of the smell. Alex got out of bed without disturbing Poncho and got dressed, shivering; the heat came on at six, but it hadn't yet warmed his room, the one at the end of the hall.

At breakfast Alex was not in the mood to applaud his father's efforts at making pancakes. John Cold was not exactly a good cook; the only thing he knew how to do was pancakes, and they always turned out like rubber-tire tortillas. His children didn't want to hurt his feelings, so they pretended to eat them, but anytime he wasn't looking, they spit them out into the garbage pail. They had tried in vain to train Poncho to eat them: the dog was stupid, but not that stupid.

"When's Momma going to get better?" Nicole asked, trying to spear a rubbery pancake with her fork.

"Shut up, Nicole!" Alex replied, tired of hearing his younger sister ask the same question several times a week.

"Momma's going to die," Andrea added.

"Liar! She's not going to die!" shrieked Nicole.

"You two are just kids. You don't know what you're talking about!" Alex exclaimed.

"Here, girls. Quiet now. Momma is going to get better," John interrupted, without much conviction.

Alex was angry with his father, his sisters, Poncho, life in general -- even with his mother for getting sick. He rushed out of the kitchen, ready to leave without breakfast, but he tripped over the dog in the hallway and sprawled flat.

"Get out of my way, you stupid dog!" he yelled, and Poncho, delighted, gave him a loud slobbery kiss that left Alex's glasses spattered with saliva.

Yes, it was definitely one of those really bad days. Minutes later, his father discovered he had a flat tire on the van, and Alex had to help change it. They lost precious minutes and the three children were late getting to class. In the haste of leaving, Alex forgot his math homework. That did nothing to help his relationship with his teacher, whom Alex considered to be a pathetic little worm whose goal was to make his life miserable. As the last straw, he had also left his flute, and that afternoon he had orchestra practice; he was the soloist and couldn't miss the rehearsal.


The flute was the reason Alex had to leave during lunch to go back to the house. The storm had blown over but the sea was still rough and he couldn't take the short way along the beach road because the waves were crashing over the lip of the cliff and flooding the street. He took the long way, because he had only forty minutes.

For the last few weeks, ever since his mother got sick, a woman had come to clean, but that morning she had called to say that because of the storm she wouldn't be there. It didn't matter, she wasn't much help and the house was always dirty anyway. Even from outside, you could see the signs; it was as if the whole place was sad. The air of neglect began with the garden and spread through every room of the house, to the farthest corners.

Alex could feel his family coming apart. His sister Andrea, who had always been different from the other girls, was now more Andrea than ever; she was always dressing in costumes, and she wandered lost for hours in her fantasy world, where she imagined witches lurking in the mirrors and aliens swimming in her soup. She was too old for that. At twelve, Alex thought, she should be interested in boys, or piercing her ears. As for Nicole, the youngest in the family, she was collecting a zoo full of animals ...

City of the Beasts (Large Print). Copyright © by Isabel Allende. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide

About The Book:

In the midst of his mother's struggle with cancer, fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold has the opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime. Accompanying his fearless grandmother, a magazine reporter for International Geographic, Alexander sets off on an expedition to the remote world of the Amazon. On this mission he meets Nadia, the young daughter of their local guide and together they begin a magical and mystical adventure.

Questions For Discussion:

  1. Alexander goes into a destructive rage after witnessing his father chopping off his mother's hair. How does this reaction help the reader understand the pain that he is experiencing? How do his reactions to his mother's illness compare to those of his sisters?

  2. Kate Cold purposely isn't waiting at the airport for Alexander when he arrives in New York. How does this help to prepare him for their journey to the Amazon? Discuss the mistakes he makes and what important lessons he learns from them.

  3. Describe the relationship between Alexander and his grandmother. How is this relationship different from the typical relationship between a grandmother and her grandson? How does their relationship help Alexander cope with both his mother's illness and the journey into the Amazon? Are there any instances in the story when the relationship changes?

  4. Describe how the male chauvinistic ideals of Mauro Carias and Ludovic Leblanc's clash with the strong-minded women on the journey.

  5. What are totemic animals? Describe the circumstances of how Alexander and Nadia's totemic animals are revealed to them.

  6. How do Alexander and Nadia's strengths and weaknesses compliment one another? Give examples from the book of how they help each other overcome their personal weaknesses by relying on the other's personal strengths.

  7. How does Dr. Omayra Torres deceive the other members of the group? How are her motives ironic?

  8. What is the symbolism of the crystal eggs and the water of health? Why do Nadia and Alexander risk their lives for these things? What do they give up in order to attain them?

  9. Explain the irony surrounding Ludovic Leblanc. How does his public image and reputation contrast with his personal actions? How do his opinions about the Indians and the Beast change as the story evolves?

