... wholly original, haunting ... This epic novel takes the Victorian gothic aesthetic of its 1880s London setting and re-invents its lore on a global scale ... The universe of Ordinary Monsters is both complex and atmospheric, fully engrossing in its world-building detail and cinematic execution. Miro's novel has no shortage of moody, steampunk-infused, nightmare-inducing locales: rain-drenched, lantern-lit back alleys in Japan; rat-infested, labyrinthine streets in London; ripped and sagging circus tents in foggy San Francisco; a sprawling Scottish estate on a craggy coast choked with islands. The novel's globe-trotting characters jump from trains to boats to carriages, giving Miro's story not only a great deal of specificity and texture, but also a sense of existing within a fully formed world ... Miro's perfect blending of period detail and unique fantasy lore give this spectacle an engrossing, hypnotic quality. Rather than treading well-worn ground, Miro's vision of the Talents is inventive and ambitious, covering everything from their abilities to their imaginative origins. In this first installment alone, Miro manages to convey a vast history of these powers and the world parallel to ours from which they came without ever slowing the plot's pace ... hile the novel's visually and intellectually stunning world and its fast pace will keep readers turning pages, it is the chemistry and tenderness between its characters that gives Ordinary Monsters its lasting appeal. Charlie and Marlowe are joined by a number of compelling orphan characters whose desire to belong and whose love for each other give even the darkest and more gruesome moments of Miro's book an unexpected hopefulness.
... plays off the well-loved and well-worn tropes of chosen ones and magical institutions for children, but Miro (the pen name of a literary novelist) freshens things up with a large, sweeping scope and a likable, diverse cast of characters ... These powerful children are unsurprisingly poignant, but their allies and guardians are the ones who really seize the reader’s emotions ... As the children try to unravel the secrets of the Institute and the intentions of its head, Dr. Baghurst, the high stakes never falter, the body horror is deliciously and macabrely wrought, and the mysteries and surprises never stop coming. Miro intersperses crucial flashbacks to characters’ backstories during intense moments, creating a gleeful and maddening ride between the past and the present as each character’s arc is explored in full detail ... Miro cleverly adapts beloved fantasy tropes and swirls them into Ordinary Monsters, a book about life and death, magic and monstrosities, with plenty of mysteries for readers to solve.
Miro’s world may be too bleak for some readers, but the action and characters’ connections are lights in the dark. The plot tangles are confusing, but Miro’s skillful prose will lead readers through the maze ... This grim but poignant debut showcases a bleak Victorian England, engaging characters, and the desire to belong.