Mini Book Review: The Monsters We Defy, by Leslye Penelope

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis: Clara can see Spirits and tries to keep her head down. But, when she and an unlikely crew have to come together to pull of a heist to save their people, Clara’s life changes.

CW/TW: Racism/Manipulation/Police Brutality/Slavery/Classism/Possession/Mentions of Death/Abandonment/ others may be present.

Rep: Black cast | Albino Character | Gay/Queer side characters |

Note: I highly recommend reading the authors notes after the story – some elements of the book are drawn from historical events, though adapted or changed slightly for the story. However, I believe reading these notes gives much more insight into the story as a whole and it’s importance!

The Monsters We Defy, by Leslye Penelope is an absolutely beautiful book. The prose is beautifully crafted, the world is imaginative and yet grounded and full of heart. From the rich descriptions of the characters, spirits and world, to the insight into the characters and their life – the prose is compelling and well paced.

The plot of this story is utterly captivating. Penelope crafts a very well connected plot that cleverly weaves together an unlikely group of characters with an interesting set of skills. Set against the backdrop of Washington DC, 1925, Clara accepts the task of stealing something for a Spirit in order to free herself from her curse.

Firstly, the Spiritual element of the story is fascinating. Clara’s ability to see Spirits (or Enigmas) sets up a lot of the plot – Clara helps those seeking the aid of Enigmas, but every gift or Charm granted by them comes with a Trick, a Curse. This was incredibly interesting because it added unique and surprising consequences for the Charms given – it was fun and intriguing to learn about these over the course of the book. With this comes a bit of mystery, Clara’s deal/debt is a mystery to us that slowly comes together over the course of the story and sets up a compelling and heart-wrenching story for Clara herself.

Alongside the Spirits, Charms and Tricks, people are going missing – Specifically the poorer Black population. Clara begins to notice these disappearances and tries to figure out the truth behind what or who is causing these disappearances. This was another interesting plot that kept me intrigued. The cruel way that the people disappear without much concern from people aside from their loved ones made this a compelling story element – with the main cast’s dedication to save these people was emotional and heart-capturing.

The third element is the heist, which I loved! The best part about the heist were the complications along the way, and the crew who try to pull it off. The heist has a lot of twists and turns that are compelling and interesting to watch play out – not to mention it kept a sense of tension and surprise! I really loved the heist plot, the slow reveal of the truth, how the plots weave together, how it is all linked was all very masterfully done.

The backdrop and inclusion of issues surrounding Racism, classism and the importance of Washington DC during this time-period added a certain depth to the book. There was a personal undercurrent that gave this book heart, and made it all the more compelling and captivating.

The cast was truly truly excellent – I loved all of the characters. Clara is an excellent MC, stubborn, courageous, kind, but also quick witted and sharp – relying on herself alone, she is easy to connect with and I love how she slowly warms up and accepts help over the course of the book without losing any of the strength of her personality. The addition of Clara’s gifts and mysterious past also gave Clara a depth that made her feel very real. I want to keep most of the cast a secret because I absolutely adore how they are all introduced and how you learn about all of them but I will say that each and every one of them is amazing. I loved Clara’s love interest, and the friends she makes along the way – the whole crew had such a great dynamic and chemistry with relationships that developed well/naturally. Every character was given so much depth.

Overall, Leslye Penelope creates a beautiful and imaginative story that combines romance, magic, wit, skill and charm into a compelling and captivating story.

*I received an eARC via Netgalley from Orbit in exchange for an honest review – thank you!!*


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