Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro #BookReview #HistoricalFantasy #EpicFantasy #5Stars


England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness—a man made of smoke.

Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a brutal childhood in Mississippi, doesn’t have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When Alice Quicke, a jaded detective with her own troubled past, is recruited to escort them to safety, all three begin a journey into the nature of difference and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.

What follows is a story of wonder and betrayal, from the gaslit streets of London, and the wooden theaters of Meiji-era Tokyo, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh where other children with gifts—like Komako, a witch-child and twister of dust, and Ribs, a girl who cloaks herself in invisibility—are forced to combat the forces that threaten their safety. There, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Komako, Marlowe, Charlie, Ribs, and the rest of the talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of what is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

Riveting in its scope, exquisitely written, Ordinary Monsters presents a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world—and of the gifted, broken children who must save it.

MOST ANTICIPATED SFF BOOK of 2022 by Tor, The Nerd Daily, BookBub and more! Daily Beast, Philadelphia Inquirer, Paste Magazine, Goodreads, CrimeReads, Buzzfeed, BookRiot, Gizmodo, Professional Book Nerds, and more!

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro is a memorable and awe-inspiring epic fantasy tale about children with special abilities (Talents). They are discovered and brought to the Cairndale Institute to protect and learn how to use their talents. The adults who find and transport these children are racing against a dark evil that threatens their very existence. The story that unfolds is enormous and robust and will stay with me for years to come.

Initial Expectations:

The title, the setting, and the dark cover make me think about Dickens’ depiction of Victorian England, which is more of the dark side. Children are used for cheap labor in unhealthy settings, and abuse is commonplace. Between disease, living conditions, and work conditions, the life expectancy of any children was sadly not long. The description lets me know there is magic in this world, and some chosen children are the wielders of the magic and must save the world with their Talents.

Actual Reading Experience:

Do you ever read a book that awes you so much that you struggle to find the words to adequately describe your reading experience? Ordinary Monsters is definitely one of those books for me.

The world-building is phenomenal. The darkness is expertly conveyed in every aspect and every scene. It is pervasive and immersive and can be felt with all senses. It sets the stage for a flawed group of characters who have suffered at the hands of others yet whose resilience remains stubborn and strong. It also hides layers and layers of meaning and story that slowly come to light as you realize the story you’ve been reading is different than the actual story you’ve been reading.

Magic is my favorite part of any fantasy tale that utilizes it. In this story, a child’s talent reflects their very personality, and I absolutely adored that connection. The magic is unique, with roots in magic known to the reader. I love that the story takes tried and true magical abilities, infuses them with unique ones, and turns them all into something fresh and new.

Ordinary Monsters is told in 3rd person omniscient narration. The prose is so rich and compelling that it is impossible to not read and savor each word. The suspense level remains high from the first page to the last, and the plot twists and turns with unexpected surprises and challenges. It is a riveting tale that I couldn’t put down even when needed.


There are so many characters, and they all are artfully developed and detailed. I agonized with all the children as they faced so much. Still, my favorite character had to be Alice Quicke, one of the adults who finds talented children and safely brings them to the Cairndale Institute. I loved her because she shines without a talent in a world of people with special abilities. She is the most heroic character and humble in her heroism. I loved everything about her.

Reminds Me Of:

Miro mentioned that Phillip Pullman’s Dark Matter series was one of his inspirations. I definitely could see that in the darker version (Dickensonian) version of the Victorian era, its use of dust as a talent (though with a much different yet related and original interpretation of what dust is), and the lack of fear in going to those challenging places where people, even children, perish in the war to save the world.

There is also a resemblance to Umbrella Academy minus the chimpanzee uncle.

To Read or Not to Read:

This story will reverberate for years to come. I can’t imagine anyone who would not savor and appreciate the world that J.M. Miro has created with Ordinary Monsters.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

20 Replies to “Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro #BookReview #HistoricalFantasy #EpicFantasy #5Stars”

    1. I just loved it. I actually took all the time I needed to enjoy it instead of speed reading for my schedule’s sake and I don’t regret it at all – it’s that good.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was excited at the mention of Victorian London, giddy at the mention of Dickens, and positively bursting at the mention of The Umbrella Academy. This sounds SO GOOD. Thanks for sharing, Tessa.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your review sent me scurrying to Netgalley (only audio available) and then to Amazon (pricey), and finally Bookbub so I could add it to my wishlist- it sounds incredible!


  3. I saw some promos for Ordinary Monsters but yours is the first review I’ve seen. It sure is a long book, and the fact that you took your time with it says a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my. Now I have to get this book. Tessa, my kindle is overflowing. Lol. I won’t get to it for a while, but at least I’ll have it. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

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