Genre: Fantasy Age Range: MG Star Rating: 2.5 stars Series: yes - book 1
‘Humans, as is their wont, have a terrible habit of making a mess of everything.’
Mirabelle has always known she is a monster. When the glamour protecting her unusual family from the human world is torn and an orphaned brother and sister stumble upon Rookhaven, Mirabelle soon discovers that friendship can be found in the outside world.
But as something far more sinister comes to threaten them all, it quickly becomes clear that the true monsters aren’t necessarily the ones you can see.
A thought-provoking, chilling and beautifully written novel, Pádraig Kenny’s The Monsters of Rookhhaven, stunningly illustrated by Edward Bettison, explores difference and empathy through the eyes of characters you won’t want to let go.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This is a peculiar little book, and I think it was the wrong sort of peculiar for me to really connect to and get into.
This historical fantasy, set after one of the world wars (I think the first?), has monsters living behind a glamour in an old estate, given meat by the villagers in exchange for staying to the estate. Except, the monsters aren’t really monstrous, but a family that’s other – and the villagers are whipped up against them.
The design of the house and the “monsters” felt slightly off-kilter, but not in the emphasised quirky way that I really enjoy. Instead, the design simply felt shoved to the back of the book, not quite gothic, not quite quirky – not quite getting an atmosphere or general vibe across.
And I think that lack of definable (or really tangible) atmosphere is what I was missing to really get into and enjoy the book. From the design of the cover and the blurb, I was expecting a spooky gothic. Then I started reading and wondering if I’d get something quirky, and that didn’t happen – but I didn’t really get an atmosphere at all off it.
It’s a book that took a while to get going. The threat turns up maybe 180 pages into a 330 page book. Before then, it’s a series of minor events that happen as the two children arrive. They sort of just end up in the house – still not entirely sure why Mirabelle invited them in, which was rather crucial. One of these events is a basis for the village getting angry, but they don’t do anything about it until the villain turns up.
Without the villain, there didn’t feel like there was a threat or doom hanging over it, because it all felt like it could be easily smoothed over. This meant that the book lacked tension propelling it along. It felt more like a leisurely stroll instead.
I was also a little surprised that only one of children who arrived was a narrator. I was expecting it to be both, but Tom doesn’t narrate a word, and is in the background of the entire book. Instead, the other narrators (beyond Mirabelle and the other sibling Tom), the narrators are Freddie, one of the boys from the village (whose job it is to show what’s happening in the village, so is sparse at the start and gradually has more to do) and Piglet.
Piglet is a monster the others are scared of, and narrates in a different tense with white words on black background (which was hard to read.) It’s one of the bits that makes the book feel like it didn’t have a single, coherent feel.
The illustrations are more like decorative elements than illustrations of what’s happening as scenes. They were very nice, and felt like the book was trying to be sort of gothic but not quite getting there (still slightly torn between gothic and quirky in design.)
Overall, it’s a book that I can see why others might like, but simply didn’t click with me.