When Arden Beacon is sent to the lighthouse, she is simply a woman with a job to do. She neither seeks, nor expects, distraction. After years tainted by disappointment, Arden is finally taking up her family’s profession. She must prove herself worthy of her name, for she has nothing else.
But the coast she has been tasked with lighting is far from the world she knows – the salt-swept, backwater town of Vigil is battered by a sea teeming with colossal, ancient beasts. It is a place of secrets, rumours and tight-lipped expectations of a woman’s place.
More than anyone, the folk of Vigil whisper about Arden’s new neighbour, Jonah Riven, hunter of leviathans. He murdered his wife, they whisper – a perfect, golden girl, full of charm and potential. So very different to Arden Beacon.
They say he is as much a monster as his prey, but Arden cannot get this dark stranger out of her head.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 2.97 out of 5
2nd April 2020 by Harper Collins.
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I have no idea how to write this review and after I’d finished reading Monstrous Heart, I really didn’t know how to rate it either.
If I could summarise it one sentence I would say, ‘I liked this book but was also disappointed by it.’
I like metaphors so let’s start there.
Imagine you’ve been set up on blind date. Your matchmaker has done the ‘sell’ and you’re pretty convinced going in that while you may not end up marrying them, you’re at least going to have a good time and maybe even want to see them again.
They turn up and something’s just ever so slightly off. Your friend described them as gothic. They are but the gothic style is more of the steampunk variety. Not as initially described perhaps, but still not bad. They’re epic she told you, they’re romantic, they are fantasy.
Well…. yes, but also…. no.
It’s like if your date said they’d be wearing a tie but the tie was a dicky bow. It’s not technically wrong but it’s still not really right.
If this book were a blind date, they would talk to you as though you’d already met them and had a million conversations beforehand. But you haven’t. You don’t know what they’re talking about, they keep referencing people they know as if you should also know them.
It’s also only half way through the date that it actually even feels like a date. They spent the majority of the first half talking about their life or being weirdly, mentally absent. Then, at the half way mark they suddenly switch into ‘date mode’ and it starts to go well.
But, just when you’re really getting into it because hey, they have depth, they tell you that they have to cut the date short but they’d happily finish telling you the now interesting story on date two.
You’re confused. Did you like them? Yes, but this wasn’t a fantastic date. You want to see them again but mainly because you feel that this meet up was an intro to who they are and not actually them at all.
Metaphors my darlings, is the easiest way I can describe my feelings for this story because I liked it, I really did, but at the same time there were so many problems.
This is a romantic fantasy but the balance never quite feels right.
The romance is strangely absent in the first half. It’s hinted at but never fully explored until the 50% mark where it suddenly goes from non-existent to intense in the blink of an eye. I didn’t mind the stepping up of the romance (after all I was promised romance) but the build-up could have been smoother.
If the romance starts off cool and ends up an inferno then the fantasy components were in full flame from page one.
This is a complex world where some people have special properties in their blood that allow them to perform blood magic at certain strengths and with differing abilities.
Our main character, Arden has relatively weak blood magic which can keep small fires burning. Other characters have stronger blood magic with greater consequences.
Those with blood magic are required to go through testing and abide by certain rules including who they can marry and have children with, all in order to keep the blood lines ‘pure.’ Most people in this universe accept those with blood magic as people who just have something extra and valuable.
Some people view those with blood magic as sinful or dangerous and there are also those who would view some blood magic properties as very useful indeed….
Sounds simple right? Wrong. It took me almost 300 pages to understand that’s what was happening. You are most welcome to my simple summary.
The first half of this book was about character introduction (I actually really liked the characters so that’s not a bad thing) and exposition/ world building. Except the problem with the world building is that its assumed that you already know every single thing there is to know about this world including all the terms they use and their meanings as well as geography and history.
This isn’t done particularly well and I think may be the books greatest detriment.
The complexities and ranging viewpoints towards blood magic users could actually add great depth to the story but it really only comes into play – once again – after that half way mark.
I started really getting into it though; I liked the characters, I finally understood the world, I enjoyed the writing and the romance was getting rather saucy but I kept thinking, ‘there’s a lot to wrap up in this suddenly fast paced plot and we’re really near the end’.
That’s when the biggest disappointment came and that’s when I realized why I felt the pacing was off.
The first half of this story was build-up and the story itself didn’t really start until half way through when there were twists and turns and action sequence after action sequence with new plot-lines being introduced with no hope of resolution.
That’s because they were never intended to be resolved. Because this is book one.
At no point did this come across as anything other than a standalone. There is nothing, nothing, on any author or publisher website that indicates that this is the first of a series, or duology or whatever it is intended to be. I don’t even know what it’s intended to be!
Suddenly why the structure of the story was set out like this made sense but this is my biggest pet peeve – when it’s not made clear that something is not a standalone story.
It could have been a standalone story; it probably should have been a standalone story. If it had been rewritten succinctly there’s no reason why it couldn’t be.
Am I tempted to read the second book? Yes, actually I am. Like I said, I did like this and there is potential with the story to continue but I would say it needs editing to be far less confusing in terms of the world building and really publishers, it needs to be highlighted that this isn’t a standalone otherwise you’re not being fair to the readers or the author.