The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
This is a huge, rich tapestry translated from the Japanese and published by the always interesting Pushkin Press.
First we meet Erin and her mother, who care for the Toda — huge and magnificent beasts of war. After her mother dies, Erin finds herself caught in a battle for the heart of the nation as she masters her ability to communicate with the noble Royal Beasts (huge winged wolves) and the fearsome Toda. She puts herself in great danger when she tries to prevent the creatures being mere pawns in the games of war waged by the emperor.
This is enthralling, epic storytelling at its best, as we follow Erin from tragedy through to the political machinations of the royal court and the selfless heroism she needs to challenge the dark hearts of mankind.