Laina is grieving the loss of her brother after getting the news that he has been shot and killed by Boston police. But, when a disembodied voice offers her the footage of her brother being shot, Laina finds that monsters are real and her brother was, in fact, a werewolf. After Laina releases the footage, the world must grapple with the reality that monsters are living among them, are them, and secret societies committed to preserving or killing monsters emerge. Shifting between a variety of perspectives, this complex contemporary fantasy grapples with injustice, identity, and the feeling of being other in a society that praises conformity.
This is an incredibly complex, intricately plotted tale that will be difficult to for me to describe, honestly. But, I absolutely loved it. I think it is unique, atmospheric, suspenseful, and thought-provoking and I absolutely blew through it. It’s really a beautiful and unique contemporary fantasy unlike anything I’ve ever read.
The main perspective of the novel is Laina’s as she grapples with the loss of her brother and the startling realization that monsters are real and that her brother was one. She’s visited by Rebecca, the leader of Lincoln’s pack, and the two begin a relationship together. The stakes are high for Laina as she works to save those she loves by protecting and advocating for monsters. The novel then cycles through many perspectives including a man who is going through a divorce and researches secret societies to cope, a dragon used for torture, a man who can travel between alternate worlds, a senator with the ability to sense monsters, a tech mage, a werewolf, and Laina’s partner Ridley. All of these characters paths slowly converge in the story in a really interesting and compelling way. The chapters are very short and the perspectives are separated by black pages, which helps keep things clear and makes for a fast-paced read. I didn’t love one perspective over another, I thought all of them were really interesting and helped to drive the narrative forward.
After Laina releases the footage of her brother’s death, the world comes to realize that monsters exist. However, mysterious forces edit the footage and erase footage of werewolves shifting at a protest until there is a divide between those who believe and those who deny that monsters exist. I thought it was really interesting to explore how society might respond to this knowledge and incorporate it into a new reality, especially in the age of fake news and media spin.
In the book, two secret societies emerge. The shadowy Order of the Zsouvox and the Order of Asha. Each of their goals are a mystery, though it seems that the Order of the Zsouvox aims to use monsters while the Order of Asha aims to protect them. I am excited for the next book in the series which I hope will dive more into these societies.
Overall, this is a complex fantasy with immersive, sharp prose, a multilayered story, and strong world building. I loved this one and was so delighted when I realized that it is a series!
CW: police brutality, gun violence, drug abuse, implied sexual abuse, implied domestic abuse