Books & Literature

Book Review: Ordinary Monsters, by J.M. Miro

FANTASY: 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.

J.M. Miro weaves a tale of breathtaking suspense in this historical fantasy.

“Expansive” is a term that has been used to describe Ordinary Monsters, and at nearly 700 pages, the term is certainly accurate in more ways than one. The storytelling is phenomenal, the characters many and varied, and the stakes set extremely high from the first chapter. J.M. Miro (a pseudonym for Canadian author and poet Steven Price) weaves a tale of breathtaking suspense in this historical fantasy.

Ordinary Monsters centres around characters that are anything but ordinary. Set in a gritty Victorian world, the mysterious Dr Berghast collects orphans with unnatural abilities, called Talents. The doctor hires a pair of gunslinging detectives to find and bring Charlie, a boy with the ability to heal, and Marlowe, who can glow with a strange blue light and whose past is shrouded in secrets, to the doctor at The Cairndale Institute. However, the detectives aren’t the only ones hunting the orphans, and they are confronted by a dangerous man made of smoke. What follows is a breathtaking journey of danger and discovery, where the line between dead, alive, and undead becomes blurred.

As frequently happens in fantasy, particularly in ones with such a broad scope, the story is told from multiple points of view, usually with a large section of a chapter devoted to one character at a time, though sometimes the jump to another character is more frequent, particularly towards the climax of the book. The characters have unique ways of viewing the world, and Miro gives each a clear voice, from gunslinging Alice, to mistrustful Charlie, to proper Mrs Harrowgate or blind Miss Davenshaw.

J.M. Miro has a talent for suspense and horror, writing villains that will make your skin crawl, from Jacob Marber, a rogue Talent who now uses his ability to destroy, to undead litches roaming the streets of London, feasting on whomever they can find, to the dark secrets hidden within the Cairndale Institute itself. The suspense is constant; when one character has finally escaped a predicament, another character is just falling into one.

One element that took some getting used to was the use of very long sentences. Several times I needed to reread a particularly meandering sentence to make sense of it, though once I was used to this characteristic of Miro’s writing style I found that it did assist in creating a sense of time and place, reinforcing the Victorian era in the descriptions.

This book is neither a short nor an easy read, but it’s a tale that’s well worth the commitment. It must be said that this is the first book in the series, and while some loose ends remain at the end of Book 1, the main story of Ordinary Monsters is thankfully resolved in this book. It will be intriguing to discover the twists and turns of Book 2 in this series.

Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Bloomsbury
Released: June 2022
RRP: $29.99

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