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Monster of the Dark by KT Belt
I’ll be honest: I didn’t know what to expect going in to this one. The story hooked me from the beginning, though, and didn’t let go from there. Carmen Grey is a potential Clairvoyant, a post-human with psychic powers. She’s taken from her parents, who are all-too-willing to let her go, to be trained at an underground facility for what humanity will face in the stars.
The story is a kind of coming-of-age story as it follows Carmen from a young age through young adulthood. Some of these sections are extensive, such as when the 5-6 year old Carmen is learning how to fight. The intensity of her training means the plot doesn’t really let up for this whole first part, and it’s easy to sit down and binge read this section as you want to know what’s going on with Carmen and whether Janus, her “handler,” will ever reveal more about what is happening. There are a few hints of a wider world here, but they are very few and far between. Belt keeps readers interested by remaining intensely focused on Carmen and the glimpses we see through Janus of other things happening. There is apparently some kind of alien threat that they need Clairvoyants to fight, and the hints about possible conflict between Earth and other humans make for an intriguing world that never fully opens in this book.
The hyper-focused nature of the plot starts to get a little repetitive in the middle section, where I was like Carmen in thinking that Janus and others lacked knowledge of what was happening next. Belt delivers action throughout this part, but it starts to lack the character reveals and wonder that the earlier sections had. The last 20% or so of the book was especially confusing to me. It felt like the first 50% or so of the book had built up to a potentially epic finale, with Carmen coming out and stomping on aliens or, at least, her captors. I don’t want to spoil much, but those expectations were very much subverted. Although I’m not sure I was a fan of how it ended, I will say I’m basically desperate to read the next book and find out what’s next for Carmen and others.
Monster of the Dark is an intriguing first volume in a series. It’s impossible not to be enthralled by Carmen’s story, but it would have been nice to have a bit more payoff for the broader world in this book.
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