No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

written by: Antonija Mežnarić

I’ll be honest – I knew very little about this book when I requested it on NetGalley. But the few things I knew were enough to get me interested, and it made my day when my request was granted. And I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me.

No Gods, No Monsters starts with what would appear to be the now well-known police brutality ending in murder. Laina learns one day that the police shot her brother and has to deal with  grief, pain, and regret. But before she can process it, strange things start happening, things that should not be possible. And when she gets the video of the shooting, she soon learns the ancient truth hidden from the world.

Monsters exist. Werewolves exist. And with her, the world learns it too.

And that’s when everything gets even worse. With people learning the truth that shapeshifters, witches, and other magical creatures live among them,  not all are welcoming. On top of everything else, various secret societies are fighting each other for power. In the middle of it all, we follow different characters, who, each in their own way, have to deal with this new world.

On the surface this novel looks like an urban fantasy with a dash of horror and parallel universes, and with an interesting premise—how would people react if they got proof that supernatural monsters are real. But what was really interesting for me personally was the way  the author played with the narration.

The narrator is a blend of third-person omniscient and first-person, all in one narrator. This narrator that is also a character in the novel, is our window in this world of a fractured society. He follows characters and brings out their stories, their struggles, pain, and love. He uncovers mysteries that are not his, and we as readers feel a bit voyeuristic. Through the novel, we also learn his story, about his pain and regrets. This whole book is basically about broken families, guilt, and grief.

Another interesting part of narration is that the whole novel is written as a series of vignettes. We get a little insight into the lives of different characters, important events that shaped their lives, and how they deal with the fallout of the truth. We are introduced to a whole group of people, learn how interconnected they all are, and which roles they play in the narrative. While interesting, this also makes the book a little hard to read. Because it deals with the whole ensemble cast in the form of short passages for each character, jumping from one to another, it is easy to get lost. I’m sure that there were a lot of easter eggs and little character moments I missed simply because I forgot what certain characters’ names are from chapter to chapter.

The whole story is split into these fragments and you’ll learn gradually about the relationships, characters, and plot. If you want to read it, take time to binge it for the best experience.

It’s also a very slow-burn book. Even with warring secret societies and rising tension between people and monsters, the story is mostly concerned with characters rather than the plot, meaning that while the author spends a lot of time setting up certain characters and relationships, the actual plot is very thin. So if you like more action-based urban fantasy, this will not be that.

Because most importantly, this novel is about othering and the role it plays in oppression. This is the old “who is the real monster” question but dealt with in a very relevant way. From   police brutality, racial oppression, problems of drug abuse to the anti-capitalist and anarchist sentiment, this book talks a lot about current living realities in the USA. It talks about how it’s easy to simply paint a person different from you as a monster and how easy it’s to be complicit in silence when something doesn’t concern us personally. The whole message of this book is shown in the title—No Gods, No Monsters—as a play on the “No Gods, No Masters” anarchist slogan that is sometimes used in chants at protests. No human above, no human below, says the book, and that message really stayed with me after reading it.

All in all, there are a lot of very chilling, dread-filling passages, where the book gets quite dark. But it’s mostly very sad, and a bit depressing, but with a call for action to make things better. I think I would like to reread it one day, just to catch the little things I missed. Maybe before the sequel gets out, which I guess is still very far away since this book is not yet out.

If you’re interested in books that play with an omniscient narrator that is also a character in a story, urban fantasy with secret cults and werewolves, and like your novels to be relevant to the current political realities, this could be a book for you.

No Gods, No Monsters is set to be published on September 7th this year.

I want to thank NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for giving me an eARC.

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