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Monstress, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Monstress, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Girl seeks revenge in compelling graphic novel fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Monstress is set in an alternate Asia where women are the predominant rulers. The book encourages discussions of feminism and the collective power of women.

Positive Messages

Friendship is valuable in the face of adversity. Women can choose to be heroes or villains.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maika can be hard and callous when she needs to be, but she can be gentle and compassionate when confronted by injustice. She protects the children as best she can. She is brave, resourceful, and stubborn, with a mysterious darkness inside of her.

Violence

Monstress: Awakening is very violent and perhaps upsetting for younger readers. Children are captured and tortured with electric shocks. There are bloody sword fights and close-up burnings. Maiki has a monster inside her, and its physical manifestation usually leads to death and severe injury.

Sex

Maika is identified as a virgin when she is sold as a slave. Nudity is depicted in a couple of scenes.

Language

Multiple uses of "f--k," at least once per chapter, plus "hell" and "damn."

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A villainous minor character smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marjorie Liu's Monstress, collects six issues of the fantasy series written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda. The book includes very disturbing images, harsh language, and is aimed at older readers. The many scenes of violence include deaths by gunfire, electrocution, stabbing, and being eaten by monsters.  Nudity is depicted in a few panels.

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What's the story?

At the start of MONSTRESS: AWAKENING, 17-year-old Maika is sold as a slave, becoming a prisoner of a sect of deadly nuns who steal a powerful drug from the bodies of their young victims. She and a handful of potential victims escape, but there's no safe haven for them. Maika seeks to understand what happened to her mother, who disappeared years ago, and the trail of clues leads to encounters with winged warriors, human/animal hybrids, and perhaps even the Old Gods.

Is it any good?

Sometimes reading comics is a case of sink-or-swim, and this complex and intricate fantasy saga plunges readers in the middle of the action with little preparation. In Monstress: Awakening, clues to how this world works are scattered hither and yon, and it's up to the reader to collect them and put them in the proper order. Marjorie Liu's writing is tough and vivid, inventively plotted and well paced. Equally compelling is Sana Takeda's gorgeously painted illustrations, which mix the traditions of both European comics and Japanese manga. Monstress makes readers work hard, but the payoff is worth it. Awakening only gets the ball rolling, so readers should prepare to dive into at least three more collections.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Monstress uses the tools of the comics medium to tell its story. Why are some stories better suited to an illustrated format, rather than simply prose on its own?

  • Most of the powerful characters are women. How might our own world be different if there were more female leaders?

  • What do you think of the violence in Monstress? Is it a fitting level for the story and the genre, or does it seem over-the top? 

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