  10. Who is Walimai? What role does he play in the story?

  11. Describe the Beasts. What is unique about them? How do they compare to the image that the members of the expedition had projected?

About The Author:

Isabel Allende was born in Peru and raised in Chile. She is the author of these international best-sellers for adult readers: Portrait in Sepia, Daughter of Fortune, The Infinite Plan, Eva Luna, Of Love and Shadows, and The House of the Spirits, the short story collection The Stories of Eva Luna, the memoir Paula, and Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses. She lives in California.

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City of the Beasts 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Right off the bat, I knew that I would like reading this book. Although, the beginning did scare me a little bit because it seemed sluggish or slow. But as it went on into the Amazon, I could not put it down. It was a really great book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read Allende's works before and let me just say that with this novel, I'm convinced that she's as good a writer as everyone says she is. This book easily displays that you don't need to be in a completely different world to have an adventure and experience spiritual miracles. This story is non-stop action from the moment you start it.
IsaacW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book by Isabel Allende for young adults and it's very good! It was a bit hard to get in to but once you did you were right there in the Amazon with them-lost. Alexander Cold goes on a trip with his grandmother and International Geographic to the Amazon in search of the beast. There Alexander meets Nadia who accompanies him on his journey. They soon discover something that will be unforgettable to them and the reader.This is a great, great book and it is also the start of a series so there's more to come once you've finished!
Gnork on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
it´s a really good book.You cant stop reading it. it´s written in a way that traps you.
r_cuningham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent young adult fiction that also captures the attention of adults.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende an absorbing read. Telling the story of Alexander, who is sent off to accompany his grandmother on an expedition to the Amazon. His family is in crisis, with his mother very ill with cancer. Alex and his sisters are to be farmed out to the grandparents. Alex thinks he has drawn the short straw by being sent to his decidedly eccentric grandmother, Kate.This coming-of-age tale was written beautifully, the South American jungle comes to life as do the inhabitants of the jungle. As the expedition travels deeper and deeper into the rainforest, civilization seems so very far away, and Alex comes into full contact with his spirituality. We are taken into the realms of a fantasy world as Alex and his friend Nadia are taken captive by the People of the Mist and eventually these two are taken to the City of the Beasts to meet the legendary creatures. They are given the tools they will need to ensure that the People of the Mist don¿t come under the control of greedy entrepreneurs in the future.Isabel Allende manages to include both the topics of genocide and the exploitation of the Amazon Basin in her story, but first and foremost, she stays true to her younger audience and tells a wonderful fantasy adventure story about a boy coming to terms with his life and taking those first steps towards becoming a man.
jennyolsson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love the mix of mythology, fairytale, history, different cultures and adventure. The book is for teenagers, but I think many good fantasy books are made for teenagers and they are still very readable.
seekingflight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alex¿s mother has cancer, and he is sent off to his grandmother in New York while she undergoes chemotherapy. His grandmother makes little or no allowance for his youth, and thinks nothing of having him accompany her on a trip to the Amazon, in search of the legendary `Beast¿. (I suppose I'm not the only one who thought 'Heart of Darkness' at this point, and it perhaps wasn't an entirely inappropriate comparison.) I liked the way in which the book was grounded with such a realistic beginning, and I loved the enticing descriptions of the Amazon, its danger and its beauty. I enjoyed the coming of age elements of the story, where Alex and his friend Nadia both meet challenges, overcome their fears, and (of course!) learn things on their journey.But the fantasy elements of the story didn't really appeal to me (and seemed a bit weak, in comparison to some of these other parts of the book), and I felt a little disappointed overall.
sarah_rubyred on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Indiana Jones movie had similarities to this, though I think this wins hands down. I love teen books!
iftyzaidi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't read any Isabel Allende before, so this, the first in a trilogy of adventure novels for YA readers may not exactly be representative of her work, but I was in the mood for a light read. Incidentally, I don't read much YA books either. I noticed many of the reviews tend to compare this, either favourably or unfavourably to Harry Potter. Not having read any of the Harry Potter books, I can't really comment on that either. What I can say is that this is an entertaining adventure story, packed with exotic locations and an exciting quest, which is engaging without really managing to be enthralling.The story follows young Alexander Cold, a 15 year old American boy whose mother has unfortunately contracted cancer. While his father looks after her, Alexander is sent to live with his grandmother, a tough, whiskey-swilling journalist for 'International Geographic' who wouldn't win any prizes for wise parenting. She drags Alexander off to a trip deep into the Amazon searching for a mythical Beast (sort of a Bigfoot like creature). This is an adventure story in the mould of Indiana Jones (though much more culturally sensitive, thank goodness). Probably the best parts of the book are when the expedition is making its way up the Amazon river where Allende's descriptions of the flora and fauna in all their wild abundance and variety are particularly effective.
