I received a copy of Only a Monster by Vanessa Len from NetGalley. I was excited to delve into fantasy novels after such a long time. The blurb of the novel seemed so intriguing that I had to read it, I am glad I got a chance to. Only a Monster focuses on Joan Chang-Hunt, a 16-year-old who discovers that she and her family are not humans.
Joan is sent to live with her deceased mother’s family, the Hunts in London for the summer. All of the Hunts are a little eccentric, Joan loves spending her summers with them. She takes up a job at the historic Holland House, and Nick is her coworker and her crush. When Joan tries to good-heartedly help an older acquaintance, she loses a day of her life and she doesn’t understand what happened. Her grandmother then explains to Joan that the Hunts are monsters. They can travel in time by stealing years from humans.
One fateful night, Joan’s entire family is massacred, and she is left on the run with Aaron Oliver, another monster. The survivors of the massacre are being hunted; Joan and Aaron have no choice but to try and figure out what happens next while hiding. Joan doesn’t know about the monster world and it is through her eyes that as a reader we get to explore this different world and understand it. Joan struggles with a moral dilemma throughout the story. She is half human and half monster, both sides of her pull her in different directions at a time, and making a choice is never easy. It is a completely grounded conflict, the inner struggle she feels and it is depicted with the right amount of empathy.
The characters Joan, Aaron, and Ruth, another Hunt family survivor, and Joan’s cousin go on a thrilling journey to find a way to stop their families from being killed that night. Nick is the human hero of a mythical tale that says the hero will kill all the monsters. Joan is drawn to Nick from the start, but when he murders her family and threatens her, she doesn’t understand what to make of her feelings. The star-crossed lovers’ element of the story comes into play a little later than I would have liked although there are subtle nods to it from the beginning. The romance is not a prominent part of the novel in a conventional sense
All the characters are interesting, and there are some aspects of all of their personalities that can be relatable. Aaron Oliver is not a character I expected to like much when he comes into the picture, maybe because of the way things turn out the first time he meets Joan. Slowly, like Joan, we come to see him as a different person. He is more than the snobbish attitude and the Oliver family name; he genuinely seems to care about Joan and helps her navigate this new life. There is so much unexplored about him and his relationship with his family. I did see there are two more books to the series, so hopefully, Aaron will come back. It’ll be nice to see him team up with Joan again, but I’ll have to wait to find out.
The story is exciting and intriguing. The world of monsters and humans that is created in the novel is very fascinating. It builds an intriguing world and keeps you hooked from the start. There are moral conflicts, fantasy, adventure, and romance, all packed into one story with a good plot and characters. I enjoyed reading Only a Monster, and I can’t wait to read more books set in this universe.
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