Book Review: Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening
Maiko Halfwolf is on a mission to discover her past and find out about this 'thing' that has taken up residence inside her that makes her do very bad things. Meanwhile, there is a raging war between humans and the arcanics (half-human, half-god), with the humans not behaving nicely and the arcanics desperate to survive the prejudiced world they live in. Evil witch cults, talking cats, half-fox children, a cat professor, a soul-destroying dark force and a young woman on a mission, What could go wrong?
Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening
First of all the artwork is just stunning. Second, the story is complex. and dark. Thirdly, there is a mostly female cast of characters who are strong and flawed and angry and nasty and kind and everything in between and I am here for that.
Maiko Halfwolf is looking for answers. Answers to her past, answers to what is this 'thing', this darkness is that is inside of her that won't let go and begins to consume her.
Her world is one of warring races, with the humans fighting against Arcanics, these half human, half-god race that pretty much just want to be left alone.
As this is the first in the series, the stage is being set, characters are being introduced and storylines are starting to be woven in and around each other. There is a lot going on in this graphic novel, but you aren't supposed to know all the answers. At this stage, you should be left with more questions. That is what will make you come back for more :)
The story starts with Maiko willingly letting herself be sold off to the highest bidder as an arcanic slave, and she gets snapped up by a notorious witch from this almost cult like coven who has been 'experimenting' on Arcanics, possibly outside the law and the coven's knowledge.
The treatment of the Arcanics, some that are small children, is barbaric and the artwork represents the violent ways that they are treated. This is an adult graphic novel after all and the art is DARK.
Maiko has plans however and events continue from here, though she did not count on being joined by a fox arcanic child and a talking cat with more than one tail. These characters and their relationships between each other is one of my favourite parts of the story. Despite Maiko literally have a monster inside her, her companions never give up on her and that is such a powerful message.
Plus they are cute as hell:
There are these ghost like beings that wander the throughout the kingdom and there is speculation between the characters that they are the ghosts of the old gods. I hope this part of the story gets explored in more detail as the story progresses. I love novels that have a rich back history and what I did enjoy are these little interludes with this professor cat that is teaching the kittens the history of the world
Maiko, while continuing her journey has discovered that this darkness, this monster that is following her is sentient and begins to talk to her, the monster having been asleep for many years and not too impressed at being woken up.
There is an amazing Book Riot article that discusses the monster in terms of being a depiction for mental illness, with the darkness consuming you and it does a much better job explaining than I do so please go check it out but I 100% agree with the statements made.
Maiko has to learn how to control this monster or it will begin to control her, and maybe, just maybe, she is tempted to give in.
I read Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening during the 24in48 readathon and it was a great choice to read a graphic novel to break up some of the heavier reads (although this story was plenty dark enough on its own). I loved the artwork, the world building, the characters, the complexity of the story arcs and interludes with the cat Professor teaching the kittens the history.
Have you read Monstress? Do you have any other recommendations with a similar theme? I would love to know your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.