For today’s review, I am looking at Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna. Many thanks to HarperCollins UK for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.
A sensational debut novel perfect for fans of Outlander and The Binding. This is gothic, epic, romantic fantasy at it’s very best; a tale of magic, intrigue on dangerous waters and a love story for the ages.
When Arden Beacon is sent to the lighthouse, she is simply a woman with a job to do. She neither seeks, nor expects, distraction. After years tainted by disappointment, Arden is finally taking up her family’s profession. She must prove herself worthy of her name, for she has nothing else.
But the coast she has been tasked with lighting is far from the world she knows – the salt-swept, backwater town of Vigil is battered by a sea teeming with colossal, ancient beasts. It is a place of secrets, rumours and tight-lipped expectations of a woman’s place.
More than anyone, the folk of Vigil whisper about Arden’s new neighbour, Jonah Riven, hunter of leviathans. He murdered his wife, they whisper – a perfect, golden girl, full of charm and potential. So very different to Arden Beacon.
They say he is as much a monster as his prey, but Arden cannot get this dark stranger out of her head.
Monstrous Heart is a book that is hard to pin down. The language in which it is written feels almost out of time, part classic novel, part modern, with elements of steampunk, all in a time when monsters like the kraken still roam the seas. There is a gothic feel to it, and the desolate landscape where Arden’s lighthouse is located put me somehow in mind of the moors of Wuthering Heights. Because of this, it took me a little time to get into, but before long I was completely swept away by the story. It is a book that is strange and enthralling in equal measure, and one that refuses to be pigeon-holed.
In a world where magic is restricted to the nobility, and feared by the general population, Arden Beacon has to feel her way through a strange society so different from the one she grew up in, as she takes over control of a remote lighthouse whose nearest neighbour is the mysterious and, if rumours are to be believed, deadly Jonah Riven. In Riven I found a character that I was instantly drawn to and who again put me in mind of Wuthering Heights and the rugged Heathcliff, and I desperately wanted the rumours about him to be proved false.
The mystery of Bellis Riven deepens with every page, and the pace of the book suddenly picks up in the latter part as secrets and betrayals are revealed, and Arden finds herself fighting for her life.
Although at the start I was a little unsure of what to make of this book, I ended up absolutely loving in, and I am so happy that there is more to come from this world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Urban explorer, typewriter collector, slow-cyclist and low-key adventurer, Claire McKenna is an award-winning speculative fiction writer from Melbourne, Australia.
Weeks after being born in Australia, her parents whisked her off to New Zealand for a Kiwi childhood in Auckland, before returning to Australia and eventually the beachside suburb of Frankston, where she still lives.
After two decades of publishing short stories in Australian and international anthologies, Claire’s debut dark fantasy trilogy comes out in April 2020, beginning with Monstrous Heart, (through HarperVoyager UK).