Review: No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

“‘We’re all blind’, he says after swallowing. ‘Take solace in that. Choice comes first. Meaning comes later.”

No Gods, No Monsters – published by Blackstone Publishing, September 7th 2021

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Find it on Goodreads.

Verdict: My favourite book of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am so very much in love with this book – enough to feel the need to write my first full-length review in half a year. As is often the case when a book is this custom-made for me, I am having problems divorcing my enjoyment from that fact – but I loved it so very much!

No Gods, No Monsters is literary fiction maquerading as urban fantasy and if there is anything that is my absolute catnip, it is this. The prose is brilliant, the character work perfect, and the structure made me happy. Turnbull does something so very clever with perspective that it made me giddy with joy – I love a clever play on perspective and here it did not only work stylistically but also made perfect sense in-universe which is something that I assume is very hard to pull off.

At its core, this is a story about bigotry – and while I am not always a fan of using fantastical creatures as a stand in for minority groups, here it worked well because Turnbull also grounds his book in real world oppression. His characters casually but intentionally have diverse backgrounds and gender expressions and sexual orientations and they feel as real as possible. The inciting incident is a case of deadly police brutality that ends up revealing to the world that monsters (and gods?) are real and among us. From this point the story spirals outward and inward, jumping from one storyline to the next in every chapter. I loved this. I loved this all the more because I felt I could trust Turnbull to know where he is going and what he wants to achieve. I did not find this book confusing but I found it challenging – it kept me on my toes and it made sure I was paying attention. I found the way Turnbull pulled of the various narrative strands very impressive, especially the way he made me emotionally invested in all of these (to be fair, quite a few strands are sibling stories and these are often my favourite). And while the book is definitely dark, it is not hopeless and there is a core of community and community action running through this that made the book ultimately an optimistic one.

In short, I adored this, I want more people to read this and most of all I want the second book in the series (even though this one does have a satisfying ending!).

Content warnings: police brutality, bigotry, domestic abuse, drug abuse

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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