No Gods, No Monsters
by Cadwell Turnbull
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Pub Date 07 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 03 Jan 2022
The first book in The Convergence Saga, a new series from Cadwell Turnbull, the award-winning author of The Lesson
*An Indie Next Pick*
*A LibraryReads Pick*
*Included in Forbes Magazine's 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2021 According to Independent Booksellers*
*Included in Marie Claire's 35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases by Black Authors*
*One of Bustle's Most Anticipated Books of September*
*One of Buzzfeed's 35 Amazing Fantasy Books Coming Out This Summer*
*A GoodReads Most Anticipated SFF Novel of 2021*
*Included in GoodReads' roundup of The Year's Most Anticipated Fiction by Black Authors *
• A BookBub Best Book of Fall 2021
*A BookRiot Pick of 2021 Black LGBTQ Books To Preorder*
*A Polygon Pick of Best New SFF Books to Read this Summer*
*A Tor Pick of Most Anticipated SFF Books for the Rest of 2021*
One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was 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 into silence. A professor follows a missing friend's trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.
At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?
The world will soon find out.
A Note From the Publisher
“Riveting…[A] tender, ferocious book.”
-New York Times
“In the first of a series, the monsters who have always lived among us emerge, endangered by prejudice, doubt, and at least one deadly, ancient cult…The otherworldly aspects of the story act as a lens that brings the characters’ richly depicted lives and complex relationships into sharp focus…This is still a deeply human story, beautifully and compellingly told.”
-Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)
“An epic, meta, Caribbean-inspired fantasy that dives into the dark and shadowy…Multiple viewpoints and protagonists are easy enough to juggle while being compelling, and the inclusion of asexual, trans, and other nonconforming identities and relationships adds a rich layer of truth and reality to the text. This novel is built out of the shadows in the corner of a dark room, out of disembodied voices and metauniverses, out of blood, conspiracy, and mind control. Readers will itch for the next book in the saga.”
-Booklist (STARRED review)
"Turnbull delves into the complexities of injustice and identity in this powerhouse contemporary fantasy…Turnbull plunges readers into a layered world of monsters and secrets and uses his supernatural conceit to prompt them to examine the demons that already plague society and endanger the disenfranchised. The expert combination of immersive prose, strong characters, sharp social commentary, and well-woven speculative elements makes for an unforgettable experience. Fantasy fans won't want to miss this."
-Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)
“Turnbull’s sophomore work puts him at the top of the field of fantasy literary fiction.”
-Library Journal (STARRED review)
“Profound and unsettling in the best way…Sharp, insightful social commentary wrapped up in a tale of the uncanny.”
-Rebecca Roanhorse, New York Times bestselling and Hugo Award–winning author
“You’ll stay up all night bingeing this cosmic political thriller about monster factions battling over the past and future of the multiverse. Cadwell Turnbull has created a fascinating world of supernatural conspirators whose goals are sometimes unknowable, and sometimes align perfectly with the mundane, systemic injustices of human life. No Gods, No Monsters is also a moving journey through many families across many worlds—all coping with traumatic loss, but finding new ways to love each other.”
-Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline and Autonomous
“No Gods, No Monsters is a haunting tale of the monsters that live among us, and those who despise them. Through a series of diverse, rich, and beautifully written voices, Turnbull deftly weaves together a story of supernatural beings, otherworldly entities, magic, and quantum physics, superimposed onto the social and political challenges of our mundane world. Throughout, we are forced to dwell not only our own humanity, but question who exactly are the monsters we fear? Once I started this novel I could not put it down. You won’t be able to either.”
-P. Djèlí Clark, author of Ring Shout
“The Lesson was a perfect debut, and this is a perfect second novel. Big and bold and ambitious, packed with everything we need right now: more heart, more monsters, more cooperative solidarity economies.”
-Sam J. Miller, Nebula Award–winning author of Blackfish City and The Blade Between
"Magic and monsters roam every corner of this page-turner, but the real star is Cadwell Turnbull's breath-taking prose. A perfect hymn to otherness and the beauty of the strange, NO GODS, NO MONSTERS is so good it reads like music. Simply masterful."
-Sylvain Neuvel, author of the Themis Files, The Test, and A History of What Comes Next
“Structurally ambitious, intricately imagined.”
-Elizabeth Bear, Hugo Award–winning author
“No Gods, No Monsters is both elegant and violent: a cutting, clarifying illumination of humanity in all of its magic and monstrosity. It balances narrative complexity with extraordinarily nuanced characters, and remains compulsively readable throughout. This is a story with blood, brains, and, ultimately, heart.”
-Isabel Yap, author of Never Have I Ever: Stories
“No Gods, No Monsters is a thrilling story, set in a world not unlike our own, that follows events in the wake of the discovery that creatures from myth and legend are real. It’s a page turner…an exciting plot, full characters, complex moral dilemmas, mystery, mayhem, with a bit of romance. This science fiction/fantasy story grabs your attention from the beginning. I love the way Turnbull changes the narrative of hate and division that has been written about so many times and makes us ponder the question, Who are the real monsters?”
-Keri Cooks, Forbes
“Across a web of storylines, we follow a series of characters ranging from a college professor looking for a missing friend—only to discover a secret society—a werewolf who’s trying to protect her pack from the public, and more. The book makes for excellent commentary on the state of society, as Cadwell Turnbull follows the implications as those supernatural creatures and beings make their existence known to the rest of the world.”
