Title: Only A Monster
Series: Monsters #1
Author: Vanessa Len
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: February 22nd, 2022 (HarperTeen)
Synopsis: 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.
On vacation in London visiting her mother’s family, Joan’s summer is turned upside down when, on her way to a date with her long time crush Nick, she accidentally travels to the future by stealing time from someone. Turns out, the fairytales her grandma used to tell her are entirely true, and her mother’s family are actually monsters who can steal time from humans and use it to travel, and she herself is half-human and half-monster. But before she has had time to digest this shocking revelation, she finds out that Nick is actually a figure from legend, known as the hero, whose purpose is to slaughter all monsters. When tragedy strikes, Joan is forced to work with Aaron, the heir of a rival monster family and travel through time herself, battling Nick and seeking a way to stop him.
I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I saw it among this season’s releases, and it was such an amazing read! Urban fantasy has never been my thing, but books like this have been changing my mind a lot with respect to this genre. Only A Monster is set in London, which in and of itself makes a wonderful setting for this type of book, but when you add in the time travel aspect, it takes the plot to a whole other level, with so many historical pieces being woven in. Time travel is one of my absolute favorite tropes and I’ve never seen it integrated into the fantasy genre so well! The magic system itself was no less intriguing with many monster families, each of them having a special magical ability. The high-stakes plot with plenty of twists and secrets to be revealed made this a thrilling read.
The characters were the most interesting aspect of this book for me. They reminded me a little of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series as well as Renegades to an extent, where the line between good and evil is not always clear. Joan is from a monster family but is half-human and she does recognize that what her family and other monsters do is wrong, but does that really justify the hero’s actions? This book makes you question the nature of heroes and villains and consider if the hero, who is actually the villain of this story, is truly a villain at all, especially as his backstory begins to unfold. There are so many ways to look at this plot and interpret it and I loved how the author was able to portray them all so well while still making each side of the conflict sympathetic in some way. I felt that seeing this story from Joan’s POV was a good narrative choice as the world of monsters is explored through the eyes of someone new to it with little familial bias like many of the other characters have.
I haven’t yet finalized my rating at 4 stars for this book, and honestly, I’m very tempted to raise it a little. My main issue with this book was that despite the loose ends, the ending felt rather complete and it was something I would expect to see in a second or third book rather than the first. Still, it is a debut novel and I have my fingers crossed that book 2 will be just as strong, so I may yet change this rating to a 4.5!
I found the ending to be a little abrupt and would have liked a clearer explanation as to the aftermath of Joan’s actions, specifically where it leaves her in terms of her abilities. However, given that this is apparently a trilogy, I didn’t mind that there are some things left unresolved and so much still remains to explore in this fascinating world. Only A Monster was a thoroughly entertaining, fast paced read and it is a book I would highly recommend! I can’t wait to see what the sequel will be like!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: