Ordinary Monsters by J. M. Miro is a historical fantasy set during the Victorina era. It follows a group of children who all have special abilities, known as talents. Each one of them is special, with powers ranging from healing to invisibility. While it’s a fantasy story through and through, it’s still feels very grounded with its Victorian setting, with the grimy streets of London feeling very real and authentic.
In the world of the book, children with talents are rounded up and sent to Scotland to the Cairndale, an almost boarding school where they can learn to use their powers and work as one of the last defences against the world of the dead. One of their own, Jacob Marber, has turned against the institute and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
I think that’s giving enough to give you a flavour of the story without spoiling anything. Most of the story isn’t set at the estate, with large parts in America and London, especially as the two bounty hunters find the children with the powers, which is how the first act plays out, after an introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the book.
J.M. Miro does a great job at creating the world, making it feel very fleshed out, and yet at the same time making it feel like your barely scratching the surface in the 660 pages you spend in it. Like the best fantasy worlds it feels very realised, even though we’re only seeing one aspect of it. I constantly wanted to find out more and more, and would pick up a sequel or spin-off as soon as possible.
The characters are fantastic, with them all being incredibly authentic and unique. I genuinely felt like I knew them all and wanted to know what happens next. It makes the brutality of the world hit that much harder, especially when they’re all at risk. There’s no safety in the world, and none of the horrors are heldback. Literally no character is safe, and it gives every encounter real risk and danger, since you never know who will be walking out alive.
Straight away the story has an incredibly quick pace. You might think, with it being quite a lengthy book, that it will be quite slow in places, but for the most part the pace is always quick, even in flashbacks. It’s constantly moving with speed. The story follows a bunch of characters and jumps between them nicely, giving you updates on what’s going on and then progressing each of their stories. It all leads up to a chaotic finale where I couldn’t stop reading for the last 50/60 pages in order to find out what happens next. I read this book in less than a week and I never felt like I spent that much time actually reading, as it just flew by.
Contrary to this, there’s a couple of moments in the book where the momentum is brought to a full-stop to build suspense and I dont think thay works. There are two chapters that end on a cliff-hanger only for a new part of the book to start that dives into a flashback. Both of the extended flashbacks are already covered in other chapters, and don’t really add anything to the story apart from delaying you from continuing the ‘present day’ storyline. As good as the flashbacks were, I was frustrated while reading them as I just wanted to know what happens next in the actual story. I feel that they could have been shortened down a lot and maybe even spread out a bit more in order to keep the rest of the pace up.
Overall though I did really enjoy the book and I would recommend it to any fantasy fan. It’s a fantastic trip into another world and I will definitely be getting the sequel as soon as its released.