Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Ordinary Monsters by JM Miro
Narrator: Ben Onwukwe
Series: The Talents #1
Published by MacMillan Audio on June 7, 2022
Genres: Science Fiction Fantasy
Length: 24 hours, 58 minutes
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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.
Ordinary Monsters is the first book in the The Talents trilogy. Talents are people born with some special ability. Some can heal, others manipulate dust, one can animate items into a being, an invisible girl and then there are those that can make their bodies extremely dense and strong to not be hurt. The concept of the book isn’t new, it actually reminded me of many others but the story is different. I reminded me a little of a mash up between the Umbrella Academy, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and His Dark Materials set in Victorian London.
One thing to know is this is a very character driven book that jumps around in time so you understand the motivations of all the characters and how/why Marlowe, a boy that can both heal and hurt others, was stolen away from the Clinic outside Edinburgh to be hidden away. Charlie is the other main character the story rotates around. He is also an orphaned boy who can heal himself from any injury except possibly beheading. As Charlie and Marlowe figure out their place in this world as they are whisked away to the clinic for Talented Children outside Edinburgh, we discover a battle between two figures. One wants to open the doors between the dead and the living guarded at the clinic, the other wants to close it completely. But they only have a limited time to figure it out as the guard between the worlds grows weak and will not last much longer.
Much of the book is spent getting the kids to the institution where they are supposed to be safe with a few altercations along the way. Once at the institution more of the why of the story is revealed and some of the magic of the world explained. I had a good time with all the children and did like learning why Marlowe was so important. That said, this book was pretty long and had a lot of down time so you will need to be a patient reader to get the meat of the story. With Liches (dead brought back to life) roaming around trying to get to people who work for the institution and the kids their are some really good action scenes but a lot of the book is spent on backstory and some heartbreaking tales. I felt the worst for the part of the story set in Tokyo and what one of the talents lost there.
A few twists at the end were unexpected and made the story more interesting. I am interested to see where this world goes in the future but I hope the author does a little better with the story layout as sometimes it was a jumbled mess in Ordinary Monsters and the 25 hours of audio felt a bit long.
Ben Onwukwe did a great job with the narration of the story. His voice lent well to the tone of the story and the local. He had a pretty decent sized cast, but had a clear voice for each. I was able to listen to Ordinary Monsters at my usual 1.5x speed.
Listen to a clip:
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