J. M. Miro’s Ordinary Monsters is a debut Fantasy novel from an established author working under a pseudonym. With time Ordinary Monsters will be reflected back upon as the start of an incredible epic fantasy. Dickensian in scope (with the Victorian details of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and the magical world-building of Lord of the Rings), this book is a commitment that pays out in multiple dividends upon completion. Well, not really the end yet, since this is only Book One of a trilogy, but certainly a rewarding first entry that leaves plenty of room for further development.
Ordinary Monsters is a fantasy, but it will also appeal to crime fiction readers. At the center is a detective agency – and one particular detective, Alice Quicke – tasked with protecting two students (Charlie Ovid and Marlowe) she is escorting to a secret school where those with magical skills – Talents – are trained (…and protected?) As their journey progresses, their little group grows in size and the challenges increase exponentially. Hot on all of their heels are evil forces no one yet understands. This is a globe-trotting epic that at times feels too unwieldy to be successful – but Miro has a firm grasp on where this story is headed and brings the reader along despite some minor missteps along the way.
Featuring a cast of thousands (ok, maybe it’s just hundreds), Miro imbues each character with enough specificity to make keeping track of everyone easier than expected. Each reader will discover their own favorites along the way, and that loyalty is almost guaranteed to shift as new revelations come to light. In the tradition of The Mists of Avalon, the female characters are particularly well crafted, something that to this day remains too much of a rarity in the Fantasy genre. Miro should also be commended for bring a wealth of diversity of all kinds to his fantasy world; but not by paying lip-service as we have seen from some, but by allowing the diversity to shine and become an key element in the overarching storylines.
Like the Harry Potter series – books that were most certainly an inspiration here – Ordinary Monsters avoids treading into excessively dark arenas, while also hinting that future books in the series will grow ever more ominous. Ordinary Monsters manipulates the expectations of the classic battle of good versus evil in ways that feel fresh without feeling foreign. Not an easy task when your core story is solidly built on existing tropes.
Ordinary Monsters ends as a satisfying reading experience even though it is clear that the larger story arc is still in play as the final pages are turned. If the middle book in the trilogy can maintain this high level of execution, the Talents Trilogy could become as iconic as others in this genre. It just goes to show that an author can step outside of their typical writing style and strike gold where least expected.
BUY LINKS: Ordinary Monsters by J. M. Miro
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.