With the sweeping romance of Passenger and the dark fantasy edge of This Savage Song, this standout YA contemporary fantasy debut from Vanessa Len, is the first in a planned trilogy.

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.


5 stars

I was ready to give it 4,5 stars (already a very good rating) when the last chapter pushed it to a five!

I must say that this story was an excellent surprise!

This is a first work for Vanessa Len but from the author’s notes, I grasped that she began writing on it in 2015.

Six years later, it’s now a published book that has been polished with great care to give the reader a very original storyarc filled with grey characters.

What’s interesting in Only a Monster, is that the heroine , Joan is a monster and will harm humans to some extent. But it’s more complicated than a monster being bad and black.

Joan cares and does not want to hurt anyone. Cue the nature versus nurture concept with Joan fighting against her nature and wanting to be good.

The white knight or hero here will be labelled a hero all along while he’ll massacre monsters. Is it the right thing to kill entire families for the sake of them being monsters?

They are monsters who cook for their children, care for them when they are sick, have pets…

As you can see, nothing is clear cut and everything is in shades of grey and I LOVED THAT!

Seeing this written through the monster’s eyes was certainly a very original take on fantasy trope.

We follow Joan while she is on holiday at her gran in London with two of her cousins and her aunt.

The opening is very engaging, the writing decided and wholesome, making us walk in Joan’s shoes from the beginning.

I could see Kensington and gush with Joan on her very alluring co-worker.

I also really loved that Joan was half human, half monster; half Chinese, half English. In both the human and monster world, she was “half”. Some looked at her with contempt but Vanessa made clear how being half of each culture was an asset rather than a weakness. That’s an interesting intake on the matter!

When the drama strikes, she’ll be dragged by Aaron, a very arrogant and beautiful young monster heir towards safety. But Joan wants her family back. She wants to undo what’s been done.

And in doing so, she will be at war with Nick all while being torn as she still has feelings for him.

I won’t say more about the plot.

Usually, I don’t like time travel in books but surprisingly I adored it here!

In Only a Monster, you have:

-a very original world and storyarc;

-characters in all shades of grey;

-a (kind of) love triangle;

-secrets to discover the truth;

-mysterious power;

-drama and action;

-starcrossed lovers.

I didn’t know that we would have a sequel when I finished the book and thought that it was a bitter-sweet albeit satisfying ending. But also that I wouldn’t mind having a sequel!

It seems that my wish will be granted.

Thanks for reading!


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