ARC Review | Only A Monster by Vanessa Len

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.

“If only a monster would do this, then she could do this. She was a monster, wasn’t she?”

Only a Monster was one of my most anticipated releases of the year for many reasons, including: morally grey characters who have to embrace their own monstrousness to survive, star-crossed lovers who are also mortal enemies, and a magical underworld hidden within London. On top of that (!), it uses time travel in an interesting and compelling way, has extremely sympathetic characters, and has a high-stakes heist in the vein of Six of Crows. Any of these angles on their own would have convinced me to pick this up, but the combination of them meant that I needed to read it ASAP.

Only a Monster starts off at a fast pace, quickly introducing Joan and her love interest (and soon-to-be revealed monster slayer), Nick, and what it means to be a monster in this world. I would have liked to see more on-page scenes establishing the relationship between Joan and Nick at the beginning as it was difficult to be invested in any inner turmoil that Joan had regarding her feelings for him (and the pseudo-love triangle that was being drawn) when the chemistry wasn’t there. 

I was pleasantly surprised with just how dark this book was, from the ability that made one a monster to the twist on the chosen one trope that it masterfully employs. The stakes are high and Len doesn’t pull any punches, making this impossible to put down.

Overall, Only a Monster was dark, enthralling, and subverted tropes in ways that made the story more interesting. It ended in such a way that it could function as a standalone with a complete story arc (no cliffhanger!) but I am very glad that there will be future books in the series as there is so much of the monster world left to explore.

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