Review: Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Monstrous by MarcyKate ConnollyMonstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
Published by HarperCollins on February 10, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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three-half-stars

The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.

Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.

Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre. 

And what he knows will change Kym’s life. 

Reminiscent of Frankenstein and the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic.

Continuing a streak of good middle grade novels, I picked up Monstrous, because I’d heard good things from Dahlia (author of Behind the Scenes/Last Will and Testament/Under the Lights). In a lot of ways, it’s a strange book. It’s surprisingly dark for a middle grade novel, which okay yes I do see that about most of the ones that I read, but those are the ones I like. Monstrous will appeal to those who love fairy tales and who love eerie middle grades.

The opening of Monstrous is great. Kymera wakes up, a patchwork creature. This story is essentially a Frankenstein retelling that’s been combined with fairy tales. Her father tells her of her creation; using science, he’s put his daughter back together after many failed attempts, following her death at the hands of the evil wizard.  Unfortunately, he could not save her memories. As a bonus, though, she’s now better than human; she’s part cat, part bird, and part snake too.

gif fullmetal alchemist dog girl

What I love is that Kym is partly a monster. She’s not a sweet human girl trapped in the guise of a monster, at least not entirely. Kym is sweet, but she’s also got animal instincts coming from her animal parts. She’s a predator, and can consume raw rabbit flesh. Annoyed by the family pet, a sparrow-dog combo, she considers eating it. Kym can kill and she’s willing to, despite being a little girl.

Connolly also does a really good job with the balance between Kym being a child and being almost a newborn. Kym has instincts and reasoning from her brain’s previous learning, but, without her memories, she’s also a babe in the woods. Everything she knows comes from reading fairy tales and from her what her father tells her. It’s no wonder that, when she meets a cute boy, she immediately decides she’s in love with him, since that’s how fairy tales go, right?

gif daddy i love him little mermaid

Monster did drag for me in the middle couple hundred pages. There’s a very long stretch of time where I knew what the twist was, and I was just waiting for Kymera to figure it out. On the one hand, I think it was pretty realistic, because again she’s days old on some levels, so it would be hard on her. Even so, this period lasted long enough that my attention began to wander. It felt like no narrative progress was really being made.

The ending picked back up again, however, getting back to the dark roots. I didn’t expect such a death toll from a middle grade. Connolly was not playing around. I think Kym is an interesting ethical figure, both lovable and, indeed, monstrous. I wish the ending had been less abrupt, because I would have liked to know more of what came after. View Spoiler »

gif all so sudden little mermaid

I’m really impressed with Connolly’s debut and will be curious to try whatever she writes next. Dark fairy tales are pretty much always Christina bait, and Monstrous is no exception.

Favorite Quote:

Jealousy is a very stupid thing. It only leaves the bitterest taste behind—regret.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif i'm a monster

7 responses to “Review: Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly”

  1. Lyn Kaye says:

    I am so happy to see that MG is coming out with some heavy hitters. I am so thrilled to hear that this one is another dark tale, and it sounds like authors are taking some BIG risks with their female MCs, and I am just tickled to see this trend happening.
    I am definitely going to have to give this a shot.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Agree agree agree. Middle grade is best when it’s super dark. Especially if it’s a fairy tale. Make sure to check out Beastkeeper too. Both books take some non-typical directions with both the darkness of the tone and the female MC.

  2. It totally dragged for me there as well. I was so excited at the beginning then it all fizzled out for me unfortunately. At least I didn’t see that end coming.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      I never got to disliking it, but my attention certainly waned. It might be better if the twist weren’t so obvious to an adult reader. The dramatic irony was creepy and wonderful for a while, but it was in a holding pattern for too long. The ending did pack back up nicely.

      • I think that was my problem was that it was just too obvious. I’ve read and enjoyed a good number of MG books that weren’t so obvious. And for the length of this one everything was just too laid out right from the beginning for me.
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      • Christina Franke says:

        I totally agree. This one’s not the most painfully obvious MG I’ve read. I liked the story and characters enough that I could get through it, but it’s not ideal for adult readers. I’m wondering what it’s like for actual middle graders. Would the twist surprise them? I can’t imagine any adult not calling it on page one.

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