The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean, wracked by plague, stripped of industry, and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man with a dark heart. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster's heart grows more cunning.
This is more than just a fun little novella about scary monsters and nasty humans killing each other....Burrowed between the bones are hints of commentary on climate change and environmental exploitation, racism, homophobia, privilege and power, and capitalism. This isn’t a novella about social justice issues, but like any good work of speculative fiction, it fully embraces and eagerly examines the larger social context of which it is a part. Jennifer Giesbrecht’s subtext is both subtle and sharp; it cuts deep and the wound lingers long after the last page ... I wish the story had been a wee bit longer...On the other hand, the story is so steeped in brutality that if it were any longer it would teeter over the edge from delightfully grotesque to unnecessarily perverse. At novel-length, the violence would be nearly unbearable, but as a novella it is much more manageable ... Giesbrecht’s vivid descriptions help ease some of the violent tension. Often poetic, occasionally lurid, the way she depicts and describes Elendhaven, its inhabitants, and the world beyond is truly wonderful. Sentences dance across the page in a display that is equal parts sumptuous and practical ... when Giesbrecht applies all that talent to worldbuilding and exploring its mythology, the results are thrilling ... better than good. It’s frakking great.
... [a] vicious bruise of a novel ... Elendhaven is as fully formed as Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series with truly repellent characters who don’t possess a shred of moral fiber. Yet the right readers will still love them, as newcomer Giesbrecht is a fantasy writer to watch with a sure command of her world.
... delivers in its darkness ... Giesbrecht’s prose draws you in from the first page. The world and characters of Elendhaven are rich and immersive, accompanied by gothic imagery so vivid that you can picture each scene in every bit of detail. Giesbrecht writes with a distinct voice that transports you into Elendhaven. The dialogue is lively, which is a nice change of pace from the grim setting, and I appreciated the dry, dark humor. The banter between the sorcerer and the monster is very entertaining, and their quirks and personality clashes make for an interesting dynamic ... I enjoyed the book so much that I wish it had been longer. For some of the parts that were summarized, I would’ve liked to have gotten more scenes, such as how the sorcerer perfected his plan or how the monster collected things for the plan. I also felt that it needed a bit more conflict to really hammer in the struggle that the monster and the sorcerer undergo as they execute their plot. Despite these reservations, the novel ultimately comes together in a satisfying conclusion ... This twisted tale is most definitely not for the faint-hearted. Parts of the book are gory, violent and quite dark, but there are also moments of warmth sprinkled throughout. Lovers of horror, dark fantasy and gothic stories will want to add this one to their TBR list.