Monstress Vol III by Marjorie Lui and Sara Takeda
Off and on, I dabble in graphic novels. I do so especially with the horror dark fantasy ones as I tend to enjoy those more than horror novels. I can’t explain why this is, but it’s been my best resource for literary horror. And I have been reading through the dark fantasy series Monstress. Book I was good yet too convoluted, but book II really began to slow down, taking its time with storytelling and was thoroughly enjoyable. And since the series appeared to really find its stride with the second book, I thought I would continue to read book III. So here is my review of Monstress Vol III Haven by Marjorie Lui and Sara Tekeda.
So what is it about? To start off with, it’s set in a steam punk like / early industrial world with heavy Asian influences and lots of magic. It follows Maika, a granddaughter of the fox arcanis (An animal god) and is cursed to be bound with ancient monster who can grow out of a mass of tentacles and hair out the nub of her missing arm.
After the events of the last book, they are still at sea and the Blood Queens (led by Maika's aunt) are out too capture Maika. Their boat makes it to shore on a protective island that their enemies can’t touch. Once on the island, Maika and her friends are met by the leaders of the island requesting her help. They believe her monster can strengthen the shield that is protecting the island. Instead the monster destroys it and they must travel far underground to finds a way to fix it.
Meanwhile Ren, Maika’s friend is a spy. And Kippa the young girl in Maika’s care finds a settlement of her race of people as refugees and decides to help.
So onto the good and bad? Let’s started with the bad. This book returned to the convoluted nature of the first book and it was hard to follow. These mermaid people force themselves into the manhunt. Maika’s aunt takes off her mask and her characteristics are that of a witch. That is a complete different race of people and it made me question if I got characters mixed up. Ren is a spy because he owes a debt to a great cat god (or king maybe) which is an element never introduced before. Maika's monster has a lover who is near. There is thousand year old technology under the island, that includes giants robots. There’s a refugee story. People are constantly double crossing other. There's so much happening and it is all happening at a million miles an hour and it’s very hard to keep track of everything. I was incredibly confused at many points. I felt like I finally got a grasp on everything that was happening in book two and this one threw a mountain of more insanity at me to make sense of. The cat lecture segments even return to help the reader make through the confusion again.
Beyond that, there are some issues that are completely separate from the messy story telling. One is the robots. This world is a crudely industrial country influenced by magic. The most mechanically advanced thing seen in these books to this date is a gun. So when a giant mech shows up, it feels really out of place for this world. For me, it was like a gunslinger showing up in Lord of the Rings. It was so random. Then there is Tuya. She is seen in flashbacks. Tuya is small and is drawn basically to look like a child. In this book it briefly explores her relationship with Maika and I am confused. I am very confused because the first flashback was a sex scene between Maika and Tuya. Not only just that, in this scene Tuya is drawn to look different. She looks like an adult in this panel alone. She looks like a little girl in every other scene. So my brain is now asking, how old is Tuya? Why does she look so different in that one scene? Is that Maika fantasizing about something really awful? Because Tuya looks like she’s twelve and its really unsettling. To me it appeared that the grown woman lead wants to pursue relationship with a child. The fact its all portrayed this way made me feel very gross as I was reading it. I hope that the author would prove me wrong somewhere, but she never did. The age was never addressed for Tuya. Also Tuya adds so little to this book all together. I wonder why these pointless flashbacks were included. The only thing I can think of is that the author wanted to slap the reader in the face that Maika likes women with a sex scene out of nowhere. Its a sledgehammer out of nowhere method I find incredibly annoying. And it is backfiring badly because Tuya looks like a child! Also this book is not scary like the first two.
The good? The artwork is amazing. Everything is meticulously detailed. It’s some of best artwork I ever seen. The imagination is great. Though I do think the author jumped the shark with robots, it does not take away from the fantastical story too much. Kippa character does get a character arc worthwhile and Ren does too. So it’s nice to see the side characters have more layers.
Overall, this book was messy. It is just as messy at the first book or possibly worse. And this book was bit tame compared to the others novel with dark elements. I feel like this book was a train wreck and the Maika dreams of having sex with a character that is clearly drawn to look like a child really doesn’t help either. So I struggle to recommend this. It does have good elements but the bad elements seem to downgrade this so much.
2 smoothies out of five.
Overall Rating: A Train Wreck of Epic Fantasy