Do you like gut wrenching, WTF was that crazy ride reading? Do you like your science fiction and reality mixed? Or a mixing of a historic feel and magic at every turn? Then give Monstress Volume 1: Awaking by Marjorie M. Liu a try.
I stole these pieces of reviews from Good Reads: This book is “Asian inspired/art deco/classic steampunk horror/high fantasy/talking cats’ graphic novel.” “The art is dark and lovely.” And, “stellar manga nouveau artwork.”
Sana Takeda is in the top ten of my favorite fantasy illustrators.
The art is all that. The story is all that. And more. It is complex and everything blends into each other. Occasionally it can be hard to tell when or where the scene is set. Flashbacks or Now are not always obvious. There is a large cast of characters (mostly female) that can be slightly difficult to keep track of. This lends itself to multiple storylines, also intertwined. Volume One is a set up for the other volumes.
Yet, OMG WHAT A RIDE! I was “eh! Got this done in a weekend!” Never tempt the reading fates like that I tell you. Page One: Read. Wait. What? Went back and read again. Going along. About page five. Read. Wait. What?? Went back and read again. About page 20 (this is about two days later). Read. Wait! Back up to page 18. OOH, okay that is what was going on.
This is not a quick or easy read. This is not a “comfy” read. I came away from this book uneasy. The reality of the story can be a punch in the gut (the not fun kind). This is a brutal read about war, monsters (human and not), power, greed, violence, magical masks, talking cats (that have two or more tails and are not necessarily the most loyal creatures), ancient history, the old Gods, lies, betrayals and even some sex, drugs and rock-n-roll (okay no rock-n-roll. Yet).
The story is not pretty; which is probably the underestimate of the year. There are literal beheadings and extreme ends; slavery; slaves (all “not human” only monsters; even children) used as experiments, sexually and body parts used to provide power to the witch-nuns. Even those called Monster can live up to the name. No one is all good or bad. There are all shades of grey, red, black and blue. Religion, humanity and morality all comes under fire. All are questioned.
And frankly, few answers given. Volumes two to four are going to find their way onto my TBR list very soon.