Monstress Volume 4: The Chosen – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

Spoilers Ahead!

Two things happened when I finished reading Monstress Volume 3:

I learned that I was simultaneously desperate to continue reading and scared that something awful would happen to Kippa. My fear for Kippa won and I’ve been putting off reading this Volume for months now as a result.

I bought Book One, the signed Barnes & Noble exclusive version, and it’s gorgeous! It even includes postcards, which feature some of Sana Takeda’s extraordinary artwork.

Just in case I wasn’t already too invested in Kippa’s wellbeing, this Volume begins by upping her adorability quotient to infinity by showing me baby Kippa! Because apparently my emotions are fair game. Aww!! Incidentally, toddler Maika is also a sweetheart.

Maika and Corvin are trying to find Kippa, who is being taken to the ‘doctor’. That sounds ominous. In their travels Maika winds up seeing her father.

While all of the adults are strategising for the coming war it’s Kippa who again softens the narrative with her ability to forgive someone who betrayed her.

“I can’t abandon people because they make mistakes – I would have to abandon myself.”

I’m not always entirely clear what’s happening at all times or whose side I should be on but I do know one thing: war is coming, people, and it’s not gonna be pretty.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Maika and Corvin make their way through a warped and lethal land in search of Kippa, who is faced with her own terrible monsters. But when Maika comes face to face with a stranger from her deep past, startling truths are uncovered, and at the center of it all lurks a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the Known World. Maika is finally close to getting all the answers she ever wanted, but at what price? With war on the horizon, a war no one wants to stop, whose side will Maika choose?

Collects Monstress 19-24. 

Monstress Volume 3: Haven – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

Spoilers Ahead!

Monstress Volume 3: Haven is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Graphic Story category.

Maika, Kippa and Ren have now made it to Tear Shed, a refugee camp.

Corvin is also there and he, Maika and Kippa have some awkward moments in a coffee shop.

Maika also meets Vihn Nem, the Royal Engineer of Pontus, who offers Maika and her friends sanctuary in exchange for her reactivating the Pontus Shield.

Lady Atena and Resak meet up with the Prime Minister and Admiral Brito to discuss politics, fake news and the potential threat of the Mother Superior.

While Maika and Zinn are working together to try to fix the Shield,

all hell is breaking out as the war has begun.

Kippa’s cute factor, which I didn’t think could cope with any additional adorability points, skyrocketed. I love her to bits and want to adopt her. Her loyalty, positivity and courage put most adults to shame.

I wasn’t quite as invested in the story during the first half of this Volume, as everyone seemed to be positioning themselves for the inevitable war, but I got sucked back in, only to find myself perched on the edge of a cliff at the end. If anything bad happens to Kippa I’m going to ugly cry, I just know it!

Once again the artwork was exceptional. I’m in awe of the details and just want to keep paging through each Volume. One of my favourite images in this Volume is this one,

but my absolute favourite is this awesomeness.

Yes, of course the location of my favourite illustration is a library! I can’t help myself where majestic libraries are concerned.

I expect a reread will help me to figure out the connections I’ve missed during this read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Maika Halfwolf has begun to unlock the mysteries of her past – but the challenges are only going. In this third volume of Monstress, collecting issues 13-18, Maika’s journey takes her to the neutral city of Pontus, where she hopes to find temporary refuge from her pursuers. Unfortunately, Pontus may not be as safe as Maika and her allies had hoped.

As the impending war between humans and Arcanics creeps ever closer, and powerful players fight for the chance to control her future, Maika finds she must work with Zinn, the Monstrum that lives inside her, in order to ensure their mutual survival. But even that alliance might not be enough to prepare Maika for the horrors to come.

Monstress Volume 2: The Blood – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

Spoilers Ahead!

If my rambling review after my reread of Volume 1 didn’t convince you that I finally understand what’s so amazing about Monstress, then this may. The first thing I did after I finished reading Volume 2 was to buy the signed B&N exclusive edition of Monstress Book One!

A Note About Spoilers: I can’t write this review without including some information about what happens in this Volume. I’ve tried to stay away from spoilery bits but our definitions of what constitutes spoilers may differ, so please read on with caution if you haven’t read this Volume yet.

Maika, Kippa and Ren begin this part of their story in Thyria, where Maika’s mother’s obsession with the Shaman-Empress is evident all over the home Maika barely remembers from her life before the desert. It is here that Kippa and Maika find a bone key, which they soon learn is from the Isle of Bones. They also still have the photograph and piece of an ancient mask Maika took when she escaped the Cumaean stronghold.

The unlikely trio soon board a pirate ship destined for the Isle of Bones, although Maika doesn’t know who she can trust. Before they leave, Kippa learns to drown swim and her instructor is perfect!

The Monstrum within Maika awakens during their voyage, hungry as usual. The pirate ship can only take them so far though and eventually it’s up to Maika, Kippa and Ren to try to make it through the mists surrounding the island. This is not creepy at all.

Nope, not one little bit. Eventually they make it to the Isle of Bones,

whose name is quite appropriate, I think. But because life wasn’t mean to be easy, they find out that they’re not alone.

It is here that some of the big questions I’ve had since the beginning are answered. We learn some more about Maika, her mother and her Monstrum, and of course the Volume ends on the edge of some cliffs, but the joke’s on you, cliffhangers! I have Volume 3 in my hands so I’m going to glide/fall off these cliffs quicker than you can say, “it’s time to hug Kippa because she’s just so darn adorable!”

I loved Seizi, Maika’s Goddess-Father, and I’ve decided I need someone to make a range of Monstress clothing because I desperately need some of Maika’s outfits in my wardrobe.