-Andrew Liptak, Polygon
"It's such an expertly crafted novel that I'm almost mad about it; it's smart and intense in the best way. Turnbull pulls no punches here, and the result is something powerful."
-Christina Orlando, Tor.com
“Turnbull’s prose is captivating, poetic without being pretentious, a pleasure to read…A stunning, enthralling novel.”
-New York Journal of Books
Major campaign for award-winning author of The Lesson, which has been optioned for television by AMC.
An Indie Next Pick
A LibraryReads Pick
National Print, Online, TV, Radio, and Podcast Media Coverage
National Print, Online and Social Media Ad Campaign
Lead Title Showcase at library, bookseller, and consumer trade shows and conferences
Major bookseller merchandising/co-op
Official Author Website: https://cadwellturnbull.com/
Official Author Twitter: @CadwellTurnbull | Official Author Instagram: cadwellturnbull
- Marie Claire -35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases by Black Authors
- Connect with Cadwell Turnbull on Twitter
- Forbes - The 10 Most Anticipated Books Of 2021, According To Independent Bookstores
- Publishers Weekly Starred Review
- Polygon 15 Best new Science Fiction & Fantasy Books To Read This Summer
- The 30 Most Anticipated SFF Books for the Rest of 2021
- NPR reviews NO GODS, NO MONSTERS
- Tor.com review: What Makes a Monster? The Complexities of No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 353 members
As like the king of authors said: “ Monsters are real and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us,sometimes they win.”
This story starts with a dead body! Laina opens her eyes on early October morning to learn the new tragic news about her brother’s brutal killing by Boston police officers. Is this just police brutality or there is something more vicious, blood thirsty and extra violent hidden behind the incident? But there is one reality that no one can ignore: MONSTERS ARE REAL! Mythical creatures stop hiding behind the shadows, freely walking around to bring out the chaos!
We’re also introduced to the professor at the first chapter who resigns from his job to go back to his hometown, following the traces his missing friend left behind which also drags him into a secret society, the same place a young boy with super powers uses its safety net, keeping his own dark secrets.
This is a riveting, urban fantasy page turner with lots of characters. But quick time jumps between past and present are a little disturbing. We want to know more about their back stories. There are so much rich materials to be used at more than two books. So I wish there were less characters but more detailed, elaborated life stories, less flashbacks.
But overall I am fan of this genre! This was quick, gripping, interesting, capturing, action packed and thrilling ride that I was truly excited to experience!
I’m giving werewolfish, mythical creatures, blood thirsty, shocking, horrifying four stars!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for sharing this super exciting reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.
First and foremost, this is a book you have to pay attention to. Yes, it’s a casual read, but the subtext is almost its own character in this one. No Gods, No Monsters is the kind of book that almost demands a re-read upon reaching the final page. It’s just that powerful.
Most blurbs and reviews say that this books opens with Laina discovering the news that her brother, Lincoln, has been shot and killed by Boston police, but that’s not really where the book starts. No Gods, No Monsters starts with the introduction of two characters: Calvin and Tanya. As the story progresses, we discover that one of them could possibly be very very important.
Next comes the beginning of Laina’s lament and the big reveal that monsters are real and some of them are ready to go public.
I don’t really want to say much more about the characters or the plot of the book because I think it would steal a piece of the magic from potential readers. What I will say is that No Gods, No Monsters really pushes the boundaries of the classification, or lack thereof, of inclusion and acceptance. Never would I have ever thought it possible to braid together a tale of life, love, the constant struggle and non-Newtonian physics. Yeah, you didn’t read that wrong.
Seeing each section unfold with the inter-meshing of characters and situations is what really sells this story. Mr. Turnbull leverages science fiction and fantasy to show the rawest of “human” emotions in an incredibly deft way, and it doesn’t take long to be fully sucked in.
My single complaint is that it’s now over: I reached the end and that’s it. I do hope Mr. Turnbull revisits these characters and situations because what is not said, and what is not resolved, presents an incredible craving for this reader.
No Gods, No Monsters hits shelves in September 2021, and I guarantee it is going to make some waves. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see it on any number of book of the year lists. Do not sleep on this one.
𝙱𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚁𝚎𝚟𝚒𝚎𝚠 - 𝙽𝚘 𝚂𝚙𝚘𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚛𝚜
𝑵𝒐 𝑮𝒐𝒅𝒔, 𝑵𝒐 𝑴𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒔 by Cadwell Turbull
“Everything is connected. Every imagined world is real. all the underworlds and all the heavens. All the worlds within us and without.”
𝑵𝒐 𝑮𝒐𝒅𝒔, 𝑵𝒐 𝑴𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒔 follows the stories of multiple unique individuals. Some with stories of trauma and triumph. Others with stories of confusion and capture. A mysterious being floats through these stories watching and waiting for the moment to emerge. On the horizon waits protests, death, looming war, and most of all monsters. Monsters live among us all, are we ready for the possibilities?
While is it hard to wrap of the insane breadth of this book, I can say that the above mentioned quote truly is how expensive the narrative becomes.
𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝙸 𝙴𝚗𝚓𝚘𝚢𝚎𝚍
Literally everything so I will try to be specific.
-Reading this felt a little bit like I was browsing through a dream state. It was incapsulating and intoxicating.
-The representation and diversity in this book is on point. It has racial diversity, sex diversity, gender diversity, and relationship diversity. I appreciate that this is not a token moment within the book but just part of this world because diversity is a part of our world.
-I loved that there were affectionate platonic relationships between both men and women in this.
𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝙴𝚗𝚓𝚘𝚢 𝚊𝚜 𝙼𝚞𝚌𝚑
-There wasn’t a trigger warning with the book. There are many triggering topics touched on in this, and it would be helpful and needed for many readers.
I did not rate this a full five stars only because I think that trigger warning is really needed in this book.
𝐓𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐤 𝐲𝗼𝐮 𝐭𝗼 𝐍𝐞𝐭𝐠𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐲 𝐟𝗼𝐫 𝐚𝐧 𝐀𝐑𝐂 𝗼𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝗼𝗼𝐤.
𝐒𝗼𝗺𝐞 𝗼𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐜𝗼𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐩𝗼𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝗼𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝗼 𝐬𝐩𝗼𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐬. 𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝗼𝐮 𝐝𝗼 𝐧𝗼𝐭 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝗼 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐬, 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐝𝗼𝐧’𝐭. 𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝗼𝐮 𝐝𝗼, 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝗼𝐰.
Cursing, sex, sexual abuse towards a minor, drug use, physical abuse, gaslighting, blood, violence, attempted suicide, completed suicide, mass shooting
Firstly, thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read a copy of this book!
This book starts by introducing us to several characters, one of which is Laina who has been asked to identify a dead body. Her brother has been shot and killed by police, and while it appears that this was a case of police brutality, a video unearths a much larger issue at play. The video reveals that monsters are real, and are walking among us. The question of who is a monster, and why, is raised multiple times as the author introduces the reader to new characters and new storylines.
I enjoyed this book! It tackles a lot of rather intense themes and concepts, but the author, Cadwell Turnbull, does so in a contemporary and unique way.
I felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of characters and stories that were introduced in the book, and I did feel that we didn't need so many new characters. I would've liked to learn more about fewer, rather than less about more. With that being said, each character brought their own powerful perspective to the themes within the book.
This is a great book, and I'm definitely expecting this will be received well once published!
I've been thinking a lot about language this morning, particularly after reading No Gods No Monsters. Wiki says a monster is “often a type of grotesque creature, whose appearance frightens and whose powers of destruction threaten the human world's social or moral order,” but what makes something or someone a monster? How does our perspective & the perspective of our society shape this word? Who gets to decide what grotesque means or what is threatening? These were all questions Turnbull pulled out of me while reading this incredible forthcoming scifi/fantasty.
I really loved this book & can already tell it will hit my top list of 2021. Turnbull’s clever writing makes you question & think deeply about the society we live in & this is absolutely a book I will be rereading when I buy the physical copy in September. His character building really shines in this & No Gods No Monsters is very organically queer inclusive & features a trans & asexual main character. Thank you @netgalley & @blackstonepublishing for the advanced ecopy of this book!
This is a juicy story that opens with quite the bang. It was a super quick, page-turning read and this kind of ‘urban fantasy thriller’ was a new genre for me and one I’d love to read more of. I always enjoy when books/tv shows/movies/etc. take place in my city (doesn’t everyone?) so the fact that this book is set in Boston really brought the story off the page and into real life for me. There are a ton of characters in this book and a very busy plot, so it could be overwhelming and a bit confusing at times, but overall it’s a very engrossing read that contains themes that are super timely in the US today.
I had an enjoyable time reading this and it held my attention the entire way through that I finished it within the day! I enjoyed every page and thought that the plot/story was very unique. Would recommend to anyone!
This is an incredibly ambitious book, and to make a long story short it, it achieves what it aims for. Multiple POV, time skips, and meticulously interwoven plots all work together to create an unputdownable read., Each of the different story streams are compelling, and I would love to read novels devoted to each of them. I will definitely be rereading this, as the sheer amount of content packed into the pages and the speed at which I wanted to read it meant that I missed a few plot points. Absolutely recommended.
I really liked this book. I like the narrative style, and how it would change randomly. I liked the diversity of the characters. I liked the mystery of the secret orders. But I didn't like how it ended so abruptly. I want to know what happens next!
Disorienting, is the first word that comes to mind. Disorienting, in the best way. This book jumps between character POVs, across time, between storylines without notice and seemingly without pattern. We are introduced to an unnamed narrator who seems to immediately disappear from the story, and as we try to puzzle out the connection between the characters we meet some links are revealed and others are not. But this struggle for understanding is what is at the heart of NO GODS, NO MONSTERS. In this novel, a society grapples with the knowledge that monsters are real and live among us, that their world is being manipulated by strange forces; everyone is truly disoriented.
This is a difficult book. This is also an ambitious book, and Caldwell Turnbull's skill meets his ambition.
Content warnings for sexual abuse, general violence, and an active shooter event.
No Gods, No Monsters was a refreshing story that was really easy to get into. Monsters are real in this world, and that is always such a pull for me in a story. Turnbull has an array of characters in this book, so make sure you are paying attention! Overall, I am excited to re-read it when it is published.
<b>Thank you Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for the digital ARC of No Gods, No Monsters.</b>
I love the kinds of books where you feel like you're missing something vital to the story and then it all comes together at the end. No Gods, No Monsters was one of those books.
It opens (pretty much) with the death of Laina's brother, who has been shot by a police officer. That act is the catalyst for the unveiling of monsters to the world at large. Turns out, monsters and magic have been present and living peacefully beside us for ages without us being any the wiser. Meanwhile, two (or maybe three?) secret societies are in a battle of wills to control...something. The angle of the story? To keep monsters hidden? To eradicate the monsters? It really depends on the secret society, and honestly, even at the end of the book I wasn't sure what the different societies' goals and purposes were. It definitely felt like a book that had sequel potential.
