Review: Only a Monster by Vanessa Len


Title: Only a Monster
Author: Vanessa Len
Date of publication: 17 Feb 2022
Genre: Urban fantasy

Author's links:

My rating: 5 stars


In every story there is a hero and a monster.

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.

Then a Good Samaritan attempt gone wrong sends Joan spinning through time, and her life quickly begins to unravel.
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.


What an absolutely gorgeous book!

On the surface the story is similar to most YA (a girl discovers magical/monster world, goes on a quest, is thorn between two boys, finds her true self) but the author took the familiar tropes and twisted on its head making a truly original work.

This is dark, not bloody or gory but really dark and I was hesitant to pick it because of that (all the red and black on the US cover made think it might not be the book for me) but now I am so glad I trusted my friends who praised it highly and decided to read it.

It's a mesmerizing tale, not so much suspenseful as full of unexpectedness. I could neve predict what will happen next, yet when it did, it all felt natural, fitting to the story and the characters. Masterful writing and plotting, even more impressive considering it is a debut.

I loved the writing and the rich world building, London, where I have never been - modern and old, 90s fashion that I am all too familiar with.

Beside the great plot development, it is the characters that really stood out to me. Morally grey, complex, changing and growing. The story is effortlessly diverse, queer (so happy we got happy gays, and not bury the guys side plot).

Joan is amazing. The story is told from her POV and we really got to experience it all - her confusion, pain and hope and determination. What I loved most about her was her innocence, her naivete of sorts that made her never give up and always look for solutions, helped her see things outside the rules of the monster world.

Aaron and Nick were fantastic characters as well. So were all the side characters. It's one of those stories where readers feel the need to pick teams and I am team Aaron all the way. I understand Nick might be her soulmate and I have all the sympathy for him but Aaron completely won me over. We know less about him, we got only bits from his past and the trauma but he was someone who knew what the consequences would be and still did what he did for Joan. That is jus the ultimate love for me (in books at least).

It's a story about the nature of memories, the process of remembering and forgetting and this led to some powerful scenes that brought tears to my eyes. It's a fast paced adventure, there was no time to feel melancholic or contemplative while reading, I was in a hurry to see what would happen next. After I finished it though, I had all the time to think about my own memories. I love it when a book stays with me like that after I finish it

The story opens with a gentle start and then boom! magic and it's go, go, go from there till the very end. The rare moments of calms were so achingly tender, intimate, I will cherish them forever.

The story is self contained, yet full of possibilities. I have been discussing it with friends and enjoy seeing the different interpretation, details I missed and others saw and vice versa, theories of what might happen next.

In short, this book has been a glorious reading adventure and I highly recommend it to fans of YA Urban fantasy.

CW: murder, violence, blood, imprisonment, torture, brainwashing, death of parents of MCs (in the past)

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