MONSTERS BORN AND MADE, by Tanvi Berwah, Sourcebooks Fire, Sept. 6, 2022, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
A hunter races to save her sister’s life in Tanvi Berwah’s South Asian-inspired YA fantasy, Monsters Born and Made.
Sixteen-year-old Koral and her older brother Emrik risk their lives each day to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.
In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the Landers ― the ruling elite, have indentured Koral’s family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others ― if they’re lucky ― survive.
When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family’s financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can’t afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral’s only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.
But every step of the way is unpredictable as Koral races against competitors ― including her ex-boyfriend ― who have trained for this their whole lives and who have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. As a rebellion rises and rogues attack Koral to try and force her to drop out, she must choose ― her life or her sister’s ― before the whole island burns. —Synopsis provided by Sourcebooks Fire
Monsters Born and Made has definite Hunger Games vibes. From the actual Glory Race to daily life, you’ll definitely see similarities. And yet, author Tanvi Berwah’s creation feels unique. Berwah grew up in India and her fictional world draws from that. Her mix of the familiar with the fantastical — particularly the monstrous sea creatures — creates a time and place that at once feels plausible while remaining strange and dangerous.
At the center of the story is Koral, a teenager who lives between two worlds — she’s not quite the lowest caste, nor is she part of the elite. She’s balancing a fine line and one step the wrong way could destroy all she loves forever. Koral is the type of character you want to root for — smart, determined, flawed… Her supporting characters are also strong, but my favorite interactions are those between Koral and her maristag.
Monsters Born and Made is full of action, mystery and adventure. Much like the Hunger Games series, there’s violence and gore. Nothing is overly graphic, but it’s something to keep in mind. The book is fast-moving, and the ending has a great gut-punch. The book stands alone, but it would be a great first novel in a duology or trilogy.
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