Monsters is a middle novel in most respects. It advances the overall series plot, and both introduces and develops more characters. Unlike the first book, I didn’t find a clear plot arc for this section as a separate entity. Still, Loki’s development as he becomes a little more interested in something beyond revenge is compelling as is what we learn of his history.
I hold out hope for Loki’s most recent losses, following on a long line of people he cares about being stripped away, but I don’t know if that’s foolish optimism or not. There’s been no real hint of them (you’ll find out who I mean when you read the book). It’s more how this continuing pattern affects Loki not just with each loss but in an ongoing fashion, informing his choices in the present. This is the main core of Monsters as it offers evidence about both people and entities like Cera that are considered monsters, allowing the reader to make their own conclusions.
Don’t think I’m saying nothing happens as that would be completely false. It’s more that none of the major plot threads resolve, though a couple come to a head. This is a complicated situation with many interpersonal changes in Amy’s relationship with Loki and the Agency as well as a focused look at Steve Rogers (not the one you’re thinking of). Where Steve stands in the Agency as it relates to Loki, to Cera, and his understanding of Amy is constantly maturing.
The depiction of Loki is what drew me to the series in the first place. This book continues the complexity of his character both in his deeds and in his reactions to misdeeds, whether accidental or not. I contrast that to Thor, who seen through Loki’s eyes has more value than I’d previously noticed, but never seems to question his own actions.
Amy took the back seat to Steve in a lot of ways, something I originally had problems with because a hard-nosed, bureaucratic ex-marine is a hard sell for me. Again, as with Loki, he is more than his programming and the company line, and I came to like him a lot. This also makes life a bit more difficult for him, always a good thing where story tension is concerned.
There’s a large secondary cast, several of whom steal the narration for a bit, but Steve and Loki are definitely the frontrunners.
I enjoyed the creative mixes of tech and magic, nice plot seeds here and there, beautiful characterizations of the cheering and haunting type, and room for hope even if it turns out to be false. Real-world problems like racism are demonstrated beautifully in the moment, perhaps even opening some eyes to a reality they’ve never had to see. On top of all that, the mention of one of my favorite science books “How to Teach Physics to Your Dog” is just perfect in the context.
While I do not feel this can be read as a standalone, as a continuation of the greater tale, Monsters lives up to the universe, the characterization, and the depth of narrative. It offers a sometimes fun and sometimes tragic package. I’m glad I kept reading, and plan to slip the third novel into my reading schedule soon.