Cybils Finalist Review: MONSTRESS, VOL.1: AWAKENING

Synopsis: Not only does this Cybils YA graphic novels finalist have a cover blurb from Neil Gaiman, it also has an amazingly beautiful and intriguing cover design and this provocative jacket copy, all of which seem specifically aimed at my teenage self:

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

Count me in.

Observations: The whole “who’s the REAL monster here” theme abounds throughout this book, in a world populated with gods, monsters, half-divine creatures, and powerful magical cats. The story is well constructed, and each side in this multi-faceted battle has its own strong motivations to succeed–but we are compelled here to root for the seemingly most powerless characters…who might, indeed, be the most powerful in the end. The depiction of oppression and power struggles is done well and subtly reminds the reader of the power struggles in our own world.

The art is, in a word, gorgeous. I love everything about it, from the lushly detailed monsters and mechanicals to the addenda that provide background information about the world and its mythology. I did have occasional issues identifying characters/telling some of them apart, and that caused some problems following the story from time to time, but it in no way inhibited my enjoyment overall.

Conclusion: This story is packed with action and fantasy, and draws in the reader with gorgeous artwork and a strong teen protagonist. Fantasy fans will be sure to love it, and its individual installments have a traditional comic-book feel and structure that fans of serials will like. It’s definitely for older YA readers, though—”mature language and themes” might be a good disclaimer.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library. You can find MONSTRESS VOLUME 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

About the author

Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor, graphic designer, professor of humanities, and localization QA tester, so she wears a teetering pile of hats. On any given day, she is very tired. She is the author of the middle grade graphic novel Alexis vs. Summer Vacation, and three YA novels, including the award-winning The Latte Rebellion.

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