Monstress, Vol. 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Are you ready for volume 5? It comes out on October 6, 2020.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 176 pages.
Read July 15, 2020 to July 21, 2020.

Well, at least I don’t have to wait long for the next volume in this awesome series as it looks like the fifth volume is set to come out next week. Perfect timing.

Maika, joined by Covin, is trying to reunite with Kippa. In this volume, you learn more about Kippa’s back story and to see that there is a lot more to Kippa than you first gathered. In looking for Kippa, Maika meets someone unexpected, someone, she never thought she’d meet that she has a personal connection with. The scheming that this particular individual has done while the impending war is building is alarming to Maika and needless to say, she isn’t overly thrilled about her connection to them. Maika is finally starting to get some of the answers that she seeks and as a reader, you are also starting to get a bigger picture of the issues that she is dealing with and the bigger scope of the war that is ready to implode.

Somehow things have managed to get even more convoluted in this volume than the last two and I really struggled to keep up with everything that was going on. I think a reread of the four volumes before tackling the fifth one will help me better grasp everything this time around. With that said, I still rated this volume high because the story and artwork are still immensely captivating even if I’m not sure of what was going on sometimes. Kippa’s story was the best section of this novel in my opinion as her character really became more dynamic in this volume and I’m looking forward to seeing how she continues to progress.

Overall, a great series and a must-read for any graphic novel lovers or fantasy lovers.

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.