unlikelyaristotle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first I was wary of this book, when I realized there would be odd non-human characters walking around in the amazon - I'm not a great fan of fantasy - but this turned out to be a great read. The characters - even the supernatural ones - were fun to read about, but I would limit the description of this book to just that: fun. Still definitely worth a read!
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Normally I don¿t read Young Adult fiction because usually the level of sophistication¿justifiably so¿is lower than I like to read. Not that I¿m always happy with adult fiction in that regard, for that matter! However, I do recognize the differences in target audiences. But I couldn¿t¿ resist this one. Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors; I have almost all of her books in translation and one in Spanish. Her work is superb. And this story is set in the Amazon basin, a region I¿ve visited a number of times and love. Allende dedicated the book to "Alejandro, Andrea, and Nicole, who asked me for this story". These, as it turns out, are the names of Alexander, one of the protagonists, and his two younger sisters. Clearly Allende meant the book as a story for young people to enjoy. I decided to buy it.The story¿s main protagonists are two teenagers, an American boy, Alexander, and Nadia, a Brasilian girl. The heart of the action actually takes place in Venezuela, off the upper Orinoco River. The plot centers around the efforts of a party sponsored by the magazine International Geographic, which includes Alexander¿s grandmother who is a free lance writer of some renown, an eccentric anthropologist who is one of those all too common types who makes up theories to make him famous and then goes searching for the ¿facts¿ to back him up, a Brasilian female doctor, various army people, and a shadowy Brasilian entrepeneur who has made fortunes off of stealing lands (legally) from indigenous Amazon tribes. They are all on the search for The Beast, a legendary gigantic two legged creature that resembles the Yeti in many ways. Interestingly enough, in real life there have been reports on the river¿but east of the area in which Allende has set her story¿of a Yeti-like creature. It¿s quite possibly what Allende based her story on.Naturally there is an encounter with a heretofore-unknown tribe of indigenous people, skullduggery, kidnapping, adventures to the heart of the jungle¿all with generous doses of humor (I can believe that Allende is well-acquainted with teenagers) and South American magical realisism to boot. What I particularly appreciated about the book was the Allende provided large amounts of information about deforestation of the Amazon and the illegal activities that go on there without either being preachy or intrusive. It¿s a great way of teaching.I enjoyed the book¿it was fun. It¿s the first of a trilogy involving Alexander, his grandmother, and Nadia; the sequel takes place in the Himilayas.
wiremonkey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Allende's first y/a novel in the Alexander Cold trilogy, The City of Beasts is an exciting adventure story that also packs a political and spiritual punch. Through her main character Alexander Cold, the Amazon jungle and its inhabitants are able to demonstrate the wisdom still left to teach those of us who purport to be civilised. My only quibble concerns Alex himself. He goes from being a somewhat pampered, skeptical teenage boy dealing with the harsh reality of his mother's cancer, to a spiritually enlightened young man who has recognised his spirit animal and who is oddly receptive to the visions offered up by the jungle. The change was a little brusque in my opinion and not sufficiently explained by the plot. Otherwise, I would categorise this book as a page turner with substance and not hesitate to recommend it.
thioviolight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel exceeded my expectations! I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting adventure, and found the setting and all the details very fascinating. A wonderful book to get lost in!
JuliaEllen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I believe this was of of the first, if not the first of Isabel Allende's children's novels. It's absolutely fantastic and mystical. A GREAT adventure.
mattlhm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
City of the Beasts, by Isabel Allende, follows Alexander, a disgruntled 15-year-old tagging along on a trek up the Amazon River. He befriends a local girl who can talk to the indigenous Indians along the way. This skill allows them both to relunctantly enter into a supernatural otherworld where the decisions they make will figure prominently into the preservation of life for the Indians who will come to depend on them. Allende shows that she can masterfully spin a yarn, drawing the reader in with plainspoken plotting that moves the action stirringly along without excess characterization. Trouble occurs though when she takes her central characters into a fantasyland world where they will inherit the powers needed to save an Indian tribe central to the storyline. Descriptions here tend to be labored, and one can almost imagine Allende working overtime to astound the reader with overblown details that, unfortunately, aren't in line with the rest of the adept storytelling taking place back in the real world. This story addresses the plight of threatened Indian tribes living along the Amazon and can be used in the classroom to help highlight both ecological and sociological concerns now affecting its rainforests.
mjiko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was given this book by someone who hadn't realised that it's a children's book, as for some reason (in the UK at least) it's been marketed solely as an adult book. I'm really not sure why this is, as although it's a great adventure story for 12 to 14 yr olds there's not really anything deeper to hold the interest of an adult.
