The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon
Published by Faber Faber on December 1st 2016
Series: Mortal Gods #3
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Mythology, Norse Mythology, Young Adult
Length: 320 pages Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
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Before you reject me, before you hate me, remember: I never asked to be Hel's queen.'
But being a normal teenager wasn't an option either. Now she's stuck ruling the underworld. For eternity.
She doesn't want your pity. But she does demand that you listen. It's only fair you hear her side of the story . . . It didn't have to be like this.
DISCLAIMER: I was provided this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Hel was born with the upper body of a girl and the legs of a corpse. From the moment of her birth, her father, Loki, is disgusted with her. She is an outcast in her family, in Asgard, and even unloved when she enters her own kingdom. She is scorned by love and hates all things living and more things dead. And she is tired of other people telling her story, so now she will tell it herself.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for the longest time, and I fell particularly bad about it, because I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program back in March. At first, I avoided it after realizing it was the third book in a series… then I just sort of… forgot about it? I am the worst, honestly. But it was a nice quick read and here goes….
Hel is a fantastic character with an amazingly strong voice and I thought she was just great. Fenrir, as well, had a presence at the beginning of the book that was enjoyable. Her had NO LIMITS to discussing the things she hated. A few of these things:
- Dead people.
- Odin (“One-Eye”).
- Her father (Loki).
- Wooden serving dishes.
- Her slow servants.
Outside of Hel, though, we don’t get much of a sense of the other characters short of the fact that they are pawns in her narrative. Hel is the most important person here, so it’s okay since she was likable, but I would have liked to learn more about the others.
Apparently Hel is not a fan of talking about the world around her, so we don’t get much of a sense of it except light vs. dark and stinks vs. does not stink. So you know, it’s lovely to know that things are smelly and what not, BUT WHAT DO THEY SMELL LIKE. Her story is told in rants and dialogue, so use your imagination re: the Underworld, I guess?
So. Much. Information.
Francesca Simon wants to give you the entire timeline of Norse mythology and gosh darn it, she’s going to do it. Hel discusses everything from the birth of the gods to Ragnarok and she does it in about 300 pages. Either this book should have been a lot longer, or multiple books with better attention given to certain events.
All said and done, Jormagaur-somthing-the-snake-brother didn’t even seem relevant to the story, but we got to hear about his fate! Fenrir, too, got a lot more attention than his story value. Yes, I know, related to the end of the world, but since Hel’s just whining in her hall, what does it matter?
Writing / Narration
Lots of repetitive adjectives. The words “carrion,” “corpse,” and “poisonous” come up a lot. I also get a distinct sense that everything in this world is grey. I touched upon the overwhelming dialogue and ranting earlier, and the book just goes so darn fast. When Hel met Baldr I had to flip back a few times because what wait she’s in love now? I don’t understand, what happened?
This book has a weird balance, as well. It’s marketed as YA and I think that the subject matter fits there, but the writing is very simple and falls closer to MG.
I grump a lot, but I actually did like this book. I liked the voice it was written in a lot, and I like the mythology, I just felt like it could have been done a lot better. I’ve actually put the companion book, The Sleeping Army on my TBR because we met Freya for all of one minute and she’s already interesting. So I’ll let you know about that when I get there in a million years!
Books I’d Recommend
I think there is an incredible shortage of Norse mythology-based books in a world SATURATED with the Greek and Roman gods, so the subject matter was really nice to see. Hel’s voice reminded me a bit of Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet. This is also an alternate view of Francesca Simon’s other novel, The Sleeping Army and I imagine fans of that will enjoy this as well. For more Norse myth, or course, there is always Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.