Monstress combines beautiful and intricate drawings with a very layered and nuanced story. But it is also extremely dense with answers to the many mysteries doled out very miserly. As such, it is both fascinating and disenfranchising at the same time; a gorgeous read that perhaps destroys its own charm through inscrutable storytelling.
Story: 17 year old Maiko seeks answers to her forgotten past and odd inner power. She will travel to the enclave of her enemies as a slave and travel the world hoping to find that which she has lost. Along the way, she will make friends and enemies and come to understand just what kind of monster lurks within.
An interesting stylistic choice was made by artist and writer to contrast the beautiful, ethereal graphics with harsh language and violence/torture. Amidst the world of beauty, an ugliness lies underneath and only Maiko bluntly calls it. But at the same time, she is also hiding something even more evil – or is it? It’s all very Lovecraftian.
There’s not a lot of answers to be had here – it can be very frustrating and certainly more reveals would have been rewarding. Most of the characters are very one-dimensional and are summarily killed off – and then reanimated anyway. It made for a very confusing mix for a reader, perhaps creating an uneven footing that makes the entire reading experience very uncomfortable.
After awhile, I just gave up really trying to get into Maiko’s character and just stared at the pretty pictures. Yes, that is rather shallow but nothing was happening for too long and the story was taking too long to progress. Likely, it will take several reads to really ‘get’ the viewpoint of the author and where she was taking the story. But this first book does sort of end an arc.
Do I recommend this? Definitely. There is something incredibly unique and beautiful here (in story and in art). But be prepared for several rereads until the denseness finally sets in. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.