A stunning new work of historical fantasy, J. M. Miro's Ordinary Monsters introduces readers to the dark, labyrinthine world of the Talents.
England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness—a man made of smoke.
Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a brutal childhood in Mississippi, doesn't have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When a jaded female detective is recruited to escort them to safety, all three begin a journey into the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.
What follows is a story of wonder and betrayal, from the gaslit streets of London, and the wooden theatres of Meiji-era Tokyo, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh where other children with gifts—the Talents—have been gathered. There, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of what is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.
Riveting in its scope and exquisitely written, Ordinary Monsters presents a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world—and of the gifted, broken children who must save it.
Miro debuts with a sweeping historical fantasy that takes readers on an epic, continent-spanning journey, but the intricately constructed world and engaging characters don't quite make up for the plot's bleakness. When teenage Eliza, fleeing her abusive employer in Victorian England, discovers an infant glowing blue in the gloom of a freight car, she adopts the baby and names him Marlowe. The tale widens its scope with each subsequent chapter, but Marlowe remains central, as good and evil forces seek to harness his inexplicable powers. The labyrinthine plot risks becoming convoluted, but Miro retains masterful control over the details throughout. Marlowe and the diverse group of companions he accumulates including other mysteriously powered children like him are fascinating and easy to care about, and the prose shifts nimbly from thrilling fight scenes to quiet moments of connection. The world, however, is painfully austere, largely lacking in joy or even comfort, so much so that reading can feel like a slog despite the well-maintained pace. Still, readers who can stomach the grimness will be richly rewarded.