Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Monstress, Vol. One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It took three years to find a name. ~ Opening of Monstress, Volume One: Awakening

Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Image Comics, 2015
Fantasy (Graphic Novels); 202 pgs
Source: I purchased a copy for my own reading pleasure.
Goodreads Summary: 
Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

It has been awhile since I last read a graphic novel, although I have several on my shelf I would like to eventually get to. Most are memoirs, true stories based on their author's experiences and life. Monstress, Volume One: Awakening is pure fiction and fantasy, however, and one that I treated myself to after it came recommended by several fellow book bloggers.

The artwork is beautiful. It's hard not to linger on each panel, taking in all the details. Dark and shadowy to match the tone of events, rich and detailed, each one. From the gorgeous cover to the simpler and somewhat comic lectures (chapter breaks) of Professor Tam Tam, former first record-keeper of the Is'Hami Temple, the illustrations are really what tell the biggest part of the story in this graphic novel.

The graphic novel opens at a slave auction with Maika Halfwolf up for the bidding. Maika, only 17, and with one arm, is taken in chains, along with several others, including a fox-girl, to Cumaea where she is locked in a cell. What follows is a whirlwind of activity from her escape to the chase, all of which does not go without confrontations and has high stakes. I especially liked how nuanced the story is, with unexpected turns and the level of world building.

The graphic novel's world is entrenched in conflict, various factions vying for power. The two main ones, outside of the gods themselves, are the humans and the Arcanics, which are a cross between human and gods. They all have some sort of magic on their side. The Arcanics wield a more natural magic while there are witches among the humans.

The author and illustrator take us back and forth from present to past as Maika's story unfolds. She is a survivor of a horrific war. We learn of her mother's death and Maika's obsession with finding out what happened as well as more about the monster she is linked to. Throughout the novel, Maika struggles not only with memories of her past but also with the monster within her, which she cannot seem to control. Its power and hunger put everyone around her in danger.

The little fox girl is so courageous, even when most afraid. I just adore her. She's one of those characters you want to hug and protect, and yet she very much can take care of herself as she proves again and again.

Cats hold an interesting position in the world of Monstress, and it's one I am looking forward to exploring more. Helping and, dare I say guiding, Maika in her escape is a two-tailed cat.

Marjorie Liu has made a good start with this first volume of Monstress. The novel is on the dark side and at times violent. There is good and evil, a definite power struggle, and yet there is also a lot of gray area as well. Not everything is as straight forward as it may seem. I look forward to seeing how everything plays out in future volumes.

To learn more about author Marjorie Liu and her work, please visit the author's website.
To learn more about artist Sana Takeda and her work, please visit the artist's website.

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I love the little fox girl too!!

    And yay! You enjoyed it! I'm looking forward to the future volumes as well :D

  2. I keep checking this out of hoopla I will have to sit down and actually read it.

  3. I can't remember the last time I read a graphic novel, but one of my sisters loves them, and I'm always looking for gift ideas for her. I'm going to add this one to the list. Thanks!

  4. I haven't read many graphic novels and none like this one but I must say I'm interested. I'm not sure I'd want to read it if it was more of a traditional print book but in graphic novel form this sounds amazing. I'm curious about the cats and the little fox girl.

  5. I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but this one sounds interesting. And the cover art is amazing. I really want to read The Sculptor, too. Have you read that graphic novel?

  6. I've heard nothing but good reviews of this one. I tend to go for more memoir types when it comes to graphic novels but I would be interested in looking into this one. I'm especially curious about the artwork!

  7. I really loved this one too. I need to check to see when the next one is coming.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  8. This sounds great. I haven't really read many graphic novels. I have a couple but I mostly have thumbed through them. This sounds like such a full story with wonderful artwork included. Great review!

  9. I don't read graphic novels, but I really appreciate the art that goes into their creation. The cover of this one is a great example!

  10. This one sounds interesting and what a cover! Great review, thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks for the review, Wendy! I actually have this one on my Amazon wishlist for Kindle books and now I may have to buy it since it's been on sale. ;)
    ~Litha Nelle

  12. Agreed about the fox, SO CUTE. I loved her, too. I am not even a huge fan of animals, but she was adorable.

  13. This sounds like a great start to an intriguing series, and I've seen a few reviews previously (all positive). I am tempted to try this. The artwork sounds great and so does the setting, not to mention cats! I could get behind cats playing a big role! :)

    Thanks for the review, I feel like I have a better handle now on what this is actually about, and it sounds great!

  14. Monstress was awesome :) the artwork especially! And we have talking cats xD what else could you want, right? Hehe.


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