Title: The Monster of Elendhaven.
Writer(s): Jennifer Giesbrecht.
Format: Advance Review Copy.
Release Date: September 24th 2019.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
Sometimes, society is as much as a player in the game as individuals and its impact on everyone is not to be overlooked. Its health is often dictated by the actions of everyone that it composes and what it offers back can change lives in unimaginable ways. But what happens when it gives back a reflection of its current state? Leave it to debut author Jennifer Giesbrecht to give us a glimpse into a monster’s mind, one who crawls in the alleys, lurks the rooftops and pounces from the shadows of its victims. In her first novella, she presents a monster, magician, and hunter who crosses paths and unveils a revenge plot ruminated for countless years.
What is The Monster of Elendhaven about? Set in the Victorian-city of Elendhaven, a land hit by a plague, left rotting in its demise with its future set on despair, the story follows a thing without a name, shaped like a man but infused with a thirst for blood and death. Baptized as Johann, this supernatural creature runs into the mysteriously alluring sorcerer Florian Leickenbloom whose love for the city is demonstrated through his wealth and prestige. As they grow fond of each other’s passions, the monster who cannot die is whisked into a twisted and cruel revenge plot elaborated by Herr Leickenbloom but another player joins the game as she looks to put an end to all mages.
The prose in this novella is exquisite, whimsical and incredibly poetic. It easily captures you, mesmerizes you into visualizing the world in all of its icky and oily splendour, deprived of joy and tranquility. Jennifer Giesbrecht’s writing style allows the gothic vibrancy of her tale to take a life of its own and help the reader understand the intricacy of the monster’s existence within such a destitute society. How she effortlessly incorporates the paranormal elements to the story also gives way to an immersive experience where the world she builds from the ground up feels authentic and familiar, yet completely innovative and thrilling.
Where this novella lost my interest is when the romance begins and this occurs fairly early in the story. The story originally paved the way towards an adventure fueled with bloodlust with hints of a revenge thriller until it started to heavily focus on a romance between the monster and the sorcerer. It’s not even just because the novella now turned into a twisted and sinister romance based on slavery and a game of push and pull—without ever being too explicit in the details—but it’s the motives of these characters to throw themselves into each other as well as the author’s objective of this romance in the grand scheme of things that made me unenthusiastic of the story’s development, to an extent.
Even if the romance wasn’t my cup of tea, I also found that the characters didn’t have a particularly singular or fitting voice, especially Johann. In fact, the moment he finally starts to speak, especially when it’s to aggressively tease his source of attraction, his language suddenly felt conflicting with his personality of a killer, making me wonder, too often than not, how genuine their voices actually were to my eyes. Nonetheless, the world-building and prose are impeccable, leaving me hopeful that Jennifer Giesbrecht has a bright future in grimdark fantasy.
The Monster of Elendhaven is a grimdark fantasy novella where monsters converge into fulfilling one’s lifelong dream of revenge.
Thank you to Raincoast Canada for sending me a copy for review!