Review: “Ordinary Monsters” by J.M. Miro

Release Date: June 7, 2022
Series: The Talents series
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Historical Fantasy


Charlie Ovid, despite surviving 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 Alice Quicke, a jaded detective with her own troubled past, 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 theaters of Meiji-era Tokyo, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh where other children with gifts–like Komako, a witch-child and twister of dust, and Ribs, a girl who cloaks herself in invisibility–are forced to combat the forces that threaten their safety. There, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. With this new found family, Komako, Marlowe, Charlie, Ribs, and the rest of the Talents discover the truth about their abilities. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, a new question arises: What truly defines a monster?

Riveting in its scope, exquisitely written, Ordinary Monsters presents a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world–and of the gifted, broken children who must save it.

My Thoughts

Even with all these moving pieces and huge cast, the story is fairly straightforward and recogniz­able. The Chosen One and the magical school for children tropes are used a lot in fantasy, and Miro’s take on them isn’t the most inventive (for that you need to look at QT/BIPOC fantasies like the Wolves of No World series by Romina Garber, the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, and Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey). Rather, it’s his world and writing style that make the book worth reading. The story is even more sprawling than its nearly 700 pages let on. This is a novel that, as big as it is, feels like only a sliver of what’s to come. I could wander down Miro’s side paths and backstories all day. Despite its length and tendency toward meandering through the past, the story moves quickly. Every sentence, every word has a reason for being on the page. The text is taught and tense without being terse.

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