cover image Ordinary Monsters

Ordinary Monsters

J.M. Miro. Flatiron, $28.99 (672p) ISBN 978-1-250-83366-2

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. (June)