Monsters Born and Made

Monsters Born and Made
Age Range
Release Date
September 06, 2022
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She grew up battling the monsters that live in the black seas, but it couldn't prepare her to face the cunning cruelty of the ruling elite.
Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and These Violent Delights, this South Asian-inspired fantasy is a gripping debut about the power of the elite, the price of glory, and one girl's chance to change it all.
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.

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thrilling YA fantasy
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MONSTERS BORN AND MADE is a thrilling YA fantasy that transports the reader into a world of magic and monsters. Koral is a Hunter, someone who barely makes a living by capturing maristags, deadly sea creatures who are then tamed to ride in the Glory Race. The Glory Race was at one time a punishment for the lower classes, but it is now a fierce competition for the wealthy Landers who rule the island and seek to win for, as suggested by the title, glory.

Hunters are outcasts both among the Landers who rule and the Renters who are starving and barely surviving on the island as they toil long hours. With a rebellion brewing, politics are becoming dangerous on both sides. Koral's sister is very ill, and the medicines cost too much. To help save her sister and her family from financial ruin, Koral does the seemingly impossible - she enters the Glory Race. While no one on the island is happy about it, the rules do not prohibit it. Thus, she begins to compete in the deadly contest that will challenge her every step of the way.

What I loved: While the competition is certainly forefront in the plot, the book is really a close look into socioeconomic divides and societal prejudices around these. The lower class, Renters, not only recognize the importance and challenges of own property to financial gain but also show how hard work is expected but not really valued, as they are worked to the bone only to receive minimal benefits - and if they cannot work, they cannot eat or have a place to live. The Renters, by name, represent the generational wealth disparity that has trickled down to the present, unable to own valuable property (many being homeless at the whims of the Landers who own the properties) and unable to dig themselves out of the socioeconomic hole created by society long ago, even though the wealthy classes believe they should, theoretically, be able to. It is a systemic oppression that is reflected by the world in which the reader lives as well. These important discussions are prevalent throughout the book as Koral observes the world around her and begins to compare the sides, both of which dislike her for playing the upper class game.

Another theme was around healthcare and financial gatekeeping of healthcare. Koral's sister is ill, and the medicines she needs are too expensive. Koral's sister and (at the beginning in a more pressing way) brother may both die because of an inability to afford these medicines. As Koral later learns, facts about health and her sister's treatment have also been withheld because they are from the lower class, an even more blatant and problematic financial divide to health.

Beyond these critical themes, there are other thought-provoking discussions of family, abuse, politics, and sacrifice. While some characters in a situation may see only one solution, they are challenged on the truth of this (including Koral's reasons for entering the race, but also later decisions as well) with a deeper dive into the true motivations and reasonings for the ways they view the world. Their sacrifice is laden to their decisions and the myriad of things that go into it.

Koral is a compelling character, who will do anything for financial security and loves her siblings and mother deeply. She has made mistakes in the past which haunt her, but she is defining herself in the midst of all the turmoil into who she wants to be, despite what society tells her. Her BFF is another compelling character, whose life has been full of different challenges and whose decisions have led her down a dangerous path.

What left me wanting more: The romance felt like an afterthought, and I would have appreciated more of it to really understand why. There was almost another potential interest, and it all felt really flat. It could have also been left out altogether, but felt like it was pushed into the story. Perhaps it will grow in future books when the reader can learn more about them and really understand it better.

Final verdict: MONSTERS BORN AND MADE is a thrilling YA fantasy that tackles some critical and thought-provoking themes. Highly recommend for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES, COLD THE NIGHT, FAST THE WOLVES, and RED QUEEN.
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