I read The Monster of Elendhaven (listened to it, actually) months ago, but never got around to reviewing it. It’s more of a novella than a novel, and was marketed as horror but I think the fantasy elements come through more strongly at times.
It revolves around “Johann”, the titular monster who cannot be killed and loves killing others, and his relationship with the young, handsome, and equally monstrous Florian, the last surviving member of a rich and powerful family in Elendhaven. Together, they plot a twisted revenge on the people of Elendhaven, designing a magical plague to ravage the town, just like the one that killed the rest of Florian’s family a decade earlier.
So I read this long before the current situation took form, and I wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much, considering the form of Florian’s revenge. Granted, this plague is more magical in nature, but it might hit a little too close to home for some people right now.
While not horror exactly, this book is still really dark. Elendhaven itself is a nightmare: basically a city at the north pole that’s been ravaged by climate change and expoited of its natural resources until there’s nothing left. Both Johann and Florian have twisted, brutal histories, and this only unfolds in even more twisted ways as the story continues. And their relationship especially is dark: they each find pleasure in controlling and baiting the other and in their growing cruelty. They reinforce the worst in each other. And there’s also a lot of darkness lying just underneath the story that unfolds.
There were a few twists/interesting reveals, in that the plot took different routes than I had initially expected (especially regarding Florian). The writing is great, and I think I may even have enjoyed it more if I’d read instead of listened to it–though I have no complaints about the narrator. It was more of a 3.5 star read for me: not quite 4. I can’t recommend it to everyone, but if you want something dark set in a world that’s even worse off than ours right now, this one might be up your street.