Before we start the review, I was lucky enough to have sent an eARC of this book through NetGalley in December of last year (I think?). However due to university taking up most of my free time AND my reading time, I did not have the chance to read this book before the UK release date (which I was hoping to have a review up by then).
So imagine my surprise when my FairyLoot January Box arrived and inside was an absolutely stunning edition of ‘Only A Monster’ by Vanessa Len. Long story short I had no excuse not to read this book, so I juggled some uni work and finally found the time to start this book.
and wow. It was a good one!
Edition: Hardback, 368 pages
Publication Date: February 17th 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 1529380073 (ISBN13: 9781529380071)
Series: Monsters #1
With the sweeping romance of Passenger and the dark fantasy edge of This Savage Song, this standout YA contemporary fantasy debut from Vanessa Len, is the first in a planned trilogy.
It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.
But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.
As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .
. . . she is not the hero.
“You must never tell anyone above monsters”pg. 4
‘Only A Monster’ by Vanessa Len tells the story of Joan, a half-monster and half-human girl, who has only recently discovered her family’s hidden secret– that they come from a long line of Monsters who steal from humans. This revelation forced Joan to come to terms with the fact that not everything is as it seems, and that maybe the cute guy from work isn’t who he says he is. This book is the perfect mix of action, magic and romance that will have you captivated from the very first page.
I’m just going to say this now– this is a 5-star read to me.
Time for another little story time. As I was browsing through NetGalley at 2 am in the morning, I had come across this book and was intruiged by the title. That slowly diminished as soon as I read “Monster” and “Monster-slayer” (lowkey scoffed and rolled my eyes), but I was craving a fantasy novel so what’s one more book to add to that overused trope list? Also, in this book it’s the female character who is the “monster” which I thought was an interesting spin on the usual trope.
Speaking of Monsters, I liked how this book played around with the stereotypical idea of “Monsters”. We usually associate Monsters as the bad guys, the villains etc. The evil ones aren’t usually the main characters of books nor are they given the privilege of telling their side of the story. However, Vanessa Len gives our Monster a story to tell. In this world, Monsters have different powers according to their familial ties but they all share the ability to time travel– sounds pretty fun and harmless so far. The catch is, in order for Monsters to time travel, they have to “steal” time from humans. Whatever amount of time they stole from a human, that human’s life expectancy decreases the same amount. (Such a cool concept!) I love how we are seeing this the other side of “bad” characters. As the story progresses, we learn why Joan is doing the things that she does and it almost made me forget that she was the Monster in this story. That being said, we also get to see a bit of the Monster Slayer’s perspective and understand his backstory as well. Like any conflict, there are right and wrongs in both sides. Towards the second half of the book, the line between what is “good” versus what is “bad” was almost blurred that I was conflicted about which side I was on.
I want to talk a little bit more about Vanessa Len’s writing. I can’t seem to put my finger on it but there’s just something about the way she wrote this book that had me completely entranced that I ended up missing 2 law lectures so I can keep reading without stopping (Oops!). It could be her stylistic choices where she incorporates imagery through lots of descriptive language, and adds sights and sounds to make the readers feel like they are right in the middle of all the action– the action scenes, in particular, were incredibly well-written. However, the author does not feel the need to use complex vocabulary to build on the fantasy because the rest of the elements of the story do it for her. This is one of those books that you can pick up and fly through without needing to memorise complicated names and mythical beings. I also love how setting is in London because I can recognise a lot of the landmarks and places mentioned throughout the book.
Joan was such a fun character to read about. She loves her family, brave, and will not hesitate to do the right thing for the good of others. She’s not naive, whenever she encounters some dangerous situations but she recognises the risks of her actions and goes forward with it regardless. Even though she didn’t want to steal time from humans, she choose to do so in order to save her family and other monsters from demise.
She’s the kind of person who will always put her mind first before her heart.
Joan is selfless and has a strong moral compass, which is interesting because the qualities I mentioned above are traditionally associated with the “Heroes”, but in this book the “Monster” is the one who holds all of those characteristics. Joan is the kind of character that you find yourself unabashedly rooting for until the very end. As for the other characters, I am not ashamed to admit that I grew attached to Gram and Ruth so quickly that their early deaths actually had me gasping in disbelief. I had a feeling earlier on that it was inevitable, but that still didn’t make their deaths any less shocking to me. Applaud the author for doing a good job in making me care for the side characters so quickly– which rarely happens these days.
The realisation that I had discovered another amazing book that ticks all of my boxes is the best kind of feeling. As soon as I had closed the book, I cannot explain to you just how quickly I searched up any plans of a second book/sequel– and I’m pleased to announce that there is one scheduled to be released in 2023! This book was a wild rollercoaster from start to finish, and one that I absolutely do not regret going on. ‘Only A Monster’ by Vanessa Len is a gem in the YA fantasy genre, and I highly urge you to read it ASAP!
A little tip from me: savour every single page in this book because it will have you yearning for more by the end of it.
Thank you NetGalley and Hodder & Soughton for this ARC of ‘Only A Monster’ by Vanessa Len in exchange for an honest review.
Do you read YA Fantasy books? Any recommendations?
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