Being on vacation from school means mega time for reading! My students all went home with their March Madness book choices, and I came home with a pile, too! First on my list was “Monstrous” by MarcyKate Connolly. I fell in love with this book at first sight. It came up as a suggestion for me on Goodreads and as soon as I saw the cover, I knew I had to have it! I mean, come on, look at that beautiful girl with the sad feline eyes and the threatening tail. Though I try not to judge a book by its cover, it sure goes a long way in getting my attention!
“…love of one’s family can make people do the most incredible things.”
“Monstrous” opens as the narrator, Kymera, comes to life. Her father, a scientist, has been trying different combinations of animal and human parts to bring his once deceased daughter back to life. Her different hues of skin are stitched together, and her head is fastened to her neck with bolts. All this, along with wings and a tail are concealed by the cloak she wears.
Kymera begins training right away. Her father coaches her in the areas of stealth and strength, and her formal education is based on fairy tales. After her training is complete, Barnabus, her father, explains that she has an important mission. An evil wizard has been imprisoning girls from Bryre, the nearby village, and Kymera must rescue them from his clutches. To do this, she must skulk into Bryre under the cover of night, break into his prison, and return them to her father so he can restore them. Once they’re stable, the girls are sent off to live in Belladoma where they’ll be kept safe from harm.
Each night, Kymera dutifully returns with a maiden for her father to heal. The more Kymera visits Bryre, the more curious she becomes about the town and its residents. As if in response to her secret desires, she is discovered and befriended by Ren, a boy from town. Because her father would be furious to learn of the friendship growing between Kymera and Ren, she decides she must keep it a secret.
But Kymera isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Ren and her father both have information about the wizard and the evil magic that plagues Bryre. When she discovers the true nature of the town’s curse, Kymera begins a new and more dangerous mission. The girls that she thought she was rescuing have actually been delivered into the hands of a madman king. It turns out that Belladoma wasn’t the paradise she believed it to be.
With the help of the one person she can trust, Kymera sets out to make things right. She hopes that by returning the girls to their families, she will earn the confidence and forgiveness of the people of Bryre. She worries that even then, they’ll only see her as the monster she appears to be. Unfortunately, recovering the girls leads to an epic battle with the villainous wizard, and only a creature with magic can defeat a wizard without perishing. Kymera only knows that she needs to redeem herself, and that she’ll do anything to accomplish that.
“Father loves me, has sacrificed so much for me, but even he cannot fully understand what it is like to be what I am. To have human desires and fears, but to be so different from them in ways that are utterly insurmountable.” -Kymera
“Monstrous” has been described as being a blend of “Frankenstein” and tales of the Brothers Grimm. This is absolutely accurate. MarcyKate Connolly has created a dark fairy tale, filled with magic, secrets, and unlikely heroes. One part monster, one part human, Kymera must learn how to reconcile her dual personalities. Her actions help her discover who she truly is, and that she may be more human than she realizes.
There’s so much more going on in this story that I can appropriately fit in a short summary. I was very impressed with this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly. I kept wondering how certain elements would be relevant later in the story, and my questions were always answered. Younger readers will be enchanted with Kymera and Ren and the development of their relationship, as well as the magical creatures described in the pages. Though the dust jacket recommends this book for ages 8-12, I think the formal tone of the language and some of the themes might make it more suitable for an older audience. Not only that, but Kymera is written as a thirteen year-old. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!
Author: MarcyKate Connolly (Follow her on Twitter: @MarcyKate)
You might also enjoy: “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini or “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman
My recommended age range: 5th and up