But what I loved most was how many characters there were, and how they all slowly became interconnected and central to the ending of the story. Characters were also diverse, representing a broad range of gender identities, sexualities, and ethnicities.
Overall I was left wanting <b> more </b> . More of these characters. More of this world. More monsters, more gods.
4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for me (because we can only give full stars). Only because I didn't get all the answers I craved!
'No Gods, No Monsters' is impossible to put down, with an elegant and exquisite writing style, and I loved every second of it.
This Adult Urban Fantasy novel starts off with Laina, standing over the body of her dead brother. What seems to be a case of police brutality at first, slowly reveals itself to be a part of something more: Monsters are real, and not willing to hide anymore.
Switching between several PoV‘s, we will see people harboring secrets until they disappear with them, hidden societies and dark organizations starting to surface, and suicides and hate crimes rising. Only one thing is clear: the world will not be same as before.
This story was utterly fascinating, probably due to its incredible disorientating narrative. Turnbull is jumping back and forth trough many different PoV‘s, timelines, and places; slowly forming a bigger picture while simultaneously not giving away too many answers to the questions that are swirling around in the reader‘s mind.
By only giving bits and pieces of information, Turnwell makes it impossible to lessen the anticipation of reading the next sentence, until the desperate need to find out more starts to be almost unbearable. He dares his readers to read between the lines, to ask questions, to build up and throw away theories, to fully immerse themselves in the story, so that they will almost feel like a part of it.
At the same time, 'No Gods, No Monsters' is as gruesome as it is enchanting - full of gore, blood, and trigger warnings, filling its reader with an antsy feeling of rising panic the darker it gets outside. I for sure left my lights on while I deprived myself of sleep, constantly convincing myself to just read a little more.
This book deals with an interesting concept that will definitely make you think, not only because of the unreliable narrative, but because of how grand the spectrum of the story grows. We are talking about underground societies and parallel universes, about grief, revenge, and acceptance - from other‘s and from oneself - and about the big question: where does being human end, and being a monster begins?
I particularly enjoyed the Science-Fiction aspect of the reasoning behind the monsters and the magic system. I prefer the fantasy worlds I‘m reading about to be well fleshed out and believable, and this one surely was.
'No Gods, No Monsters' is a very character driven book. From all these different PoV‘s, I enjoyed the ones of Calvin and Laina the most, but I was looking forward to the rest of them as well. Each character was significant to the story, as well as well developed. We are getting many backstories in this, and while they helped to flesh out the characters, they sometimes gave me the feeling that Turnbull was losing himself a bit too much in the past, which lead to me losing my grip on the story for a bit, until we got transported back into the present.
Nevertheless, this was outstanding in regards of representation. We have biracial characters, characters of color, asexual, bisexual, and trans characters - and I don‘t even think I managed to catch them all. It’s alway amazing to see a wide variety of representation included in fantasy books, so I really enjoyed that!
Although the ending was very satisfying, I‘d love it if Turnbull were to decide to come back to this world in another installment - there is a lot left to be explored, and I am actually not ready to say goodbye to his incredible cast of characters just yet.
'No Gods, No Monsters' hits the shelves on September 7th, and anyone interested in a supernatural, gripping, and action filled call against hierarchy and discrimination won‘t want to miss this!
trigger warnings (potential spoilers): implied sexual abuse on a minor, domestic abuse, drug abuse, loss of loved ones, suicide, mass shooting, violence, blood and gore
[ a massive thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review! ]
"No Gods, No Monsters" by Cadwell Turnbull is an incredibly riveting novel that blurs multiple genres into one or successfully creates a unique genre of its own. Therefore, it's no surprise the story is written in a jarring, razor-edged cadence that creates an original narrative voice unlike anything else.
In this page-turning novel, multiple characters are witness to a world-changing event in which monsters are real and they want to be known. This causes a chain reaction of events that results in a growing tension of whether humans are ready to accept monsters exist and the dangerous consequences that may have.
On the surface, this novel seems like a simplistic fantasy novel that delves into secret underground societies, fantastical creatures, and government conspiracies. Instead, Turnbull draws upon a variety of themes that speak to a lot of issues society faces in the present time. Through the use of monsters, Turnbull creates a conversation about the ways in which humankind deals with oppression, fear, trauma, violence, family, identity, among many others. The story even refuses to focus on a single character as it becomes clear as the story unfolds that the events that take place are about community and society and how, as a collective, people are responsible for how they shape the world they live in.
This is going to be a novel people either love or struggle with. Certain readers have difficulty getting into a story that doesn't have a clear timeline, a well-rounded plot, or a specific character(s) to focus on. Even still, there is no doubt "No Gods, No Monsters" is a stunningly original novel that will spark a wide range of interest and create an important conversation.
Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing (Own Voices) for providing me with a free e-arc of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Look for "No Gods, No Monsters" by Cadwell Turnbull on its expected publication date September 07, 2021.
Such an amazing book with such a rich and deep plot. It's one of those books that you can read over and over again and still not fully understand what is happening. There are so many unanswered questions in the book, but I almost feel as though it's fitting. That's the way life works. We don't have all the answers and we probably never will.
Please please please get this book when it is released. Hands down will be one of the best books in 2021!
This is going to be an incredibly difficult review to write, because I do not want to trespass Spoiler territory but I really, REALLY, want to talk about this book in depth. And I’m pretty sure I can’t do both.
