Series: Monstrous #1
Published: February 2015
The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.
Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.
Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.
And what he knows will change Kym’s life.
Despite being highly predictable (You can probably guess the major plot points from the jacket summary alone), Monstrous is a charmingly engaging book. Though I would have loved to have been more surprised by the twists the story takes, I firmly believe that being able to enjoy a story when you know what’s going to happen is the mark of a good tale. You know you’ll be able to reread it and still find something to love. With its captivating characters, a hint of mystery, and a dash of magic, Monstrous fits the bill. I can imagine it becoming a childhood favorite for many young readers.
Though the pacing is arguably slow in the beginning of the novel, with a sharp turn to sudden action at the end, I found myself more immersed in the beginning. Sure, there is not a lot of “big” action, and it is really clear what major revelation Kym is going to have, it is really engaging to watch Kym simply discover the world. She loves life, exploring, and people. It’s almost what would result if L.M. Montgomery decided to write a fantasy novel, and I was really into it. Though Connolly does put some unique twists on the conclusion of the story, it still reads as more “typical” fantasy fare to me, so the opening is really where the story shines.
Kym is certainly my favorite character, vivacious, brave, and full of curiosity. However, there are a lot of great fantasy stock characters here for fans of the genre: a kindly king, a page boy who has secrets about the castle, a dragon, an evil minion, and of course the wizard. Connolly gives them all developed personalities, so they break from being only stereotypes, even as they fill the role. I do think the wizard could have had more convincing motivations for some of his actions, but perhaps the thing to do is just accept the existence of evil and the idea that power can corrupt.
Monstrous is simply a charming middle grade novel that puts some original touches on favorite fantasy themes. I usually struggle to think of books that evoke the tone of L. M. Montgomery, but this one gets it just about right with a main character who’s full of life and open to the beauty of the world. The only reason I’m hesitating to read the companion book, Ravenous, is because I wasn’t a huge fan of Greta, the new protagonist, in Monstrous. However, it so far has good reviews, ad Connolly has such an engaging writing style, that I think it will be worth picking up.