[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
One of my favourite themes being in here, I still enjoyed the story for that aspect, but I admit that otherwise, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to.
While it definitely deals with cool concepts (the aloof, badass grandpa; the robots; the mysterious men wanting Alex’s just as mysterious robot; their magic, both awesome and gruesome), plot-wise the story was also completely over the place. In a way, it reminded me precisely of the way I envisioned stories myself when I was a young reader: “Something mysterious! A bully! School woes! Something else happens! Grandpa arrives! Mum is not happy with him! Something else happens! Let’s run away!” And so on. So perhaps this would appeal to a 10-year old audience? I’m not entirely sure either. (To be clear, it’s not the fast pace itself I found problematic—such a pace can be very powerful indeed—but the disjointed way in which it was handled.)
“Monstrous Devices” also contains a very specific pet peeve of mine, a.k.a “I’m not telling you anything because for some reason, I think it will protect you, yet I completely fail to see that it actually endangers you more.” I don’t know why this trope is so prevalent. Just talk to your kids, people, they’re not stupid, and if you think it’s OK to take them traipsing all over Europe while pursued by murderous robots, then why not equip them to deal with it better, hm? (And as a result, the reader is none the wiser either. Having a few things left open at the end, for the next volume or two, is cool; having too many is not.)
Conclusion: 2.5/5. Cool themes, and this will probably work for part of the intended audience at least, but not so much for me.
In order for Myne and Lutz to become the official apprentices of Benno, a merchant, they must first create prototypes of the paper Myne told Benno about. Myne soon realizes she may have bitten off more than she can chew, even with Lutz's help - the prototypes will require supplies and equipment that will take them ages to make. However, the two of them aren't doing this alone anymore. As Myne learns more about how apprenticeships and the world of merchants works, she comes closer to her ultimate goal, obtaining a book. The hairpin Myne made for Tuuli also makes a reappearance, and turns out to be more profitable than Myne could have imagined.
This volume had most of the same issues the first one had. Certain parts of the story were more detailed than they really needed to be, and the story and overall pacing still suffered a bit from the author's unwillingness to cut out self-indulgent bloat. Myne was still selfish and more emotionally invested in her goal of creating a book than in the human beings around her who cared for her - Urano had lived in this world for a year as Myne, by this point, so this bothered me even more this time around than it did in the first volume.
Even so, I thought this particular volume was a good deal better than the first one. Instead of every one of Myne's ideas getting bogged down by what she, a frail 6-year-old child, could accomplish or talk others into doing for her, this time around Myne had funding and assistance from adults. It was incredibly refreshing not to have to read about, say, Myne's painstaking efforts to either acquire the materials to make a pot or the funds to buy one before she could even begin to try to make paper.
One of the author's weak areas seems to be creating characters with interesting/unique personalities - nearly everyone reminds me of characters I've seen before in other series, and it probably doesn't help that Myne generally isn't interested enough in people to get to know them on more than just a surface level. Still, one thing this volume did do was introduce characters who opened up Myne's world in fun new ways. I'm partial to fantasy merchants, so Benno was a favorite of mine, and I particularly enjoyed his scenes with the guildmaster of the Merchants' Guild. And Lutz, Myne's friend, grew on me a lot.
As far as the author's use of great gobs of detail went, I enjoyed most of the paper-making process and the info Myne learned about the economics of this world but felt that the hairpin stuff bogged the story down. It also felt kind of weird that Myne went from "I'm giving my family part of my pay in an act of filial piety" (when she was paid to make paper) to "I'm paying my family members to do temp work for me" (when she was paid for hairpins).
Myne's illness has added more of a sense of urgency to the series, so I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes. Since I doubt the author plans to kill Myne off anytime soon, at some point nobles are going to be added to the cast of characters. Here's hoping their presence crowds out some of the more annoying additions to the cast. Myne's obsession with books and paper can be a bit much as it is, I really don't need Freida's obsession with money on top of that.
A folded page with full-color illustrations on both sides, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map of the portion of the town Myne has access to, a drawing of Myne's family's home, and two bonus short stories, one from Corinna's POV and one from Myne's mother's POV.
While I was okay with the bonus stories in the first volume, the ones in this one were pretty bad. Corinna's story, in particular, would have been better off in the trash. It was a flashback to Otto's "courtship" of her - meeting her when she was still 6 months away from being legally considered an adult and falling instantly in love with her, and then basically giving up his entire life over the course of two or three days until she was essentially boxed into two options, marrying the youngest son of the guildmaster or marrying Otto. She seemed okay with her final decision, but it didn't paint Otto in a good light. I also very much disliked the part where Corinna (jokingly? I hope?) suggested that Myne could end up marrying Benno if his work makes him too busy to find a wife. Myne is six and Benno is maybe in his twenties. No. Just no. Light novel authors (and manga authors, you know who you are), please stop doing this.
Effa's story was just boring, and the author or translator's attempt at giving her a "voice" was dry and unconvincing. Pretty much the only reason I'd recommend reading either of these two stories is because they contain some character background info that I don't think gets brought up at all in the main story.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Audience: 4th Grade & Up
Format: Audiobook/Library Copy
Myths, my abuela used to say, are truths long forgotten by the world.
- first sentence
Charlie Hernandez knows the Hispanic myths inside and out because his abuela (grandmother) has been telling him stories about them since he was very young. Then one day, he finds out that all the monsters that he thought were myths, are actually real. Not only are they real, but they are trying to break through the barrier between life and death.
This a great book for fans of the Percy Jackson series. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook and hearing the story told by someone who could pronounce all the words correctly instead of trying to imagine how they should sound in my head. We read this book for our middle school book club and will be zooming with the author this week. I'm so excited!