Adult · Book review · Fantasy

Review: Monstress Vol. 1 & 2 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

MonstressI read Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening for the “read the first book in a series” challenge of Marvel-A-Thon.

I loved this. I loved it in a way that I didn’t think I could ever love a graphic novel. The problems I had with it during the first read – mainly, the fact that there was a lot of graphic violence and horror aspects I didn’t expect – weren’t problems during this reread, because I knew what I was getting into.

And the art. It’s so beautiful, I could stare at the pages for hours, so beautiful it almost distracts from the story with its intricate, fascinating details, but let’s be real, the illustration are the main reason I’m reading this in the first place. The backgrounds are themselves almost like characters.

Many people mention being confused by the worldbuilding and plot of Monstress. I understand why – there’s a lot of information to take in – but it wasn’t a problem for me in this reread, and as I always say, I’d rather be a little confused by the world at first than be bored by it later. It’s difficult to follow because it’s set in a complex world with history and plot-relevant mythology of its own (parts of it are inspired by Japanese mythology, but that’s not the only influence here), and I loved all of it. I mean, how could I not love a gay steampunk matriarchy?

The whole plotline about magic animal-like people fighting magical humans told from the point of view of a human-looking girl (who is actually not that human but very magical) reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I really appreciated. I also really like the theme of fighting your own monster in a monstrous world, and I think this story has a lot of potential.

My rating: ★★★★½

33540347I read Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood for the “read a book inspired by myth or mythology” challenge of Marvel-A-Thon.

This was even better than the first one. Mostly because we start to get some answers – some of them surprising, some of them I saw coming – but also because we get more insight in some of the side characters that were just named in the first volume.
Now I can say with certainty that Moriko Halfwolf is just as scary as her daughter and she doesn’t even need a kaiju inside to be like that, for example. Also, this volume introduced some new characters that have a lot of potential (like Syryssa, she’s… wow. So beautiful. A black lady pirate!)

The art is just as gorgeous, of course, and we get to see new settings, which was just what I wanted. I mean, most of this graphic novel is set on a ship, and there are pirates. We get to know more about the ancient gods, their history, and what exactly is going on with Maika’s monster, and we get to do that in a ghost-city built between the bones of something enormous. Beautifully creepy and atmospheric.
I don’t know if there was less body horror or if I just got used to it, but this book affected me less than the first one did, which I appreciated. More pretty and creepy, less graphic gore, thank you (not that I never like that! It’s just that the first book had so much of it – it almost started to feel unnecessary).

I have only two small complaints:

• The first book introduced the world, the history and mysteries, and this gave many much-needed answer and raised some new questions, so I can’t say it was useless (not at all!). But it didn’t have anything to do with what I thought was the main plotline – the one about the war between arcanics and witches – and we didn’t get anything new about the characters who are alive in the mainland (I really need to know what’s going on with the Cumaea, Lady Atena and Lady Sophia)

• after the ending of the first book, I had hoped to get more about Tuya. I got a surprising revelation, yes, and that panel with Tuya is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but I want to know more about her and her relationship with Maika.

Anyway the main reasons I’m reading this series are the art and the steampunk aesthetic (also, the casual diversity and many queer leads help) and if that and mythology are things that you like, you should definitely try this.

My rating: ★★★★¾

7 thoughts on “Review: Monstress Vol. 1 & 2 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

  1. Beautiful reviews! Now I’m even more excited about picking this up, though I might have to get myself the second volume so I can read them back to back. “I’d rather be a little confused by the world at first than be bored by it later” – this is the most accurate thing I’ve read about world-building in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! All my favorite worlds are like that, I need them to stand out, and if that means I have to go through some confusing parts or a few infodumps, I’m fine with it.


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