I have to honest and admit that I did not read this thoroughly, more like slow skimmed. The Monster of Elendhaven was described as “dark”, “humorous”, “rotten with magic”; these descriptors match some things I’ve read and enjoyed. This novella is most definitely more the ‘dark’, as in horror. The setting is Elendhaven, somewhere around the North Pole, where some sort of seriously nasty plague caused by a magic eruption of some sort that either kills people or essentially mutates the survivors. Being a sorcerer in this world is basically akin to being infected with a longer term version of the plague. You might think that the story might revolve around a hero trying to solve the mystery (nope), or maybe an outsider discovering the survivors and eventually learning the secrets (kind of). For most of the novella, there is Johannes (at least that’s the name he essentially takes for himself) and Florian, an aging old-money sorcerer with one heck of a backstory. To be clear: this is one of those stories where everyone’s (probably) a villain, but exactly how that is with Florian in particular is gradually unraveled throughout the story.
The “plot” revolves around an outsider who arrives, encounters Johannes and Florian, and figures out at least somewhat what the two are. They in turn have to figure out who the outsider really is, and how to deal with them. The final confrontation ends up with only one of the three still standing, and how the two who don’t make it get that way is described in enough detail to bother me, more violence than gore but still…. Granted, I don’t have a high tolerance for that kind of horror, but up until this point it was in smaller doses.
I do have to give props to the epilogue of sorts when it’s suggested that the one who survives manages to get out of Elendhaven and potentially have something to do with Jack the Ripper. I’ve had this on my shelf a while and now that I’ve read it as much as I’m going to, it’s going in the annual stuff to clear out pile. It’s not even so much the plague parts that bother me; I just don’t especially like this kind of horror, especially when there’s no one to really root for for most of the story, and when the potential good character comes in, they get very little development or motivation for much of anything they do. Florian and Johannes at least get that much, and they’re both bad enough to qualify as the titular monster, although considering that the title does use the singular, given who survives and who doesn’t, it’s pretty clear who that label probably refers to.