I haven’t been reading a lot of graphic novels lately, probably because I’ve been on more of a contemporary kick and most graphic novels are fantasy or sci-fi. But this one caught my eye at Barnes and Noble because of the art on the front—and the cat I saw on the back when I turned it over. It comes highly recommended with two blurbs by Neil Gaiman as well as ones from EW and Cosmopolitan.
Monstress is an epic steampunk story about a survivor of a devastating race war between humans and Arcanics. Seventeen-year-old Maika Halfwolf may have survived the war several years earlier, but that doesn’t mean she knows her past. It’s a mystery and she’s desperate to understand it, so she is searching for answers as the story opens. She kills a dangerous woman and steals something that belonged to her, which triggers all sorts of badness. As the book continues, Maika’s joined by a half-fox named Kippa and a two-tailed poet cat named Ren (both of whom are very cute, in case you were wondering). Maika has some impressive powers which she uses to brutal effect when she needs to, but she also has a monster inside her that she’s fighting for control of her body.
Although the story is good, I have to admit sometimes I got a little lost reading it because it is deep and complex (particularly as relates to the politics). But this isn’t really a bad thing because there are plenty of people who adore stories like this. For me, the best part was the art, which was beautiful—dark and evocative. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the themes of feminism and diversity are right there for all to see. Because while it’s steampunk, it’s not set in alternate England—it’s more alternate Asia somewhere. And it’s peopled mostly by women, who run the gamut when it comes to being good or not.