While I’m much more confident I know what’s happening in this Volume than I was after first reading Volume 1, I’m certain that an eventual reread will make me aware of further details in the story and illustrations.

I’m really enjoying figuring out who’s who and whether they’re going to help or hinder Maika as the story continues. While I was overwhelmed by the influx of characters I needed to get my head around in the first Volume I’m now looking forward to meeting some more. I’m loving the mythology and think this too will be clearer after a reread.

I only started reading graphic novels fairly recently and so far I’ve loved the intricacies of the storylines and the jaw dropping illustrations. It makes me wonder what other awesomeness I’ve been missing out on!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Maika Halfwolf is on the run from a coalition of forces determined to control or destroy the powerful Monstrum that lives beneath her skin. But Maika still has a mission of her own: to discover the secrets of her late mother, Moriko. 

In this second volume of Monstress, collecting issues 7-12, Maika’s quest takes her to the pirate-controlled city of Thyria and across the sea to the mysterious Isle of Bones. It is a journey that will force Maika to reevaluate her past, present, and future, and contemplate whether there’s anyone, or anything, she can truly trust – including her own body.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

I don’t know how to explain what I just read. I’d probably need at least two rereads to get it all straight in my head. There’s just so much going on and new characters are flung into the mix with little to no introduction, and most of the time I had no idea how anyone was connected with anyone else. However, I still need to read the next volume.

This volume combines the first six issues of this series and the artwork is exceptional! We begin at an auction, where Maika, a 17 year old arcanic girl with the mark of an eclipsing eye on her chest, is Lot 819. She’s there voluntarily because she wants something.

In this warring world, there are cats that talk, humans, ancients, arcanic halfbreeds and the old gods. The ancients are immortal and have magic; there’s a dusk court and a dawn court. The arcanics are half human and half ancients. The old gods’ “shadows haunt this world”; they are “horrors”.

Maika is an interesting character but it was Kippa, the little fox child, who stole my heart. She’s loyal and such an adorable sweetheart!

I borrowed this volume from my library in preparation for my planned 2019 Hugo Awards Finalists Readathon. Volume 3 has been nominated in the Best Graphic Story category. Had I not been reading with a purpose in mind I probably would have given up before the end of the second issue. The themes are dark, with war and children being trafficked, tortured and killed, and it’s not the kind of graphic novel I usually read (I’ve just finished a Phoebe and Her Unicorn-athon, for goodness’ sake).

I’m glad I kept reading though, because the story did start to come together for me. I’m left with countless questions but I’m intrigued and that’s enough at the moment for me to want to continue. I’m expecting my brain will catch up and connect more of the dots as I keep reading. I’m almost positive a reread will result in a more impassioned review.

Whether the story is your cup of tea or not, the artwork is definitely awe inspiring.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reread 13 August 2019

Wow! I understand what all of the hullabaloo surrounding Monstress is about now! While I barely knew what was going on during my first read it all came together for me within minutes of starting my reread. I’m so excited to have (belatedly) fallen in love with this series!

I loved my reread so much I kept reading until I’d finished the Volume, after 2:30am. While I have many, many more thoughts, here are a few.

I tend to shy away from stories that include war and I think that may have contributed to my hesitation when I originally began Maika’s story. Between my first and second times through this Volume I binged nine Volumes of Saga, which proved I could fall head over heels with a series that includes war. This time around I went into Monstress with more of an open mind and the super helpful THE STORY SO FAR … summaries at the beginning of each issue from the second one. These summaries don’t exist in the paperback Volume I borrowed from my library and could have made all the difference in stopping my head from spinning around during my first run through if I’d known of their existence.

It was also at the end of the first issue that I found the most incredible quote from Marjorie Liu about this series and my love for it solidified my need to continue and unearth my Monstress obsession.

“And the root of my desire, I finally realized, was to tell a story about what it means to be a survivor. A survivor, not just of a cataclysmic war, but of racial conflict and its antecedent: hatred. And to confront the question: how does one whom history has made a monster, escape her monstrosity? How does one overcome the monstrousness of others without succumbing to a rising monstrousness within?”

I haven’t been reading graphic novels for very long and until this one I’d never encountered one with such complexity, with so many characters and questions that linger in your mind for several issues (or Volumes). Again I have Saga to thank for making me realise what I’d been missing out on.

Throughout the course of this Volume Maika seeks answers relating to the murder of her mother and the hunger within her which has recently awoken. She meets sweetheart Kippa, an Arcanic fox girl she saves from slavery, and Ren, a nekomancer cat. Kippa is loyal and she trusts Maika, although she is rightfully scared of the hunger inside Maika. Ren’s loyalties are not as clear.

While she was in the stronghold of Cumaea, Maika found a photograph

and a piece of an ancient mask, both of which she hopes will help her find out more about her mother’s murder. Maika is now on the run, doing everything she can to ensure her hunger doesn’t result in her eating adorable Kippa,

while trying to avoid the different factions who are all hunting her.

I got so much more out of this Volume this time around and launched straight into Volume 2. I appreciate the intricacies of the storyline now. What hasn’t changed between reads is my love for the jaw dropping illustrations. I could cheat and tell you that every illustration was my favourite but for this read I narrowed it down to these three. I expect I’ll have different favourites each time I open the pages though.

If, like me, your first Monstress attempt had you scratching your head, I would encourage you to give it another try. Trust me, it’s worth it! If you already understand the hunger for more Monstress, I know what you’ve all been talking about now! I may be late to the party but at least I’ve finally arrived.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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.

Collects Monstress #1-6.