ARC Review: ONLY A MONSTER by Vanessa Len

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on black next to gold chain with watch and lion statue
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for ONLY A MONSTER: title in white on black with gold chain with watch and statue

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story she is not the hero.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

Ignore the blurb above – it’s useless. Doesn’t actually represent the book. ONLY A MONSTER is a fantasy that starts off contemporary then gains a really fun time travel twist. As well as their family-specific powers, monsters can time travel, by stealing the equivalent amount of time from humans.

I know the blurb doesn’t mention that at all! Instead, it focuses on the very much not on page “romance” between Nick and Joan. It’s not a romance. He’s not even there or even in her thoughts for most of the book. He’s a threat with a vague (very underdeveloped) attraction for her occasionally mentioned (which is explained on the ending.)

On the one hand, I can see why it’s being marketed this way (it fits the marketing trends of the moment) but on the other, it personally feels like a massive disservice to the book (and also doesn’t make it stand out). It’s not highlighting the really fun, far more unique concept that is the core plot. It’s is NOT a romantic fantasy about lovers on the other side, it’s a time travel story about a girl trying to undo it, and work out exactly who this man is – and how to stop him.

OK, bad marketing rant over – onto the actual book and why I liked it.

Time travel is such a tricky device to play around with in media because of the deceptively simple problem of “OK, if time travel is a thing, how come the character doesn’t just go back in time and solve the issue?” You need a hard, consistent rule that stops people being able to just go back (and thus undercut the tension.) Preferably that also comes with a “this is what happens/what we think happens if you break that – and it’s not good” to convince the reader that it really can’t be done.

This book is all about this rule, about someone trying to find a way to break it. To save her family once they’ve been killed, Joan has to find a way to undo it. And that takes her through the Monster’s parallel society living under human noses, with enemies in the shadows trying to stop her. Except the people trying to stop her should be the ones trying to help her.

And that was such a fun premise, tangling Joan in the secrets and past of this new-to-her world. Of course, it’s the start of a series, so it’s not all explained, but enough is to make the book satisfying – and there’s enough hanging to intrigue me about the later books.

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