Hi everyone! I always feel bad when a book I was approved to read an early copy of doesn’t work out for me, especially when it’s a debut author. That’s the case for the excerpt that I got to read of Monsters Born and Made. This review is just about the first 6 chapters, so I don’t know if any of the issues I had with the book changed or if they will change at all before the book is published, so keep all of that in mind. As always, if this book interests you definitely still check it out, but this one really didn’t work for me.
Monsters Born and Made
by Tanvi Berwah
Release date: September 6th 2022
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Sixteen-year-old Koral and her older brother Emrik risk their lives each day to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.
In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the Landers―the ruling elite, have indentured Koral’s family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others―if they’re lucky―survive.
When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family’s financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can’t afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral’s only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.
But every step of the way is unpredictable as Koral races against contenders―including her ex-boyfriend―who have trained for this their whole lives and who have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. When a rebellion rises and rogues attack Koral to try and force her to drop out, she must choose―her life or her sister’s―before the whole island burns.
She grew up battling the monsters that live in the black seas, but it couldn’t prepare her to face the cunning cruelty of the ruling elite.
Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and These Violent Delights, this South Asian-inspired fantasy is a gripping debut about the power of the elite, the price of glory, and one girl’s chance to change it all.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an excerpt to read and review!
Because I only as able to read an excerpt, I can’t say whether or not my opinion of the book would’ve changed after the first 6 chapters that I was able to read, but from what I read i don’t think I’ll be picking up the full book when it releases, unfortunately.
The first thing I really didn’t like was the writing style, it was way too choppy for me. For example, here’s a section that I highlighted: “We’re in mourning. I chew on every bit of food like it’s my last. A feeling I remember from the year I turned eight. The squelch of my chewing is too loud. I drag my steel spoon across the table to camoflauge it. Baba shoots me a sharp look. I stop. The silence resumes. It simmers.” Since this is an ARC of those first few chapters, this particular quote could change but the entire excerpt was written like this, and I just really didn’t mesh well with this writing style. I’m not sure if this will end up in the finished copy, but I also didn’t like how random words were hyphenated, like historian was hyphenated to his-torian, or consider-ably. There were also random numbers (which I think were meant to be page numbers?) that would appear sometimes in the middle of words. These formatting issues combined with the writing type made it really hard for me to enjoy the excerpt..
I was also very confused as to what was going on and the world building was pretty vague. There is talk about the sun being deadly so people live underground and there being all these deadly monsters, but I feel like we’re just told that instead of us actually seeing it. Along with that, it seems like the author had a lot of ideas that they tried to pack into one book, such as maristags and aquabats and raptors (like the dinosaurs?) and then there is this weird ship that fell to the earth, so I don’t know if that also means there are aliens as well? And none of the creatures are described in a way that makes it sound plausible, like there are Capricorns (which are goat/fish hybrids) that we are told patrol on land, but how do they carry a rider when they only have two legs and a fin? This book really lacked a lot of descriptive elements, and I think looking at the quote I mentioned above, it’s very much a book where we’re told things rather than shown things.
I was also a bit confused because this is being pitched as a South Asian-inspired world so I was expecting more of the world building to be Asian inspired, but that wasn’t the case. The author does have a note on Goodreads, and says that for her, the South Asian aspect comes in with the caste system and how characters are marginalized and that’s how for her, this story is South Asian and I fully respect that, but the marketing for this book makes it sound like it would’ve been more than that, so my expectations going in were different. That said, I’m also confused as to why the groups are called Landers and Renters, does it have to do with real estate like I imagine, or is it just the names that were chosen? There is also a rebel group called Freedom’s Ark, or Arkers for short. Is that a biblical reference? In the chapters I read, nothing was ever really explained in a way that made sense to me.
I would like to include here a response I had to a question on my Goodreads review, because I realized that I don’t think I explained well what I meant saying that this didn’t feel to me to be South Asian inspired. The two comp titles listed in the synopsis for this book are The Hunger Games and These Violent Delights. With These Violent Delights, the story is really infused with a lot of Asian-inspired aspects – the culture, lore, and mythology is found everywhere from the setting to the characters themselves. That didn’t seem to be present at all (at least in the 6 chapters that I read), so I was very confused as to what exactly made this book South Asian-inspired fantasy. I found the author’s review on Goodreads where she stated that “[the practice of casteism] makes the story innately south Asian for me”. If I had not read that particular note at the end of her review, I would’ve thought the caste system was inspired by The Hunger Games, as that was listed as a comp title and there are plenty of dystopian fantasy that includes some sort of caste system. Hopefully this helps clear up my thoughts, I am in no way saying that “because this book doesn’t have Asian culture it’s not Asian inspired” it’s just that I did not think of a caste system as something specifically South Asian as caste systems do exist elsewhere as well (other areas in Asia, America, Europe, and Africa, all have or have had caste systems) so I did not initially see that the caste system was the sole factor that made this South Asian-inspired. Again, remember I only had access to the first 6 chapters so things could be (and most likely are) expanded upon in the rest of the book.
Finally, I was also confused by the family dynamic because it seems like everyone in Koral’s family hates her for some reason. Her brother doesn’t want her to do her job capturing maristags, her father blames her for them not having money and trying to solve their problems, and her mother has been beaten down so much that she can’t bring herself to stand up for her daughter. Koral herself seemed to want to help her family, but came off as selfish at the same time. And that was maybe due to the fact that we’re told how she’s feeling instead of seeing her emotions.
This chapter sampler was also 6 chapters long, and at the end of it we still hadn’t gotten to the race yet, which is the major plot point of the story and I feel like maybe it could’ve gotten there sooner.
Unfortunately, this particular book isn’t for me which is really disappointing because I was really looking forward to it, especially as it’s a debut with a stunning cover and an intriguing synopsis. That said, these are just my feelings on the excerpt so if you think the book sounds interesting definitely give it a shot, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.