Dark, twisted, and certainly not for the faint of heart, The Monster of Elendhaven takes the reader through the murky depths of revenge and leaves them questioning their morals.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
This ARC was sent to me by the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed are completely my own and not influenced in any way.
FYI: Trigger Warnings are at the end of the review.
The Monster of Elendhaven
Author: Jennifer Giesbrecht
Publisher: Tor.Com Publishing
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Synopsis: Debut author Jennifer Giesbrecht paints a darkly compelling fantasy of revenge in The Monster of Elendhaven, a dark fantasy about murder, a monster, and the magician who love both.
The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning.
These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.
The Monster of Elendhaven from Jennifer Giesbrecht is a fantastically dark novella that explores revenge in a bleak world where magicians are hunted and the villains are everywhere. Besides being dark, which I think is going to be the key word in this review, I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this novella. What I got was a lyrical tale of two monsters, one trying to find purpose in his grotesque existence and the other seeking long simmering revenge on the monsters who destroyed his family.
There are no heroes in this story. The whole time you know that the two main characters, Florian and Johann, are not good people, but you can’t help but root for them. This is one of those stories that makes me question my status as a Hufflepuff. The complexity that Giesbrecht gives both Florian and Johann in such a short amount of time is applaudable. Even the side characters get a good amount of building and you can easily get a sense of who they are.
The world of Elendhaven is murky, gloomy, and full of dread. It is the perfect backdrop for the story being told. Though really intense world building is hard to achieve in a novella, Giesbrecht gives us all we need to understand Florian’s motivation for his cruel schemes. There is also some really interesting mythology created and I loved that aspect of this story. My only issue with the writing was getting a sense of an era of time. While the world gave me Jack the Ripper era vibes, Johann’s manner of speech sometimes felt oddly modern and threw me out of the atmosphere.
Florian and Johann’s relationship is deeply complex, but the romantic aspect to it is not the main focus. The romance is one of many facets in their twisted existence. Though both monsters in their own ways, they are very different and watching them work and grow together is fascinating. It is an interesting exploration of two people finding what they need in each other, in both good and bad ways.
All told, The Monster of Elendhaven is a wonderfully weird little journey through a bleak world with two monsters at the wheel. This novella is perfect for fans of monstrous, murderous characters and dark, twisted tales.
Trigger warnings: I am not exaggerating when I say this one is dark. There is an overall feeling of dread that permeates the read. Also, rape of a child (not explicit and a very short scene, but it’s there), gore, violence, a relationship that can be viewed as toxic and abusive. Please note, this is not a complete list of triggers as I cannot speak for what triggers any number of readers. These are just the ones that stood out to me.