Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
This book has been on my radar for quite some time—I’m always up for a good urban fantasy every once in a while, and the V.E. Schwab comparison had me hesitantly optimistic. I figured it would be a good read for AAPI Heritage Month, but…alas, it was such a mess, and ultimately not worth my time.
Enjoy this week’s review!
Only a Monster (Monsters, #1) – Vanessa Len
Joan is set to have the perfect summer. She’s staying in London with her late mother’s side of the family, amidst historical buildings, a steady job (with a handsome co-worker, Nick), and the smell of magic in the air. But when a disaster leaves most of her family dead, Joan is confronted with an ugly truth—she comes from a long line of time-stealing monsters. Worse still, the handsome Nick comes from a long line of monster hunters. Can Joan hone her powers before the monster hunters track her down?
TW/CW (from Vanessa Len): murder, violence, blood, loss of loved ones (on & off-page), substance abuse, xenophobia (fantasy), racism, interrogation, brainwashing, weapon use
DNF at 27%.
Before I get into my rant: I’ll always appreciate how much time and love it takes to write a book and put it out there. Any kind of creative output like this is highly admirable, and I can give this novel a certain degree of slack knowing that it’s Vanessa Len’s debut novel. That being said, Only a Monster really wasn’t it for me, and sometimes 1-star rants can be good for the soul as long as they aren’t actively hurting anybody. Gotta air it all out sometimes.
I went into Only a Monster expecting for it to be a nice break from some of the denser books I’d just read—something fun, something charmingly over-the-top. And…well, the over-the-top element was very much present, but not in a good way at all. From what I read of this novel, it was really just a mess that lacked any sort of nuance whatsoever.
We had the setup right from the start—a monsters versus monster-hunters conflict, “Joan is not the hero of this story,” et cetera, et cetera. Before reading this, I figured a lot of that language was just going to be for the sake of putting a nice hook on the front cover and other marketing purposes; I assumed that the book was going to get into some of the morally gray (as much of a buzzword that’s become with books these days) aspects of that conflict, but…no. From the get-go, we’re hit over the head with a comically large sledgehammer that JOAN IS NOT THE HERO OF THE STORY!!! and that BEING A MONSTER IS BAD BAD BAD!! and that MONSTERS AND HEROES!!!! DO NOT MIX!!! EVER!!! It’s not so much a theme so much as it is a metal pipe that gets painfully shoved down your throat. It got to the point where I felt like it was insulting my intelligence—I didn’t need to be told all this over and over. I really didn’t. Jeez. It could’ve been developed somewhat compellingly, but….no.
Beyond that, I didn’t know going in to Only a Monster that there was going to be a dreaded love triangle, which…[EXTREMELY LOUD INCORRECT BUZZER]
If there’s anything that can instantly ruin a book, it’s that. THERE’S NO NEED. And the setup wasn’t even anything that hasn’t been done before—each love interest is on one side of the conflict (monster and monster-hunter), and while I didn’t care to stick around to find out how it was resolved, I had a feeling that it would end up as a trash fire. What I did manage to get, however, was the description of Nick as “stupidly good-looking.” Can we please, as a society, get rid of this? Please? It’s starting to become just like “she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding” at this point. Again: zero nuance.
All in all, a bitter disappointment of a book that lacked the creativity and nuance that the blurb and reviews promised. 1 star.
Only a Monster is the first in Vanessa Len’s Monsters trilogy, which will continue with Never a Hero (slated for release this August) and an untitled third book.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!