Novella Review: The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht 

Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor.com (September 24, 2019)

Length: 160 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

This is probably going to be one of my shorter reviews, because as much as I wanted to love The Monster of Elendhaven, unfortunately that just didn’t happen. That said, neither did I dislike it. Once more, as it so often tends to happen with me and novellas, I’m left with a sense of coldness and indecision when it comes to my feelings on this book.

Things started well enough. In the beginning, readers are introduced to the grimy city of Elendhaven, a foul setting of darkness and evil founded upon a bloody battlefield corrupted by magic and violence. In other words, the perfect place for a monster to make its home.

That monster’s name is Johann. He can’t remember where he came from, but he knows he’s unnatural. Natural men can be hurt and die, but he can’t. He also discovers he has a talent and taste for killing. And thanks to his immortality, nothing can stop him as he stalks the streets of Elendhaven, preying on his victims and growing in power.

But then he meets Florian Leickenbloom. Florian is a sorcerer, and Johann realizes that by working. together they can unleash even more chaos and devastation upon the unsuspecting masses of the city.

Any way you look at it, The Monster of Elendhaven is one dark and gloomy book. And I think for me, that was part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong; I certainly don’t mind at all when my stories are grim and dreary, but still, I need to know why I care. The issue with Elendhaven is that author Jennifer Giesbrecht has so successfully painted such a wretched and irredeemable place, that I really couldn’t have given two hoots if the surrounding seas had opened up and swallowed the city and everything within it whole.

Then there were the characters. Neither Johann or Florian had any personality to speak of, and I believe when your book stars such despicable protagonists, they’d damned well better have a spark of charisma, however small, for me to connect with them. Unfortunately, while each had their own unique quirks and fascinating modes of speech and behavior, that simply made them eccentric, not real.

To be fair though, Florian had a compelling backstory, which proved to be one of the stronger aspects of this tale. The other interesting element was the romance, if you can even call it that. I love unconventional takes on relationships, and this one was most definitely on the strange and twisted side. That said—and I think this becoming a common refrain—when it comes to romance, I prefer that it not become the dominating factor of a non-romance genre book, and I felt that in some respects it received too much focus here, to the point of distraction.

And speaking of common refrains, here’s another one: I wish this novella had been just a tad longer. I think it would have addressed many of the issues, including building the setting and the characters up to be more sympathetic and interesting. On the whole, I also think the author made a few faulty judgment calls, being too concerned with being edgy when her focus should have bene on developing more pertinent aspects of the story.

In sum, The Monster of Elendhaven will probably work well for many, but it didn’t for me. I did enjoy the concept of the novella, but sadly I just wasn’t a fan of the execution, and all in all, the story and characters lacked the hook I look for in a book.

20 Comments on “Novella Review: The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

  1. Not exactly my genre, but I am a fan of the “novella”, especially considering how today’s novellas are yester-years novels 😉
    I know we’ve hashed this out before, so I won’t continue 😀

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  2. Dang Mogsy! I never readgloomy and scary but I van easily imagine that if you don’t know why you should care of course it would not Work! Excellent review as always!

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  3. I loved this one, for some reason it just all worked for me. But yeah, pretty darn gloomy! And I was not a fan of the romance at all, but I thought it was appropriate for the tone of the story.

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  4. Sometimes I would rather hate a book with a passion that be left with a coldness and indecision that leaves you longing for what might have been.

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  5. When I read the words “wretched and irredeemable place” in your review, for some reason I thought of China Mieville’s New Crobuzon, which gave me exactly the same feelings (and now Mieville’s fans will come after me with torches and pitchforks…), so I understand very well your dislike for this story.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. This one fascinates me for the range of opinions on it. I appreciate hearing what didn’t work for you as a balance against what did for others. And I suppose it leaves me cautiously curious about the book.

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  7. I struggle with novellas as well since most are too short and leave me wanting. It’s a shame this one didn’t work out for you. I’ve had my eye on it for awhile (I mean look at that cover) but I’ll probably wait until I can catch it on sale.

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  8. I’m so sorry this didn’t work out for you. Now I’ve read one good and one not-so-good review for it and I’m undecided about whether to get it or not. Fortunately, I have no money at the moment, so that kind of takes the decision out of my hands for a while. 😀

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  9. Sorry to hear that you didn’t particularly enjoy this. The idea sounds intriguing but u can definitely see why you didn’t connect with the story from what you’ve said.

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  10. Oh no. I really want to read this one. I’ll lower my expectations a bit then. I didn’t realize it’s a novella. I thought it was a novel this whole time.

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  11. I loved the cover for this one and was really hankering after it – in fact I hadn’t realised it was a novella so I’m so glad to have read this review because, like you, I just know I’d end up wishing it was longer.
    Lynn 😀

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  12. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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