by Tanvi Bwerwah
Publication: September 6, 2022
**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Monsters Born and Made contains an intensity I haven’t read in a while in my books. I often stick to those that are lighthearted or have bouts of humor to break up the seriousness. It was a different experience, and I mostly enjoyed the read.
Koral leads a difficult life in this dystopian fantasy reminiscent of The Hunger Games. Her family’s fate hangs in the balance every year, dependent on capturing maristags to sell. When she and her brother Emrick are unable to catch any, they know the consequences will be dire. With limited options left, Koral enters the Glory Race, determined to win and save her family. Her entrance into a race whose participants have only been upper class leads to dire consequences Koral is not fully prepared to face.
Koral lives in an oppressive society, and class inequality is emphasized throughout the book. Living on the edge of poverty, her family juggles being somewhere in the middle–not elite like the Landers and not exactly fitting in with other Renters. The precarious position they fill is used as a barrier between the wealthy and the poor, for those in lower castes to believe it might be possible to move higher but to also ensure class in-fighting. This was done especially well as Koral not only faces animosity from those of a different caste but those within her caste as well.
The society in which Koral lives contributes to her being intense, extremely serious all the time except for when she is with her sister. Her home life is not ideal either, especially with a father who angers easily. Her struggle for survival and her anger dominate the story, so it is unexpected when glimpses of a possible past forbidden romance appear. I did not see it as a necessary element, so thankfully it was not a major focus of the story. Koral is not exactly a likeable protagonist, but I admired her tenacity and her reasons for entering the Glory Race. I rooted for her throughout the book.
The story is a generally exciting one. It took me a while to adjust to the tone, but a few things prevented me from giving it 4 stars. The book revolves around maristags, but it was difficult for me to envision what a maristag looked like. It bothered me enough that I tried searching for images of something to work off of. There were also times when I was confused about what was happening in the tournament. Had these been clearer, I may have given it a higher rating.
Despite some of the confusion, I look forward to the next book, especially with the cliffhanger ending. Fans of Hunger Games and similar books with competitions used as a plot device may enjoy the book.