No Gods, No Monsters – Cadwell Turnball

Hannah read No Gods, No Monsters, which was recently published on September 7, 2021. It is an urban fantasy novel that begins with a Black man who is shot by a police officer. What happens next is a very specific storyline of monsters existing in our own world. Turnball posits that they have been around forever, with various levels of factions or groups. This is the first in the Convergence Saga, but Turnball has written “The Lesson” as well as numerous stories in literary magazines and a comic book for the Black Panther.

The overall storyline and how Turnball used the narration was amazing. He kept you guessing and wanting to know what was happening around you. The characters were unique and mysterious in there own right, and he layered them in a magical way. Each character was specifically flawed and detailed enough to be invested. As a first novel, it drops you into the world and keeps you there, wondering what will happen in the next book and how the characters will turn out. Overall, you learn more and more in a very organic way as you keep reading. The switching in point of view and how details came out are fascinating to see how Turnball leads you into the story.

Also, the political themes in this are very on the nose, but still effective. The way he uses Monsters to show off intolerance and bigotry is directly parallel to the issues we are seeing in the world today. Monsters are treated as dangerous and unknowing, and often suffer at the hands of police violence once they are found out. Further, Monsters often pass as people who do not have some type of power, so they are able to live in the world while knowing they are unwanted, pretending to be something they are not. Turnball does well at showing what prejudice can look like throughout this novel.

Turnball also makes it a point to bring representation into this novel in a very fluid and realistic way. There are people of color at the forefront of this novel, there is representation of asexuality and different types of romantic relationships. Love is seen through all lenses, while focusing on the fact that many people do not want to feel alone and want to be loved and heard. I was so happy to see things outside the typical perspective.

That said, there are times where you may feel a bit lost in some of the way the plot worked itself out. The book can fall into the “first book in a series trap” where everything was set up with incredibly little payoff. Although I think Turnball’s writing is unique, I would have preferred a longer story with more plot or details other than merely introducing us to the characters.

Hannah’s views: This leads me to a point I’ve found in many of the science fiction and fantasy novels I have read lately. It often feels like publishers are pushing out many novels that are less than four hundred pages. This is helpful in keeping writers to a limited time, but often a fantasy that is setting up a new world needs more time to sit in it. I feel like Turnball is a smart enough writer that he should have been given more room to write, given more nuance in the political themes that he touches on time and time again. It felt a bit too on the nose, which is a shame because he still has a lot to say that I find fascinating.

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