only a monster – vanessa len | arc review

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Series: Monsters #1
Published February 22nd 2022 by HarperTeen
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance
Representation: Chinese-English MC, Chinese SCs, side m/m romance


Rating: 4 out of 5.


It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story…

…she is not the hero.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

trigger and content warnings:
  • On and offscreen deaths of parents and guardians, On and offscreen deaths of family members, Threats of violence, Violence, Blood, Murder, Weapon use, Brainwashing, Interrogation, Involuntary drug use, Real-world racist microaggressions, Fantasy xenophobia
  • taken from Althea ☾’s goodreads

Only monsters can travel back in time. Only monsters can steal time from humans. The hero is born to kill monsters. 

Kept hidden from the world of monsters, Joan was ignorant of everything related to that side of her family. As a result, Joan ran around alone in a different time period, spoke about things without a care, and lost an important item during her trip. However, this is also a trait that made her stubborn about finding an alternative solution. What’s the use of this time travel ability if she can’t do anything in the past to change the future? 

Only a Monster reminded me a little of Loki, the Disney+ series, with the time travel element and the secrets that came with it. The concept of time within this world stated that the timeline readjusts itself even when someone makes a change in the past. This means that Joan will still lose her family when she returns back to her original time. Stubbornly, Joan refused to believe that. 

Joan is a well-balanced character which made me both like and dislike her at various moments in the book. Joan’s lack of knowledge of time traveling puts her in immense danger if she were to fade out or be stuck in that place. However, that also meant that she wasn’t locked in by the rules and could think out of the box. Other than her Hunt powers, it seems like Joan has another innate ability. 

“if people belonged together in the true timeline, then our timeline tries to repair itself by bringing them together.”

Something about family in fantasy books just draws me. In Only a Monster, there are twelve great families in London and each of them has a family power. The only thing they share in common is their ability to steal time and travel through time. As usual, not all families can stand each other and there are longstanding grudges between them. 

The dynamic between Aaron and Joan, the two surviving rivals, was interesting, to say the least. While their families might have been fighting for generations, that night forever tied the two together. Although Aaron was willing to settle down at a different time, all Joan wants is to change the future and get her family back. Adding in the human hero, Nick, who has a vendetta against monsters, Joan’s love life is increasingly complicated. 

Although a love triangle is on the horizon, nothing romantic is in Joan’s mind for now since her main goal is to save her family. Nick and Aaron are both compelling male leads, but I do have a bias for Aaron.

It’s been a while since I read about time traveling as a main element. I really enjoyed Vanessa Len’s debut, Only a Monster, especially with the concept of major monster families in London and how they all have their specific powers. I have no idea what to expect from book two with how Only a Monster ended.

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