I, Hannah read Ordinary Monsters. I got the book from Netgalley, and want to thank them for giving me the advanced copy that I intended to read before it came out on June 7, but failed. Honestly, I think the length intimidated me after the #MegaMay I hosted on my Instagram account. But I powered through this book recently, and overall I’m not sure I really enjoyed it. When it was good it was good, but overall, it felt like a bit of a mess to me.
This is a book that starts with a character finding a magical child, and then we travel throughout the world meeting children who have similar power and bringing them together to fight against a deep seeded evil and lurking in a dead world. Does that have a flavor of Stranger Things? Maybe. But the main characters are a mix of young to teenage children, a few adults, and the evil lurking around them.
I very much enjoyed the setting and the way the characters came upon information. They seemed to have realistic reactions to the magical world, and overall the story was interesting. I know this is a trilogy, and this is an interesting beginning that set up the final scenes for the next book really, really well. I also really liked the Marlowe and Charlie characters. They really seemed to have a wonderful connection, and I really liked seeing to boys make a connection like found brothers. That was relatively unique for a fantasy book where that was the main focus. And again, the plot felt interesting and I was interested to see where it went.
Technically, this is all right up my alley, honestly. The book has been compared to Stranger Things, Umbrella Academy, X-Men, all things I really, truly love. But overall, the book was a 672 page tome that was a straightforward mix of all the above things, with no real change from the formulaic fantasy stories. I felt like I was reading any other story of good v. evil, with small changes to make it “feel different”, but it never actually felt different. Without this, I felt every single page I was reading and counting down the hours I had left in the book.
I also felt like the plotting was very unique and not always what I expected, but it was also a bit confusing at times. I thought certain things would have made more sense earlier in the novel, or later on for better context. A lot of times, it almost felt like the author was trying to add certain scenes either for shock value or to set everything up for us to understand something really specific about characters, but that wasn’t always necessary. It felt like he didn’t always trust the reader, and that was a bit disappointing.
Further, some of the characterization was very bizarre to me. It is a book set in the 1800s, with a Black teenager. He is American and experiences great racial bias in America, but once he sets foot in England, it is almost like racism vanishes. I understand that England did treat Black people better, but it felt like there was always a lot of focus on how well he was treated when that wasn’t always the case (I’m thinking of another book coming out soon, Babel by R.F. Kuang). It just felt like a weird choice overall. There was also a lot of hints that there will be a love triangle including two best friends, and there was no hint at how the friends felt about it. It felt like these were takes from the early 2000s and not something from 2022. There were also so many characters that didn’t feel fully realized, and more like they were general ideas that didn’t get the full support. There was enough page space to give them more nuance, and a lot of times it felt flat.
Overall, I didn’t love this book. It wasn’t bad, and a lot of people really liked it, and I get it. But it felt like a pretty straightforward fantasy with no real movement. I will give the second book a chance, it is the first novel of this caliber. But I have some questions for how this will proceed.