Let’s say this book is about monsters. Furry, four legged monsters who suddenly showed themselves to a world which was not ready for them. And two-legged monsters as well, but we already knew they existed, didn’t we? We see them every single day, trying to appear more human than what they’ll never be able to be.
Let’s also say that the monsters want to achieve some rights: Some of them just want to be left alone to roam the Earth and be happy with what they are. They’re asking for something that is basic for humans, and they feel partly human as well. However, the road to achieve this is not an easy one, and some of the other monsters do not agree with them. War is a possibility.
And let’s finally say that we, as the reader, don’t always know who the monster really is. This book shows us some people’s life in a messy, chaotic, real way, and we are the ones who need to gather the pieces and reach a conclusion.
But nothing ends. It bleeds.
And the pages of this book are filled with blood, with messed up lives, with pain so real and so well described one wants to enter the book just to hug a character (and maybe kick some other in the face. Hard.) This apparent chaos may repel some readers, but those who keep on will find an amazingly threaded story with unique and deep characters who don’t hesitate to spill their most profound fears and their most violent rage.
To close, let me just point that the writing is so beautiful one would like to re-read the story again and again and just underline passage after passage after passage. And then re-read it one more time. I really hope this isn’t the last time we are given passage to this world.
NO GODS, NO MONSTERS is a profoundly experimental work featuring time travel, werewolves, tech wizards, witches, and gods all competing for space in a multiverse that reminded me most of the one featured in THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS by Karen Lord. Like much of Lord's work, Turnbull works simultaneously in quantum physics and the culture of the African diaspora, in monsters and gods and in science and politics. This is no surprise, as the authors share a similar cultural background -- while Barbados and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not the same place, they are close cultural cousins. Turnbull brings his own roots into this work deftly, using the narrator as a connector between storylines set in the northern climes of Boston, the hills of Virginia, and the island of St. Thomas.
The plot of this book revolves around very compelling current events, flipped on their heads. Laina, one of the main characters, starts the story examining the body of her brother, who has been gunned down by police. She was estranged from her brother because of drug use, and the emotional fallout from his loss would be enough to shake most people, but the mystery deepens when a disembodied voice offers Laina information on her brother's murder. Thus Laina is plunged into the world of magic. Notably, this scene parallels a storyline that appears later in the tale, where we learn that the narrator also had a brother lost to substance abuse who was gunned down.
The way loss functions as apocalypse, as unveiling, is a strong theme in the book. Not every character experiences it, but many of them do. What is revealed by the loss can be corruption, but can also sometimes be magic and community. Most likely, it is a mixture of both. Magic is not benign in this novel -- on the contrary, magic is treated as a force of nature. It can have benefits and joys, but is just as likely to cause grief. Sometimes, as with the narrator, it seems almost a neutral force -- but not everything is clearly visible in this book. There are layers within layers, each waiting to be picked apart.
For that reason, NO GODS, NO MONSTERS might be a hard read for some. While the various plots do ultimately connect, it does take some time to get there. This was fine for me -- I found each of the threads of the story to be ultimately compelling in their own way, and was happy to be along for the ride. It's a smart book, a puzzle in need of assembling. If that's the kind of thing you enjoy, this will be the book for you. That said, you won't get all the answers here -- the end obviously leaves things open for a second book. I'm excited to see where it goes.
I found Turnbull’s writing to be very captivating. I think that Turnbull did an admirable job of tying all of the narratives together of each monster and each relevant character and did it with such ease. The world that Turnbull created was so intricate and detailed, it was crazy.
The characters that Turnbull created were so relatable and human, even though they were also monsters. I particularly was interested in Dragon, Melku, Sonya and Rebecca. I would have loved to learn even more about Sonya, Dragon, and Melku and I hope that Turnbull plans to write a sequel so that I can learn more about the powers and abilities of each of these characters. The originality and creativity that Turnbull used to write this story is very evident and shines through in their writing.
At first, I had no idea how all of the pieces of the story would fit together but Turnbull managed to do it almost effortlessly. My only complaints about the story were that it seemed a bit too dragged out and long, at some points, and that it was a bit too cerebral for me. Some sections were hard to grasp and understand but it may just be because I have never read another story like this and it took me time to adjust to Turnbull’s style of writing and the genre written within.
Trigger warnings: references to child sexual abuse, drug use, violence, gun violence, mild body horror.
No Gods, No Monsters is a fascinating story that starts off with the character Laina finding out her brother has been killed and spiralling into monsters and secret societies having to come out of hiding, and the fallout and chaos that follows this. Despite having a slow start, powering through the novel really pays off as Turnbull introduces multiple amazing dynamic characters, slowly revealing details and secrets about the world. It's evident that a lot of thought went into the story; the author keeps a lot of the cards close, and I wish that more of the details about the monsters and world were given sooner so that I spent less of the book in confusion, but nonetheless it had me on my toes trying to piece everything together.
It's an ambitious novel with a lot of characters and intricacies not meant for a casual read and definitely one you can be sucked into if you give it a chance. I look forward to rereading it in the future now that I have more knowledge about the world, and look forward to the next novel in the series.
The book, in short, is about the main character, Laina, discovering the news that her brother, Lincoln, has been shot and killed by Boston police. As she investigates and navigates through the brutal reality of America (police brutality, gun violence, systematic racism, and more) that is very real, she comes to find out that monsters are ALSO very real. I find fantasy, especially one with supernatural elements, is a great way to discuss various themes, especially, what is going on in politics, society, and the economy. This book just embodies this.
