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ARC Review: The Monsters We Defy

Genre: Historical Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

I saw Leslye Penelope at a virtual author event for another author, and she seemed like such a genuine and nice person, I wanted to support her writing. Little did I know how talented she truly is!

The Monsters We Defy is a historical fantasy novel that takes place in Washington D.C. during the 1920s. The main character, Clara, has “the sight,” or the ability to see into the world of spirits and communicate with them. When people suddenly start mysteriously vanishing, Clara knows it is up to her to do something to stop it, but she unwillingly picks up a few helpers along the way.

There are so many aspects of this novel that were simply phenomenal, it’s hard to know where to start! What truly blew my mind was the author’s note at the end of the novel, explaining that the story was based off of a real person, Clara “Carrie” Minor Johnson, and real events. Penelope seamlessly incorporated the true story into the book, not only staying true to the real person’s story, but also adding an element of fantasy that was believable and intriguing.

Furthermore, I am usually not a fan of paranormal fantasy, but The Monsters We Defy had a great balance of believable fantastical elements and reality. While the main problem that Clara faced was seemingly fantastical, it was clearly symbolic of the way Black people have been viewed as worthless throughout history. I loved how Clara was an extraordinary yet ordinary person who was determined to change this, both in her every day life, and in her quest to stop an evil spirit.

Additionally, I always love the found family trope, but I particularly liked Penelope’s use of it in her book because Clara is seemingly completely uninterested in having friends. This aspect really added to her growth throughout the novel, and her reluctance to connect with the other characters made those connections that much more meaningful.

Overall, there are so many other aspects of this novel that I could go on about, but trust me when I say this is a book you don’t want to miss! It certainly appeals to readers who enjoy many genres, and addresses important issues, such as racism, classism, and the importance of fighting for what’s right. I will definitely be reading more books by Penelope in the future!


Published by thebiasedbibliophile

I am a freelance editor and book-reviewer with a love for YA fantasy and science fiction. I have a passion for books that highlight underrepresented groups. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, I received a BA in philosophy in 2020 and enjoy reading philosophical texts in my free time.

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