No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

5.0Overall Score

No Gods, No Monsters

No Gods, No Monsters is something special. Its ambition leaves a lot of room for error, but due to its authors’ past masteries, I went in with high expectations. Cadwell Turnbull has already ...

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Themes
No Gods, No Monsters
Title: No Gods, No Monsters
Published: 09/07/2021
Page Count: 298
One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother has been shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it. As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened…

No Gods, No Monsters is something special. Its ambition leaves a lot of room for error, but due to its authors’ past masteries, I went in with high expectations. Cadwell Turnbull has already created ambitious stories that sound too daunting to work but completely do. For a novel to incorporate one incredibly unique idea is a laudable but intimidating feat. No Gods, No Monsters, however, aims to create scores of freshly realized characters, shifting perspectives that are always purposeful and fuel the momentum of the story, along with worlds intersecting without muddling the plot. And it’s a winning success. No Gods, No Monsters doesn’t just include people transforming both metaphorically and literally—the novel itself does that, too. Reading it was a transformative experience that changed itself up constantly, always keeping me on my toes, spotlighting ideas of prejudice, regret, grief, and what constitutes a monster in new angles that altered my perception of them.

In No Gods, No Monsters, Laina gets word that her estranged brother got shot by cops. But there’s more to it than that. She soon learns that her brother and others in a community he’d been associated with can turn into wolf-like beasts. This ignites a fateful fallout, exploring prejudice against the beasts, an introduction to other supernatural forces, and shifting perspectives that don’t just span across a variety of people but also different worlds in which one’s place’s realism meshes with another’s otherworldliness.

The novel’s kaleidoscopic breadth in its plot and characters is always illuminating but never blinding. It’s able to offer a grand scope without losing direction, managing characters that might seem disconnected at first into a more-than-satisfying unifying thread. The story at times feels dream-like, as if trying to get a hold of it is wispy and unholdable, like all the characters are suspended in a fog. But by the end of the novel, things start to come together, evoking a feeling of relative permanence. There’s still surreality, but it’s the kind that your mind eventually gets a hold of. A boy with magical abilities might not seem connected to a grieving sister, but through writerly skill that fittingly feels like magic, both characters are eventually conjoined into narrative and thematic coherence.

No Gods, No Monsters may feel meandering at times, but by the end of the novel, everything fit and made sense. The story shifts with entrancing and calculated disorientation. But even when characters and worlds intersected and switched, one thing was invariably certain: No Gods, No Monsters is a masterfully executed feat and more than worthy of a read.

Sean Dowie is freshly graduated from university, with a Screenwriting degree, currently living in Toronto, Canada. He comes from a family of mixed race (part black, part white) and mixed religion (Jewish/Christian). The perks of this when he was a child is that he got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, getting double the presents. While FIYAH is his first venue to publish professional reviews, he has been writing reviews for films, books, and TV shows for school and as a hobby for many years. He’s a huge fan of stories that are achingly raw and push the envelope of what a narrative is capable of. Some of his favourite authors are Ian Muneshwar, Tade Thompson, Kathleen Kayembe, and Cadwell Turnbull. When he’s not voraciously reading anything he can get his surprisingly dainty hands on, he can be found performing stand-up comedy, developing TV and film projects that he can’t talk about yet, and writing poetry that he’s debating submitting to literary magazines.

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