The one thing is that it was at times confusing who was talking. The book, for example, actually opens up with two other characters. One of them (won't say who) is important to the story. I just wish it was a bit clearer.
Triggers including (not limited to): implied sexual abuse, drug abuse, implied domestic abuse, police brutality, gun violence.
I just reviewed No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull. #NoGodsNoMonsters #NetGalley
**5 Mysterious, anarchist, ACAB stars!**
No Gods, No Monsters is absolutely fantastic. Cadwell Turnbull wrote an incredibly unique fantasy novel laced with so many real world problems that were represented in such fascinating ways it was hard to turn put it down. There are definitely some heavy topics in here, so be aware that it is not a light book, but it is worth it. You just have to pay attention.
> Like most things, love came as a decision: I'm going to look harder at this one.
The story starts off with Laina hearing news of her brother's brutal murder by the police. This starts a string of many seemingly unrelated events in many people's lives. The world finds out that monsters are real, and they are living among us, risking their lives to seek safety in visibility. But why? Why are they making this display now? What is happening to make them do this?
> There is no way of knowing how many world-changing events were precipitated by the phantom cause of paranoia, but the number is sure to be vast.
If you are not paying attention to this book, it is a little easy to get lost. The chapters are short snippets, and there are many characters who get their point of view represented. I imagine many reviews are going to speak on this piece. However, to me, the multitude seemingly unrelated characters functioned to remind me the extent to which police violence, othering, and oppression can seep into every aspect of society, and affect people who don't even seem to be connected. It functioned to remind me that stories of people like this are often forgotten for the same exact reason. Sometimes there are just too many, and not enough attention bestowed upon them. It reminded me constantly of the bigger picture.
> No one knows who he was, how he died. He'll be lost in all this, his tragedy a deleted footnote. Unless someone ***says his name.***
What impressed me the most about this novel was that, though the characters seem to be unrelated, Turnbull connects each character **just enough** that it reminds you that they are connected somehow. It is just the perfect balance to keep you interested in all of their stories, separately and together. There are little Easter eggs in each point of view that remind you that the stories are going to connect, as long as you are a little bit patient.
No Gods, No Monsters is a play on words of the popular anarchist and labour slogan "No Gods, No Masters" which is often used as a chant at protests. This book is a a definitely piece of work in the step of justice within literature. Go Cadwell Turnbull, you nailed it!
## Big Takeaway
No Gods, No Monsters is an incredibly inclusive story about othering, oppression, police violence, connection and how we stay safe and fight back. Though it is heavy at times, and there are many characters to follow, it is absolutely a wonderful work of art.
After recently finishing and enjoying Cadwell Turnbull's first novel The Lesson, I was excited to read this one -- a book with a title referencing an anarchist slogan that promises monsters, mystery, and magic! -- and I was not disappointed.
Turnbull really excels here at crafting a narrative from disparate stories that, for much of the novel, seem unrelated; what begins feeling almost like a short fiction collection weaves and intertwines into a whole that exceeds the sum of its parts (though those parts, alone, are intriguing). The novel's description didn't quite prepare me for how disconnected -- and non-linear in time -- it would be. I do think some readers really won't be into it, but my only criticism would be that I wonder if there is perhaps too much here -- perhaps the basis of a series squished into one novel -- but overall, I feel that it works.
I enjoyed the references to authors I've read and know well (Goldman, Rocker, Bakunin, and even Nietzsche's eternal return), the explanation of the slogan in the title, and the explorations of co-operative organization, the potentiality of protest to change things, and the possibilities for solidarity across difference. I also very much appreciated the diverse representation in the novel, and the author's ability to simultaneously maintain the distinction of quite a few different points of view without losing his own voice in the process.
Finally... the writing is just stunning.
Thank you to NetGalley + Blackstone for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my review.
Content warnings: police brutality, gun violence, drug abuse + addiction, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, some gore
I liked this book, a lot. It's unpredictable and touches on tons of different genres while also kind of defying them at the same time. Part fantasy, part horror, part romance, all with a political undertone. I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it and being really eager to come back to it.
That being said, I also found this book confusing and difficult to follow. There are lots of characters and the perspective changes often - not only in the obvious chunks the book is broken in to, but at times in the middle of a paragraph - as if the story is being told by someone unnoticed but watching who occassionally throws in their own perspective... Which makes sense at the end.
I feel like this is a book that demands a re-read. I think that as much as I enjoyed the book the first time around, I would enjoy it even more after understanding how the pieces of the puzzle fit together a bit more.
The characters are lovable and engaging. The writing is eloquent and entertaining. The story is progressive and unique. If you are looking for something thought provoking and are willing to put in an above average amount of effort, you'll love this book.
This book is strange and lovely. The characters intertwine in interesting way. The mysterious narrator did make this difficult at first but I found it to be really novel. The book asks and does not answer, which I enjoy. I wouldn’t put in my middle school library but it could hang in a high school.
This is a gorgeous, strange and unexpected book.
Set in a world where monsters reveal themselves to be real, this book unpacks the social and political ramifications of such a revelation. We look at this through several different characters and lenses, and each is a powerful prism of supernatural fantasy to consider questions of oppression, injustice, and anarchism.
There's so much to love here. The prose is sublime. The storytelling is constantly surprising and inventive. And this book just pulses with righteous rage at the very real world we inhabit, a world where we're often the monsters ourselves.
This one is going to be a standout of 2021.
