Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Monster of Elendhaven | Jennifer Giesbrecht

The once-industrial city of Elendhaven lingers beyond the dismal coast of a rocky ocean. It is removed from society, abandoned by manufacturers, and was not-too-long-ago ravaged by a plague.

An opaque killer lurks along the shore. Johann is a self-declared monster: he wanders and creeps and slits and slashes, enamored with how it feels to kill people — until he meets Florian, a wealthy little fellow with many secrets of his own. Held together by magic, circumstance, and sexual tension, Florian and Johann take revenge on the visiting Southerners who long ago abandoned Florian’s family in their time of need.

THE MONSTER OF ELENDHAVEN rings in at 160 pages long in its hardcover version; the audiobook, meanwhile, is just under four hours in duration, read aloud by Daniel Henning. As it stands, this book would have made a much more fulfilling full-length novel.

Because of the inevitably-too-fast pace of the narrative, the romance between Johann and Florian feels undeveloped and unmotivated, one that is often more violent than veritable. Is a monster borne of ire and seawater even capable of love? Does Florian love Johann back, or is he just pretending to so that the monster will do his bidding? How does the mage-hunter fit into the revenge plot — and, perhaps more importantly, does she fit into it at all?

Read the rest of the review here.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pet | Akwaeke Emezi

PET by Akwaeke Emezi is about a young girl named Jam, her best friend Redemption, and their families. They live in a city called Lucille during a time when all of the monsters of the world have been conquered by angels. (Metaphorical angels like lawyers and judges and activists and metaphorical monsters like murderers and rapists and cons.)

One day, Jam is inspired to check out some books in the library about angels and finds old religious images that frighten her. These angels are nothing like the people in her town that had conquered the monsters, and she doesn’t like that things don’t appear to the eye as they truly are. She returns home to her mother, an artist named Bitter, and stays with her in her art studio as Bitter paints a large portrait of a cream-colored creature with razor blades poking out of its fur.

Later, Jam accidentally brings the monster to life when she trips and slices herself on the razor blades. Her parents tell her that Bitter’s paintings have come to life before and now Jam must send it back to where it came from. However, Jam soon learns that this monster isn’t one of the bad ones of the days of yore, but instead a monster hunter, one who is here to help. Its name is Pet, and it tells Jam that there’s a real monster hiding in her best friend Redemption’s house.

The book is marketed as a tale about young people who need to save the world from monsters, a near-impossible feat when the world doesn’t believe that monsters exist anymore.

Yet, that element of the plot is buried quite deeply underneath the meandering narrative, which is trying very hard to be so many things — a parable, a coming-of-age, a utopia-gone-wrong — that it doesn’t actually achieve any of them.

In the end, PET is an unsuccessful mélange of A MONSTER CALLS, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, and an Aesop fable.

Read the full piece here.

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