Monstress, Vol 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu

I went head first into this volume with high expectations, thankfully I had no reason to be concerned.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 156 pages.
Read from July 10, 2020 to July 14, 2020.

After quickly devouring the first volume, I went head first into this volume with high expectations, thankfully I had no reason to be concerned.

After attempting to control the demon-being within her, Maika has sacrificed the remaining parts of her arm but without much luck. In the previous volume, Maika believes she has extracted revenge for the death of her mother and then decides to continue down the path to see what her mother knew about this demon that is living inside of her and the Arcanic symbol she bares. With the help of a relative and some new found pirate friends Maika is able to travel to the dangerous Isle of Bones. She comes to learn about the power a Shamanic Empress that had once terrified Arcanics and humans a like, a power which is still being sought…

For the first time, you start to get a glimpse past Maika’s hard and unmoving exterior and being to see the trauma that she has endured. You get brief glimpses in to Maika’s past and family life with the story slowly builds. It is difficult to watch how Maika treats the young Kippa, who is a gentle and giving character who started following Maika in the last volume after being rescued from slavery. Maika is cruel and in all appearances indifferent to Kippa, even though deep down she cares. Maika is likely mirroring the relationship with er mother and is afraid to make deep connections and friendships.

This volume is a slow burner that leaves you wanting to jump right into the next volume (which I did). The only issue I had with this volume was the same as the first volume, you’re literally drowning in lore. It’s great but it is difficult to take in at times.

Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu

“To quote the poets… we’re fucked.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 208 pages.
Read from July 8, 2020 to July 9, 2020.

After some high praise and recommendations from many avid readers, I waited patiently for this stunning graphic novel to become available at my library. It took about a year but my library finally added this series.

In the steampunk setting of the glamorous city of  Zamora, Maika, a young teen is looking for answers and revenge. The Cumaea fear the magical Arcanics and the war has taken inhumane turns against the Arcanics as a result of this fear. Maika is Arcanic but looks human, not that it stopped her from being persecuted, enslaved and worse during the peak of the war. Maika is a hardened survivor of war, trauma, and abuse, who also happens to share a mysterious link to an ancient demon making her immensely powerful, feared, and wanted. Maika struggles to control this entity within her as she also struggles to cope with the trauma that this war has left her and the relationships she may have sabotaged.  As you learn more about what has shaped Maika, you come to see how deep her trauma is and how hardened to emotion is she has become.

Monstress is one of the most imaginative stories I’ve ever read, especially when accompanied with the stunning artwork that is both gorgeous and at times shockingly gruesome. Trauma, which is a central part of Monstress, was inspired by the author’s grandmother, who escaped Japanese occupation during WWII. This additional personal detail really adds a further layer of depth to this already emotional plot. The artwork is perfectly paired with this story as the images are emotional, raw, dark and brutal, just like war. The story also emboldens women and feminine strength with both the protagonist and antagonists of the stories, the society that Maika lives in is also matriarchal.

My one complaint with this story is there is a lot of detail to take in for a graphic novel. It was difficult to get the full scope of the world that Maika and her companions live in as it’s of a lot of details to take in at one time. I often found myself back tracking to go over a detail I missed or didn’t retain. In some ways I wish that this graphic novel had been written as novel with accompanying images. Yes, it would have made the book a lot longer but I think it would have helped to make it easier to digest the world and history Zamora. It was clever to have the Professor delve out these history lessons as interludes between chapters but they were long and winded at times which is what made me think a proper novel might have lent itself better to the story, with the images as well, of course. The artwork is just as central to this story as the plot itself.

I’m thrilled to have such a unique series to read and can’t wait to see what is next for Maika and how the rest of the story will unfold. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves graphic novels, fantasy, war stories, or just an appreciation for moving, beautiful and brutal artwork.

Rise of the King by R.A. Salvatore

“We seek goals as if their achievement will grant magical happiness and unending fulfillment, but is that ever the case?”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 368 pages.
Read from June 22, 2020 to July 5, 2020.

Book 26, I never thought I’d make this far in the series. Salvatore has recently published his 33rd book in the Legend of Drizzt series, meaning that I still have a comfortable number of books for my guilty pleasure series to fall back on for at least a little while longer.

Drizzt continues on with his companions to free Pwent before continuing their journey towards Mithral Hall. The Orcs, driven by the manipulative Dark Elves, are rallying to start a major battle against, well, everyone. No one yet knows the threat that’s coming. Drizzt still wonders if the whole expedition is the right thing to do but he owes it to his friends. Jarlaxle makes another appearance again as well as he attempts to reunite with Drizzt and his friends while also trying to avoid getting to caught up in the Dark Elve’s plans.

Regis was by far the most badass character in this novel and I hope that we get to see his character continue to expand. Dragons also make another appearance in this book adding some much needed excitement to the plot. Despite that, this story felt a little muddy, as have the last few books in the series since the Companions have returned. I feel less invested in the majority of characters or the reemerging battle that is coming against the Orcs again, a plot point I never thought needed to be brought up again. I’m not convinced that Bruenor and Cattibrie are correct about the Orcs and I’m disappointed that the Many-Arrows plot is continuing this way.

Here’s hoping the last book of this particular trilogy will bring what the last two books have lacked. I’m also excited to get to some of the newer books that Salvatore has published in this series as I think they will have the vigor and passion that these last few books are missing.