... an intricate sequence of moving, intimate character portraits ... The depth and care with which Turnbull inhabits each character is riveting; despite an expansive cast spread over wide terrain, I never felt lost or confused. His attention to location detail is considered and clear: The story shifts from Massachusetts to St. Thomas to Virginia with confident ease, carried by beautiful, conversational prose that’s startlingly punctuated by reminders of who’s narrating the stories — and how ... Finishing a book without knowing it’s the first in a trilogy is a little like looking down after chasing the Roadrunner off a cliff. In retrospect, I can appreciate how thorough a grounding Turnbull has given this sprawling first act; at the time, I flailed helplessly. Hopefully I’ve spared you that, and you can let yourselves sink into this tender, ferocious book like hands into piano keys, or teeth into flesh.
... distinctive ... the novel places society’s taboos front and center, constructing a narrative replete with social critiques and criticism. And its precise language and masterful storytelling make each character’s story compelling and immediate. Difficult magical concepts are also made accessible and engaging through logical explanations that sometimes become scientific ... a horror and fantasy novel with a sociological bent, in which many secrets wait to be unearthed.
Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Cadwell Turnbull’s second novel No Gods, No Monsters is absolutely worth your time. If you’re at all a fan of science fiction and fantasy, if you’re at all interested in deep characterization and interiority playing out against the fantastical, if you’re into the interplay of how genre can operate in conversation with the real world, if any of that is your bread and butter, then you’re good; you can stop reading this review and go pick up the book. You’re welcome ... I can’t get over how impressive this book is ... What you get from this formula of plot is much better than the standard focus on these secret societies. What Turnbull has made a priority, among many things in this novel, is the laser focus on character interiority and perspective ... And for all that the above balancing act requires, Turnbull refuses to smooth over or shove aside the complexity of the everyday world we live ... a staggering achievement of literary craftsmanship, a complex juggling act of plot, tension, character interiority, worldbuilding, thought experiment, using trust from the reader as the fuel that pushes the book forward, page by page. It is a piece of narrative alchemy, and I’m in awe, knowing just how much work must’ve gone into this book to make it the piece of art it is. I said it at the top and I’ll say it again: Cadwell Turnbull’s new novel is absolutely worth your time. Go and grab a copy now, and then join me in the waiting line for whatever he’s got coming next, because I know that will be worth it, too.
No Gods, No Monsters is something special ... Reading it was a transformative experience that changed itself up constantly, always keeping me on my toes, spotlighting ideas of prejudice, regret, grief, and what constitutes a monster in new angles that altered my perception of them ... The novel’s kaleidoscopic breadth in its plot and characters is always illuminating but never blinding. It’s able to offer a grand scope without losing direction, managing characters that might seem disconnected at first into a more-than-satisfying unifying thread ... No Gods, No Monsters may feel meandering at times, but by the end of the novel, everything fit and made sense. The story shifts with entrancing and calculated disorientation. But even when characters and worlds intersected and switched, one thing was invariably certain: No Gods, No Monsters is a masterfully executed feat and more than worthy of a read.
... a terrible gut-punch of a thing once you get past the surface. Once you dig in and start thinking about it maybe more than you meant to. It has layers to it. Questions that don't ever get answered. Possibilities scattered like pennies on the ground ... And I'm not saying the surface is any walk in the park either ... both beautifully fantastical and wondrously mundane as each of Turnbull's sharply detailed characters work through (or don't) both the enormity of regular life and the parallel enormity of the Fracture ... difficult.
... impressively ambitious ... Turnbull is interested in far more than simply hauling supernatural critters like werewolves out from the shadows ... Turnbull’s capacity for economical character development is one of the more impressive aspects ... leaves us with only tantalizing notions of where later volumes may lead. That by itself is pretty refreshing: no gods, no formulas.
... indispensable ... a plotty, twisty, satisfying read, with a sprawling, diverse cast of magicals and a churning narrative ecosystem of monster-faction intrigue to sustain the trilogy. For every action sequence, though, there’s a march, or discourse on monster allyship, or a lovingly detailed co-op retreat meeting. There’s even an action sequence at a co-op retreat meeting! It’s not merely a quirky setting, either: it’s Turnbull’s faith that the messy, clumsy, figuring-it-all-out of a movement has its own artistic dignity. If imagination is, as Le Guin says, what starts to extract us from oppressive political structures, then every step of that extraction deserves its treatment ... Rather than train his imagination on the one cinematic moment that changes everything, Turnbull invests in the uneasy stretch of moments when a movement can go either way. That zone of ambiguity, rich with possibility and tragedy, where no one is offered the confidence of preordained victory or the absolution of certain failure, places extraordinary demands on the novel’s characters. And the novel shines in these moments.
While admirable in its attempt at allegory as well as its ambitious scope, the multitude of storylines do not truly overlap until towards the end, and the transitions between each section that precedes this merger can be jarring, especially when interjected by the occasional reminder that our omniscient narrator is actually the very first character we were introduced to ... a lot of information to take in and keep track of ... What makes this more difficult is how often the story stops in its tracks to give readers extensive background information on each character. There is not a consistent flow of action until the point when the storylines well and truly converge during an intense, pro-monster march from Boston Commons to Boston, Massachusetts’ City Hall ... The most intriguing section of the novel is when we are shown the development and use of the omniscient narrator’s abilities, which involve time-travel and the existence of the multiverse. This character’s ability to study situations from every angle of possibility allows him to consider the many facets of inevitability, especially when it comes to the mistakes human beings make, and results in perhaps the most poignant storyline of the book. It is likely that the other characters mentioned above will embark on similar journeys of self-discovery over the course of the series, but in this first volume it is the narrator who experiences the most in the way of mental and emotional growth. The narrator’s particular abilities also allow for the most organic recounting of background information in the story. Since revisiting the past is essential to who this character is, doing so as a means of introducing what we need to know about him is especially fitting ... The prose itself is very readable—despite the length of the novel, it is very easy to find yourself several chapters ahead of where you began in no time at all. With what is hopefully the bulk of the foundation laid in this first volume, and the fluidity of the climactic third act in mind, readers can likely look forward to a gripping, fast-paced epic in what remains of the series, as well as a magic mirror in which ways to engage more effectively with our own world are reflected.
Multiple viewpoints and protagonists are easy enough to juggle while being compelling, and the inclusion of asexual, trans, and other non-conforming identities and relationships adds a rich layer of truth and reality to the text. This novel is built out of the shadows in the corner of a dark room, out of disembodied voices and meta-universes, out of blood, conspiracy, and mind control. Readers will itch for the next book in the Saga.
Juxtaposing supernatural scenes with themes of otherness and humanity, this novel leaves some questions to be answered in the next book of the series. It has a multiracial cast of characters with broad LGBTQ representation. Turnbull’s sophomore work puts him at the top of the field of fantasy literary fiction. It reveals social faults with insightful commentary and intriguing characters.
Turnbull delves into the complexities of injustice and identity in this powerhouse contemporary fantasy ... The novel spins out into multiple story lines, switching between the perspectives of many well-developed characters and encompassing underground organizations, powerful gods, and beings thought to have been simply country lore stepping out into the public eye ... Turnbull plunges readers into a layered world of monsters and secrets and uses his supernatural conceit to prompt them to examine the demons that already plague society and endanger the disenfranchised. The expert combination of immersive prose, strong characters, sharp social commentary, and well-woven speculative elements makes for an unforgettable experience. Fantasy fans won’t want to miss this.
The otherworldly aspects of the story act as a lens that brings the characters’ richly depicted lives and complex relationships into sharp focus ... This is a deeply human story, beautifully and compellingly told.