‘Monstrous Heart’ by Claire McKenna – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

A sensational debut novel perfect for fans of Outlander and The Binding. This is gothic, epic, romantic fantasy at it’s very best; a tale of magic, intrigue on dangerous waters and a love story for the ages.

When Arden Beacon is sent to the lighthouse, she is simply a woman with a job to do. She neither seeks, nor expects, distraction. After years tainted by disappointment, Arden is finally taking up her family’s profession. She must prove herself worthy of her name, for she has nothing else.

But the coast she has been tasked with lighting is far from the world she knows – the salt-swept, backwater town of Vigil is battered by a sea teeming with colossal, ancient beasts. It is a place of secrets, rumours and tight-lipped expectations of a woman’s place.

More than anyone, the folk of Vigil whisper about Arden’s new neighbour, Jonah Riven, hunter of leviathans. He murdered his wife, they whisper – a perfect, golden girl, full of charm and potential. So very different to Arden Beacon. They say he is as much a monster as his prey, but Arden cannot get this dark stranger out of her head.

This is gothic, epic, romantic fantasy at it’s very best; a tale of magic, intrigue on dangerous waters

My Review

The blurb for this book really flatters to deceive…

It promises a gothic, epic, romantic fantasy on dangerous waters but really it turned out to be somewhat of a damp squib.

For the first 35% of the book I felt utterly lost. If this had not been an ARC from NetGalley I would have DNFd this for sure. It’s not as if the story started with an info dump of sorts… In fact I wish it had as that would have been preferable. But instead it started in a manner that assumed the reader understood the world that this story was set in. There were no explanations, neither subtle nor blunt, instead there was simply confusion.

Eventually I got a handle on the story and began to see a plot take shape. The book primarily follows the character of Arden Beacon who gets sent to run a lighthouse near the town of Virgil. But Arden is no ordinary lighthouse keeper as you or I would know, instead she has magic-touched blood coursing through her veins and uses this blood to create light… I’m still not 100% sure how but I just tried my best to accept this at face value.

The world in which the story is set is filled with sea creatures that have otherworldly powers to them too. And near the Virgil lighthouse there lives a man named Jonah Riven who appears to both hunt these sea creatures but also has an affinity with them. Arden is warned by everyone in the town to stay away from Jonah because he is said to have murdered both his family as a child and later on is said to have forcibly married his wife Bellis… Unsurprisingly Arden ignores all the warnings and a tale is set in motion with the developing relationship between Arden and Jonah at its core and slowly it is revealed that these two are simply pawns in a much larger scheme whose strings are pulled by the Lion Order.

So I wish I could tell you that the relationship between Arden and Jonah made me feel all the feels because there’s nothing I like more than a love story between a strong and powerful woman and a darkly mysterious, brooding man…
But I was simply too confused by every other aspect of the story.
Too much of my time was spent with me figuratively scratching my head trying to follow all the different snippets of information we were given.

There were supporting characters that all seemed incredibly nefarious and just downright shady. And therefore they all sort of blended together in my head and I could never quite remember who was who as no one really was given a unique personality.

And don’t ask me to explain the mysterious Lion Order because they remained exactly that for the entirety of the book…utterly mysterious and thusly frustrating as more of their goings on in the background were not fully revealed to the reader.

And as for Arden and Jonah themselves, they too were very much stereotyped and I really wasn’t all that fussed about their relationship. At times I simply couldn’t understand their so called yearning for each other because I had felt as a reader I was only told about their feelings rather than truly shown.

The best character in the book by a long shot was Chalice who was a sort of assistant lighthouse attendant to Arden. Honestly if she had not been in this read this would have been getting a one star rating but because she imbued the storyline with humour and heart I’m definitely adding on a star.

This book showed great promise. I believe underneath the mess of interchangeable characters and confusing plot there is a great story to be told. Because the author has clearly put great thought into creating the world for this book. So I’m hopeful that because I’ve read this so early (this isn’t publishing until spring 2020) that some of these flaws might be tidied up to reveal a much more cohesive narrative.

But sadly for me this is just a two star rating.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Voyager, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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14 thoughts on “‘Monstrous Heart’ by Claire McKenna – eARC Book Review

  1. Oh no. I was reading the blurb and getting really really excited because WoW it sounds so good 😍And then I read the first line of your review and LOL fail. A damp squib!? How completely disappointing 🥺Great review though, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry this wasn’t as good as you’d hoped it would be 🙈 It’s such a bummer when that happens because I genuinely get excited for books with premises like this one has! I’m such a sucker for the strong, independent female paired with the brooding, secretly vulnerable male 💙 It seems like this book had a lot of potential for that. I liked how you described your rating though 😊 Jen

    Liked by 1 person

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