"No Gods, No Monsters" is an urban fantasy that seamlessly combines 'traditional' urban fantasy elements with modern-day politics, activism, and a diverse cast of characters. It's got secret societies and anarchism, werewolves and solidarity co-ops, and even a character whose name and role is a delightful nod to Greek mythology. Ultimately, it is a deeply compelling story about connection, compassion, love, family, and what it means to be a person. And also, a little bit, about monsters.
The story is told in a series of interconnected chapters (framed by a first-person metanarrative of sorts) focused around separate characters, whose lives being to intertwine with each other in various ways, and finally rocketing to a dramatic, chilling climax and final convergence. I generally appreciate stories told from multiple perspectives and centering a variety of characters; while I do believe it worked well for this book in the end, it was jarring at first, especially the occasional switches from first to third person narration. It's eminently worth sticking with, though, if you find it similarly disconcerting; eventually, the characters' stories connect very naturally, and the different perspectives create a great deal of investment in each separate thread of the story.
I'll be very happily seeking out Turnbull's previous and future work after reading this. Four stars, and very enthusiastically recommended.
I don't read much fantasy, but I was interested in the book because I attended an online reading given by Cadwell Turnbull and was curious about his work. As other readers have noted, this book is complex, with a large cast of characters, various connections to current events and cultural change, a complicated magical system, variety of locations and events, etc. Complexity is good, though! I could see how adding a list of characters or other front matter might be helpful, but otherwise, I found the book engaging and am looking forward to the rest of the series. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy.
This was a rather unique novel that provided a wonderfully poignant conversation about marginalization and prejudice. From the premise, I expected this to be a straightforward and simple social commentary on race relations and police brutality in the United States. However, the story ended up being so much more nuanced. I was impressed how this novel provided such an excellent intersectional conversation about these complex issues.
My favourite aspect of this novel was easily the character work. There was fantastic representation for queer and non white people. All of the people in this book felt flawed in a realistic way. I found myself identifying with several of the characters, even when I had not experienced the same personal struggles.
In terms of pacing, this novel is very slow, focusing on characters over plot. This was technically a piece of urban fantasy with mild horror, but read more like a literary piece of social commentary. I would have liked to learn more about the fantastical elements, but they were in the background of the story. I wished this one had a more narrative drive, yet I still enjoyed the reading experience for the most part.
I would recommend this one to readers looking for an insightful exploration of the challenges that affect marginalized people in America today.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
this book reads like a book of fairytales. like the lesson, turnbull tells a compelling story where the science fiction element is a bridge into the characters' inner selves. he asks such great questions and keeps you wanting more. it's magical and bizarre in the best way. highly recommend.
Overall very good read. At times, the prose is a bit jumbled and bounces a bit in a manner that feels jagged but once you get used to how the storylines tie together the bouncing around makes more sense. The horror evoked in this sits with you, and there are moments where it’s a bit of a stretch tying our current realities to the horror found in the books. In less capable hands I think this would have been overly done. Great book.
~the conspiracy theorists are right (maybe)
~’I have never answered that question’
~a loving open relationship
~anarchists have the best bookshops
~skins are sometimes optional
I read this in two sittings, and it would have been one if I didn’t have to sleep. I pushed through the first few pages, which seemed to have nothing to do with the story promised by the blurb…and then I was completely hooked. No Gods, No Monsters was a book I resented having to put down, and I expect a lot of other people are going to feel the same way when they get it in their hands.
It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever read before.
Part of that is the structure: the book is divided into multiple parts, all of which are quite short, each of which is from the perspective of a different character. As the book goes on, the connections between these characters become clearer – several of them know each other – but here’s the thing: the first part, the opening that I found so confusing? That’s written in first-person. The rest are in third.
That’s not the weird thing.
The weird thing is that the first part, the first-person part, is pretty banal. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything. It’s only when we get to the second part, Laina’s part, that what seems like the story gets moving.
Laina’s brother has been shot and killed by the police. Turnbull sketches out the devastating grief, the disorientation and numbness and rage that come in the aftermath, with brutal precision. The prose is bare of ornamentation, almost bluntly so, until a shift in perspective – the perfect word, a poignant line – makes it clear that Turnbell writes as if wielding a scalpel in a surgery; precise, economical, and cutting through the meat right into the core. It’s a style that hooks you in and doesn’t let you go again, which is perfect for so many reasons, but most of all because that’s exactly what’s happening to the characters – they’re all being hooked in, dragged in, and not let go again.
Here and there within Laina’s part of the book – which is written in third-person, remember – is an occasional ‘I’ sentence. A line or two in first-person, in a voice that is clearly not Laina’s. There is no explanation for this. I was scribbling notes as I read, and surrounded in question marks were my theories invisible friend??? split personality??? something supernatural following her around???
Then Laina is approached by a voice. Not in her head, but somewhere in her dark bedroom. The voice asks if Laina wants the body-cam footage of her brother’s killing. Laina decides that she does. The voice promises to have it delivered to her.
And then the first-person occasional-narrator voice reaches out to the Other Voice. Still in Laina’s part of the book, but separate from Laina, outside of her.
It is here that I stop time. The world around us slows, all matter falls still, and all sound stops. There is only the voice and me. I reach out to the formless thing, trying to access its mind but finding nothing. In all my time traveling the fractal sea, this has never happened. Minds are always open to me.
“What are you?” I ask directly. “What is this?”
For a terrible moment, the voice doesn’t answer, and for the first time, I feel a sense of danger I’ve never thought to feel.
