Necessary Monsters, by Richard A Kirk
Description: (from Resurrection House)
Lumsden Moss is an escaped thief and an unrepentant bibliophile with a long-suffering desire to foist some karmic retribution on those who have wronged him. But when the opportunity to steal a rare book from the man who sentenced him to prison puts him on the wrong side of the wrong people, Moss finds himself on the run. And it’s not just the book he stole that these people want, it’s also the secrets of a long-forgotten location on Nightjar Island, a place cursed and abandoned since the Purge.
When Moss falls in with Imogen, a nimble-fingered thief who has taken a traveling bookcase filled with many secrets, he starts to realize how much of his unsavory past is indelibly tied to a frightening witch-child and her nightmarish pet monster.
In a fantastic world, still recovering from a war where magic and technology were fused together, Moss and Imogen must decipher the mystery of their mutual pasts in order to illuminate the dark heart that still lurks on Nightjar Island.
Expected publication: June 6th 2017.
A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. Some things might change in the final copy.
Oh how excited I was for Necessary Monsters. The description alone seemed to hint at a book that could easily become a favourite. I even signed up on the Edelweiss platform especially so I could request this book! And that cover is deliciously weird.
The first chapter was kinda “meh”, I struggled to get into the story and never felt like I needed to keep reading. Then I finally reached the second chapter and I started to enjoy things, since a crow gains consciousness and I found that pretty awesome.
But some issues soon came up and spoiled my reading experience. I really liked the world building but sometimes, it’s just not enough.
For exemple, DO NOT make your villain a person with a facial disfigurement. That has been said times and times again and it just is not an okay things to do, it is called ableism. Look at this quote :
“Lamb was one of those storied creatures of the underworld that everyone whispered about but few had seen. He was nicknamed partly as a reference to the birth defect that had left him with tiny bead-like eyes and a face elongated like a sheep’s. There was also irony in the name. Lamb was a lion, and not to be trifled with. He was rumored to be an assassin for the Red Lamprey.”
At first I thought that maybe I was mistaken, maybe he wasn’t the bad guy after all and someon writing a fantasy novel in 2017 had to know this wasn’t right and just cliché and hurtful. But a few lines later no question, he IS a bad guy, a villain, a very disgusting man.
If you don’t understand why that is not okay, maybe read this article (it has been written in reaction to Beauty and The Beast but is still interesting regarding the matter at hands here; you can find Carly Findlay on twitter here) and watch this video (you can find Jen Campbell on twitter here)
Another thing that creeped me out was how we learn that Moss wanted to steal a book that originally was the life work of a guy who ended up in jail because he “murdered and dismembered several prostitutes“. I’m not sure if I understood correctly if Moss and that guy are friends or colleagues or what (“He told you his unfortunate story. That very day, you promised to steal it back.“) but the fact that he would not care about the actions just made me very cold and the sympathy I was beginning to feel for him disappeared right away. And, doing awful things to prostitutes? Stop that writers, I once DNF’d a book that started by describing dead prostitutes bodies. This isn’t edgy or anything. It has been done and done again and it’s tiring to read about that. Moss does say later that those are awful things but I didn’t feel he truly acknowledged how horrific it is.
So, those two troubling things happen only at 10% into the book and I would have DNF’d if it wasn’t a book I’d requested for review.
Well, I still ended up DNFing this book at 48%. I couldn’t get myself to keep reading, I was not entertained, bored and I couldn’t care less for the characters. Everything seemed to be so conveniently linked and Imogene didn’t felt like a person but more like a female love interest thrown in there to add a bit of romance and feelings and drama. I don’t understand where Moss’s feelings came from, I wouldn’t even call this love. Maybe it evolves in the second half, but I just wasn’t interested to read on and find out. Also, publishers : don’t talk about a character falling for another in the description if by the middle of the book it hadn’t really happened yet. It just makes me expect things that are not coming. That could even be seen as a spoiler? Because at the point where I stopped, I would not have called this “falling for someone”. Maybe that’s just me, I don’t know.
I was counting on the world building to help me go through with this novel, but while being my favourite thing, it also was confusing. I wish there would have been more things explained about it. Again, maybe later it is, but nothing was pushing me to read on.
I think with some more work on the pacing and characterisation, more editing and less ableism, this could have been an awesome book.
I mean : “an escaped thief and an unrepentant bibliophile“, “a nimble-fingered thief who has taken a traveling bookcase filled with many secrets“, “a fantastic world, still recovering from a war where magic and technology were fused together” ??? This was SO PROMISING. While I’m grateful I had a chance to read an advance copy of this book, I’m still sad and disappointed 😦