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.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor.com (September 24, 2019)
Length: 160 pages
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.