Monstress Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)
A world divided into two parts. One is the human world, and the other the arcanic world (filled with monsters and ancients and gods). Awesome. I’m sold!
Going into this graphic novel without any prior reading experience with the steampunk genre, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It started off a bit confusing to me (and a little too info dumpy for my personal taste), but it was a powerful start for a graphic novel nonetheless. The book opens up with our female lead, Maika, being sold off to an auction. Right off the bat, we are made aware that this book means business—it is not about to waste time beating around the bush.
What I love about graphic novels in general is the way they do not have time to waste on meaningless plot fillers. MONSTRESS is a perfect example of this. No matter how info dumpy it may have seemed to me, I knew that all will fall into place in the end and all will be equally important to know. Sure, dump all the info you’ve got onto my lap. I can live with that. As long as I know they will be important to the plot in the long run!
A badass female heroine? Count me in! Talking cats that captures their real-life sassiness and arrogance? Where do I sign up?! Also, adorable human/fox child? Um, heck yes please!
I may have been a little too over excited about these characters because I don’t have much experience reading epic fantasy, but come on! How can one really resist?! I’m very picky with my characters, but Maika and her companions (can I really call them that though? Maika gives me more of that “lone wolf” vibe) were just too darn impressive to ignore. They were unique and each had their own recognizable traits making them all memorable and that’s what I ultimately look for in my characters. I am not at all avert to undesirable, villainous characters, so long as they are memorable!
This is kind of what lost me and threw me off and restrained me from giving it that extra .5 star. Like I said, it was confusing in the beginning and a little too info dumpy for my personal taste. I’m not even sure what to say for this part because…well I don’t know. I was kind of too lost to understand some of the things in this world. But hey, do I think it has a chance to redeem itself in the following volumes to come? Absolutely. MONSTRESS has so much potential and room to grow that I will not be the one to tear it apart for its very confusing (or lack of) world building. In the end, I am still here to stick around because I am very much interested in this very daring series.
I’m not even going to go too deep into this one. Just know that I enjoyed every single page of art in this heaven sent of a graphic novel and cannot wait for more of Sana Takeda’s talented illustrations! I mean, my goodness! Clean lines, amazing choices of colour palettes…and the way Takeda captured each movements and expressions gloriously just blows my mind. It took me so much longer to read this book than it should have because I was too busy oogling each and every page, making sure to soak it all in before moving on to the next. Simply ah-mazing. Not much more to say to be quite honest.
I think it’s safe to say that my reading experience with this graphic novel was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It was a lot of getting excited, and then getting lost because of the—brace yourself—info dump, and then getting back on track again and getting excited, and then getting lost again, and etc. I’m willing to look past the downs that I experienced in this graphic novel though, because like I said…make your characters memorable and your info dump worthy enough in the end, and I am here to stay, my friend!
MONSTRESS may be an epic fantasy steampunk horror (wow that was a handful) graphic novel, but let me tell you how deeply Maika may get under your skin. She is the perfect example that we all have monsters to fight inside of us. No matter how little or big this monster is that we carry—it is there. Hiding in plain sight. We have all got monsters we feed, or refuse to feed and it’s ultimately all in how we live with it (or choose not to live with it). If you’re looking for a quick (or maybe not, because of the stunning illustrations) and thought provoking read, then grab yourself a copy of MONSTRESS by Marjorie Liu. I think Marjorie Liu and illustrator Sana Tekada was a phenomenal team to have brought Maika’s story to life the way they did. Definitely worth your time!
*copy provided by Diamond Comic in exchange for an honest review*