4469080 More than 1 year ago
Was very disappointed with this book as read many others by the author and was happy with them, not this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of all, Alex's grandma Kate is NOT a drug atic or an alcohlic Second, He didn't run away, he goes on one of herwork trips. Third, DON'T TELL LIES!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MattMH More than 1 year ago
In the novel The City Of The Beasts starts off with a family and the mom became diagnosed with cancer. when the 13 year old son found out about this he went up to his room and broke almost everything. his hands became bloody from shattered glass. Alex’s parents realized that he needed to go to his grandmothers house until his mother got better. The chapter starts off with Alex being dropped off at the airport when his dad told him to be an adult. Alex really took this to heart as shown later in the book when he landed in New York and his grand mother would not show up to pick Alex up. He needed to be an adult, he decided to use some money that he has to buy a bus ticket and be taken to his grandmothers house. His Grandmother is a very big drug adict and an alchoholic. He decided to run away. He found himself in an indian village which starts off his whole journey to the lost city of the beasts. He runs into multiple challenges along the way but he makes it after a long journey meeting many good and bad people and learning much. this is an extreme adventure book in my opinion because he takes one big adventure but takes many little adventures on the way to his overall point of destination. I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a mystery and or an adventure. it is a very well written book leaving cliff hangers at the end of every chapter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly did not like the book. It was mediocre at best and I think the author should avoid writing adolescent books. The chapters were tedious and long giving almost a day by day view of Alex's adventures and it constantly introduced new characters that ment nothing to the overall story. I was bored throughout most of the book, nearly falling asleep once when I was extremely tired whereas, if I'm reading a good book, no matter how tired I am I'll stay awake until the book is finished or nearly so. Even the action scenes were poor. The whole theme of teenage adolescense was far off. Personally, being a teenager myself, I could not connect with the character or his emotions which usually should be quite easy seeing as we are of similar age. Perhaps it was the translator's fault, though I find it hard to believe the mere mediocrecy of the book could be put to blame entirely on her shoulders. The point is, I did not like this book. Reading the summary it sounded interesting, an adventurous grandma dragging her unwilling teenage grandson along to find the Bigfoot of the Amazon. Though the general plot does revolve around this theme it was not nearly exciting as it sounds. So, overall, I do not recommend City of the Beasts. I'm sure some of Isabel Allende's other works set specifically for adults are quite interesting and well but, in my opinion, City of the Beasts was not one of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Jasmine_Paradis More than 1 year ago
I read the book City of the Beasts By: Isabel Allende, published in 2002. This book is full of mystery, action, details of the unknown and descriptions of the unimaginable. It will take you into another world where everything is very different form everyday life. There are two main characters in the book. The first main character you meet is Alexander Cold. Alex is from California and leaves his house to go with his grandmother to the Amazon jungle in South America. Ales flies from California to New York where his grandmothers house is so that they can fly out to the Amazon jungle together. Once they reach the Amazon jungle you are introduced to the second main character of the story Nadia. While Alex and Nadia are in a camp ready to depart on their adventure, Alex comes face to face with the Black Jaguar. Afterwards he describes the connection that he had with the Jaguar to Nadia. Nadia tells Alex that, "the jaguar recognized you because it is your totemic animal(pg.108)." She also says that, "we all have an animal spirit that accompanies us. It is like our soul. We don't all find our animal; usually it's only great warriors and shamans who do, byt you discovered yours without looking(pg.108)." Then she tells him that his name is Jaguar. A couple of days later Alex, Nadia, and the rest of the crew leave the camp and head out in boats deep into the Amazon jungle in search of the Beast, which is why Alex and his grandmother are in the Amazon to begin with. Their main objectives for going into the Amazon are to look for the Beast and to give the indians that live there a vaccine so that they don't contract any diseases that their immune systems aren't used to. Once they are on their way they run into many different animals that they didn't see around the camp cite. After a few more days when they stop to camp the Beast shows up and kills one of the crew members. The next night Alex and Nadia go a little ways into the woods and are captured by indians. Later Alex and Nadia learn that the indians are known as the People of the Mist because of where they live. Once Alex and Nadia are well rested the indians take them on a long journey to their home. One of the obsticles that they face is the scaleing of a waterfall. Once they reach the city of the People of the Mist Alex realizes that it is not like other indian cities that he has read about, the houses each have their own fireplace and they are in a circle in which every house is connected to the other by small roofs of leaves so that it doesn't get hot in the summer, when it rains it doesn't get wet, and if anyone flies over their city they won't be able to see it because of how it blends in with the land surrounding it. I am not going to say anymore about the book because the next adventure that Alex and Nadia go on together is the last adventure in this book.