Monstress: Awakening

September 13, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

monstressMonstress: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

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Wow. I’m not sure how this title managed to fly under my radar, but I only recently discovered Invincible, despite it being around for thirteen years. Monstress has only been around for about a year, and this collected edition has only been out for a few months. Either way, I’m glad a friend of mine suggested I read it.

Monstress is a densely-packed story, dedicating itself to world-building and character building, but not at the expense of exposition, and not with any excessive info-dumps. What we learn about the world and its rules is given to us through natural interactions between characters, and the slow reveals of the characters themselves. It’s not the easiest approach to the story, since the reader will have questions as they read, but the payoff is there; you just have to trust in the storytelling to get you there.

The story, as Neil Gaiman puts it on the front cover, is a story of magic and fear, and it’s also about growing up in a harsh world. We learn that through Maika Halfwolf, our main character (the story opens with her being auctioned off as a slave), but Liu doesn’t just reveal the world’s cruelties through Maika alone; she also reveals it through the other characters that orbit Maika. We see the cruelty through her eyes, through the eyes of others who are disadvantaged, and through the eyes of those who are cruel.

As such, Awakening is not an easy read, nor a gentle one. Much of this volume is setting up what is certain to come, and it’s clear that what is to come will be brutal, violent, and unsettling. That the story is still told with beauty and poetry is what makes it distinctive, and I look forward to seeing where Liu will take us in the future.

 

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