The Monstrous Child by

16 June 2016

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A stunning, operatic, epic drama, like no other. Meet Hel, an ordinary teenager – and goddess of the Underworld. Why is life so unfair? Hel tries to make the best of it, creating gleaming halls in her dark kingdom and welcoming the dead who she is forced to host for eternity. Until eternity itself is threatened.

Francesca Simon is best known for her Horrid Henry series of books. I never read them, but I know they are hugely popular with children in every library in Ireland, and the UK, and probably elsewhere. Recently she has branched away from Henry, and this book, The Monstrous Child is her first aimed at children 12+.

The Monstrous ChildBut the main reason I first noticed it was the cover. It’s so eye-catching. I love it. And then once I picked it up I figured, sure I really should read at least one book by Simon. How can I call myself a librarian if I don’t?

The “monstrous” child of the title is Loki’s daughter Hel. Her older brothers are a snake and a wolf, so maybe she should count herself lucky that she at least appears like a person. Albeit one that is both dead and alive. Her legs are rotten and dead. But she is still a god, although one none of the other gods want around.

Of course, none of the gods really come across in any sort of a positive light here. Loki is his usual trickster self, but with no charm to waste on his monster children. He doesn’t care about any of them, apart from when they may be able to help him. And Odin doesn’t exactly endear himself to Hel, our narrator, when he banishes her to underworld. She may be the Queen of the dead, but she is also its prisoner.

It is an interesting book, but too little happens in it, and I’m afraid Hel is a tad on the boring side. All she does is whine and moan. She has reason enough, definitely, but at the same time it’d be nice to see her drive some aspects of the plot rather than constantly having to react to things. Or just put up with them.

I do sort of want to pick up her other Norse books, I’m not sure if this is part of that series, it certainly wasn’t advertised as such on my copy, but although I didn’t love this book it did enough to keep me entertained and intrigued enough to want to read more by Simon.

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