The Monsters of Rookhaven by Pádraig Kenny

The Monsters of Rookhaven by Pádraig Kenny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first thing to recognise about The Monsters of Rookhaven is how beautiful it is. It’s a really rather perfectly put together book, which is always a good sign. It tells you that the publisher understands this book, that they know what they want from it, and that they know what the book can support. Packaging, artwork (Edward Bettison is playing a blinder here), even the choice of paper – it’s all thematic: it tells us about what’s to come. That suggestive lure on the shelf. That thing that catches your eye and makes you think ‘this one’s for me’. The Monsters of Rookhaven does that with such, such style.

And that style’s not just superficial, it goes all the way through this and helps deliver a read of curious and affecting power. I am not the sort of person who picks up this sort of book (I just – I’ve never really been a ‘let’s read about monsters and the gothic’ type of person) and so when the publishers sent it to me, I was doubtful. But then I was convinced, almost immediately, for Kenny’s prose is strong and confident and wildly imaginative. There’s elements here that remind me of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, yes, but also early 90s children’s fantasy and in particular The Woven Path (the first of the remarkable Wyrd Museum trilogy from Robin Jarvis).

One of the strengths of The Monsters of Rookhaven is that it’s a book with intent: you have the hoary old cliches of the gothic solidly inverted and tested and broken through with such determination, buttressed all the way along with that vividly soaring artwork of Edward Bettison). I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something of a sequel on the way – or at least, something else set in that same world. I wouldn’t be able to let it go easily, I know that.

There’s a lot here that might scare particularly nervy readers (especially with the introduction of one particular character in the second half of the book), but Kenny asks us to look past that and see what and who people really are. It’s a potent message and one that’s done with a lot of style and purpose. Family is family; however, whoever, wherever and whatever you may find it. This is a stylish thing and one that has such a distinct air about it. It’s worth the time.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

View all my reviews

22/10/201 update: This review was featured on Twinkl as part of their Great & Ghostly Guide to Halloween. Thanks Twinkl!

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