Consider “The Monster of Elendhaven” for All Your Queer Gothic Horror Needs
I’m usually not one for horror (I tend to avoid it at all costs) but there’s something about The Monster of Elendhaven that grips you right from the start. Even those of us who have no taste for such things couldn’t help but be sucked into the story of a dreary, cursed town on the edge of the map and the relationship between the man who can’t die and the sorcerer who wants to burn down the world.
The Monster of Elendhaven is the story of Johann, a self-proclaimed monster; immortal and incapable of feeling pain, Johann crawled from the sea with no memory of anything and a seemingly insatiable lust for blood. He is invisible in a city burdened by plague and economic collapse. One night he tries to rob the wrong man and that’s how he meets Florian, the only remaining member of a once illustrious family; a sorcerer with a haunted past, Florian employs Johann as his servant, using him to help achieve his twisted goal of vengeance.
Author Jennifer Giesbrecht, in her debut, has crafted a grimdark fantasy horror that lures you in by the throat and refuses to let you go. I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this tremendous journey of two lonely, twisted individuals. This gothic tale is violent and gory and disturbing and fascinating. I found it difficult to put it down; I never knew that horror could be written so beautifully, but the prose is lush and vivid, and the characters are complex and nuanced, even though they may not seem it. Johann and Florian are both looking for something and hoping that they’ll find it in each other.
Less than 200 pages, The Monster of Elendhaven may give the illusion of being not enough, but in my opinion, it’s the perfect length. It is short, but it’s a fully-fleshed out story, a snapshot of the lives of these two men at just the right time when all the important stuff happens to them. Though the unresolved nature of the ending hints that the story could be continued, it is entirely contained within itself. Questions that you have at the beginning are answered (which of course just brings up more questions), so there are no loose ends left to tie up. It isn’t bogged down in unnecessary backstory or superfluous melodrama.
It is also unabashedly queer. I was surprised only because I was not expecting a romantic subplot at all, though I’m not sure you can call it “romance”. Let’s say that two sociopaths come together in the most incredibly toxic relationship that somehow still manages to be exactly what they need, and those sociopaths just happen to be men.
So, if you’ve been looking for horror with a nice dash of queer characters, or if you’d like to read something creepy in preparation for Halloween, consider picking up The Monster of Elendhaven. It’s sure to turn your stomach and give you nightmares.
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht is published by Tor.com and will be available September 24 wherever books are sold.
*I was provided with a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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