Monstress is high fantasy. Witches and sorcerers and Gods both dead and alive. There is horror and there is death and there is even worse…much worse. Set in an alternate Asia, in a matriarchal society, it takes place during a great war between the Arcanics and the Cumea. The Arcanics are creatures of magic who can pass as human. The Cumea are an order of sorceresses who must consume the Arcanics to maintain their power.
The main character of the book is Maika, a young woman who is Arcanic, whose mother was murdered by the Cumea. She sets out to learn about her mother and her people and more so, about herself. In book one, the first step on the journey is to be taken prisoner inside the home of noblewoman who experiments on Arcanic children much in the way that Josef Mengele experimented upon prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Maika must break free and find the lady of the House. The Lady Yvette Lo Lim, who betrayed Moriko Halfwolf; Maika’s mother.
Book #1 of Montress is a triple sized issue with artwork by Sana Takeda and with the strong storytelling of Marjorie M. Liu, will easily have readers reaching for more. It has been called an intricate story of war, slavery and racism. It is this and more. It is about the lust for power and the fear of the unknown. It is about revenge and redemption and how the lines in between can become blurred. It is about the darkness within all of us and the decision to either embrace it or run from it.
Here is where I cheat and say that I have already read books #2 through #6 which bring the storyline of Awakening to its conclusion. I will not write a separate review for each one, I won’t even tell you what comes next. The truth is that if you pick up book #1, you will pick up #2, then #3, then #4, then #5 and then #6. The only question is how will you pass the time between getting them. Just get them all at once and then wait to see what comes next!
Monstress is one of those books that transcends its genre without even trying to. Reading Monstress reminded me of the first time I sat down and watched Princess Mononoke. Or the first time I watched Akira, understood very little but knew I was watching something great. Something with vision. Something that demanded that I give it my attention and respect. It is Castle in the Sky and Nausicaä.
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu is a Hayao Miyazaki film in still life.