This may well turn out to be my read of the year. I was initially fascinated by its premise but intimidated by its length. Give me two 300ish page novels to read and it’s likely I’ll ask you for another. A single book that exceeds 600 pages? It’s going to need to deliver pretty quickly or I’m probably going to abandon it.
Never fear! I was hooked from the get go and at no point did I think to myself, ‘Are we there yet?’ Despite its length, there were no wasted words.
Before I’d even made it halfway I’d searched out and purchased a signed copy, already knowing it was destined to become a favourite. I’ve recommended it to everyone I’ve spoken to since I started it and can’t see that changing anytime soon. Now I’m telling you… READ. THIS. BOOK.
The worldbuilding was phenomenal. Not only could I clearly see every location, I could feel it. Don’t be surprised if, like me, you start Googling words like drughr, keywrasse and orsine because, while a part of you will be convinced they were created specifically for this world, you might just begin to wonder if you’re wrong.
All of the characters felt real to me. I got to know their backstories and experienced their defining moments alongside them. This enabled me to understand how they were behaving and why they were making specific decisions in the moment.
I had favourite characters (Brynt and Ribs both stole my heart) but there wasn’t a single character I didn’t want to spend more time with. I absolutely adored their complexities.
Clear-cut heroes and villains aren’t easy to find here. The people you think are good may actually have dark intentions. Those you think you’re going to love to hate will be so relatable and real that even when they’re doing something truly detestable, you’ll understand where they’re coming from and you might find yourself cheering them on. At times, two characters will be at odds and you’ll want them both to get what they want, even though that’s not possible.
So, I’ve gotten this far into my review and I’ve told you nothing about the plot. Despite making copious notes about characters, locations and themes as I was reading, intending them to form the bulk of my review, this is one of those books that I’d recommend you know as little as possible about before you dive in. The only thing I absolutely have to say is that I think I’ve now met the best cat ever. Oh, and I love bonebirds!
I need someone to make movies or a TV series of this trilogy. While I’m definitely satisfied with where I’ve had to leave all of my new favourite people (for now), if someone was inclined to sneak a copy of the sequel to me in maybe the next half an hour or so, I’d start reading it immediately.
‘We cannot change what we are. Only what we do.’
Content warnings include domestic abuse, miscarriage, racism and sexual assault.
Thank you so much to Bloomsbury Publishing for the opportunity to fall in love with this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
The first in a captivating new historical fantasy series, Ordinary Monsters introduces the Talents with a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world, and the gifted, broken children who must save it.
There in the shadows was a figure in a cloak, at the bottom of the cobblestone stair, and it turned and stared up at them as still and unmoving as a pillar of darkness, but it had no face, only smoke…
1882. North of Edinburgh, on the edge of an isolated loch, lies an institution of crumbling stone, where a strange doctor collects orphans with unusual abilities. In London, two children with such powers are hunted by a figure of darkness – a man made of smoke.
Charlie Ovid discovers a gift for healing himself through a brutal upbringing in Mississippi, while Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight, glows with a strange bluish light. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are confronted by a sinister, dangerous force that threatens to upend the world as they know it.
What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London to the lochs of Scotland, where other gifted children – the Talents – have been gathered at Cairndale Institute, and the realms of the dead and the living collide. As secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.