Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Local Melbourne-based author Vanessa Len has created a breathtaking debut in Only a Monster, the first in a new trilogy. I was completely absorbed by every detail in this time-travelling wonder, where the main character, Joan Chang-Hunt, is one of the monsters, not the hero.

During her summer break visit to her relatives in London, Joan volunteers at the historic Holland House, where she has a crush on fellow volunteer Nick. Unbeknown to Joan, she is about to discover that she is a member of one of 12 monster families in London. Each family has a special gift, and they can all travel through time by procuring part of a human’s lifespan. Soon all the quirky things about her Mum’s side of the family will take on new meaning. When Joan accidentally time travels, she is thrust into this hidden world, where Nick isn’t the boy she was about to date, he is the hero of legend, the Monster Slayer. If things aren’t complicated enough this now means her crush is trying to kill her.

With its lyrical text and descriptive evocations of the different locations visited along the timeline, this book fills your mind’s eye with wonderful imagery. You feel as if you are wandering down the streets and lanes of London in the then and now. Equally impressive is Len’s character creation, which is so deliciously detailed and nuanced that the lines between good and evil become very blurred, and you can be forgiven if you find yourself on the side of the monsters – I was.

For ages 14+.


Claire Atherfold is the manager of Readings State Library

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Only a Monster

Only a Monster

Vanessa Len

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