“I’ve signed a contract,” it finally says. “I am bound not to speak to you.”
“The universe,” it says.
And the voice answers no more of my questions.
What. The. Hell.
The body-cam footage appears, mysteriously. As you’ve probably worked out from the blurb, it reveals that Laina’s estranged brother was a werewolf.
Werewolves are a thing now.
But of course, it’s not nearly that simple. Even after a pack of werewolves ‘come out of the broom closet’, people are quick to call it a hoax. Nobody publicly announces that they now believe in the supernatural…but the event sends quiet shockwaves through society anyway. People start being attacked, even killed, for being suspected witches or werewolves or anything else hateful people can dream up. We follow another character as he goes down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and secret societies…which ends nowhere good.
That’s actually where some of the pieces…not come together, but maybe start hinting that they might, possibly, at some undetermined time in the future, come together. We get glimpses of different factions, different groups of supernatural creatures (who call themselves ‘monsters’ in a way that’s very reminiscent – probably deliberately – of people calling themselves/using the label of queer). There’s a suggestion that some of these groups have agendas, but the problem – I think the biggest problem with this book – is that we don’t really have a clue what those agendas are.
Here’s the thing: Turnbull has great characters, great prose, and what looks like some seriously unique and interesting worldbuilding. The problem is that No Gods, No Monsters feels like the first half of the first book in a series, rather than a whole book in and of itself. Of course not all of our questions were going to be answered in book one – that’s a given. But NGNM leaves you feeling like you don’t even know all the questions yet. The plot, if there is one, is barely hinted at, sketched out so lightly that even if you squint, you can’t make out its shape. In some ways, that makes it feel more real – real life doesn’t have a neat plot that builds to an arc-ending climax before we start the next book arc, so maybe it doesn’t make sense to write fiction that way, especially when you want it to feel more like life than fiction.
On the other hand, even if that was Turnbull’s intent, I think it’s taken too far. I don’t mind a looser plot, but I finished this book and realised I had no clue what was going on. We know that there are werewolves, and a few other kinds of monster, but the shape of the supernatural world is barely hinted at – all we get are tantalising, frustrating bits and pieces that promise that whatever we’re picturing, it’s bigger and weirder than that. No Gods, No Monsters ends up feeling like a drawn-out prologue more than it does a finished novel.
That being said… I didn’t really care. The writing is good enough that, as I said, I couldn’t put this book down, and I kept turning the pages even when it became obvious that there weren’t enough pages left for Turnbull to explain wtf. I already want to pick it up and read it again, even knowing that my questions won’t be answered. And then there’s the ways Turnbull juxtaposes monstrousness with race and queerness; the thread of anarchist philosophy and practice running through the narrative; the wry, self-aware dark humour; and the sheer originality of the magic and monsters we do get to see.
So yes, I think you should read it. You should read it because it’s amazing, and it’s the start of what’s clearly going to be an incredible series. And I may not know where it’s going, but fuck yes do I want to be along for the ride!
It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
No Gods, No Monsters was absolutely incredible. It is a book you definitely have to pay attention to. The narration switches perspectives and jumps around, but not without purpose. As an urban fantasy, the world feels grounded and helps you connect with what's happening, but not so much as to be boring. No Gods, No Monsters also deals with themes and parallels relevant to our current society, and is much needed today. Overall, this book is a fantastic read!
The title of this novel is so very appropriate, on many levels. It is a pun on the anarchist/activist slogan. However, when taken literally, it can also be read as a denial of gods and monsters, yet we find both within the pages of this book. There is a lot going on and readers will perhaps, if not most definitely, need to read it at least twice to understand its nuances!
No Gods, No Monsters features a gigantic cast of characters. It is actually written in present-tense first-person, though you wouldn’t know that at first. At first it seems like you’re reading a collection of short stories linked only by an event at the beginning of the book: this one is written in past-tense third-person, that one in present-tense third-person, but, oh wait, was that first-person line in the present-tense an accident? Not at all! There is one narrator to this tale, throughout. This narrator focuses on other characters at times, and reflects on their pasts, and that is where I got confused at first. But it is actually quite masterfully done, once you understand why.
The characters are all fabulously deep and real. Their life stories and ambitions are genuine, not prettied up for the sake of fantasy; even urban fantasy, which I would say is the best genre expectation to enter this novel with. The setting is modern, the dilemmas the characters face are urban and societal. Then comes the urban fantasy. Thar be monsters, after all--but exactly what or who the monsters are is one of the leading questions of the story. The cast of characters has as many layers as the title of the novel itself, if not more. And they are, perhaps, the most racially and gender/sexually diverse cast I’ve ever read. “My wife’s girlfriend,” said by an asexual trans man to his best friend Marcus who he once loved is only one example of the complex characters that leap out of these pages. All of the characters, straight, LGBTQ+, black, white, multi-racial, friends, family, strangers, and more are delivered in a way that is relatable and human. Not a single one is a stereotype. Monsters and magic aside, you really feel like you're reading about real people. Turnbull shows a great depth of understanding people from different walks of life in his writing, and exposes them in layers so that the deeper you go, the more you can relate to them.
Unfortunately, like a relationship that doesn't quite work out, I was about halfway through this book before I realized I was being unfair to us both and broke up. "It's not you, it's me," as the old adage goes. There was too much going on for me to keep up with. With a little over half the book under my belt, I felt I should have had a better connection to the main characters, or at least have understood who the main characters are and what they are up against. But I didn’t, and that’s possibly a result of me not being able to sit down and read the whole thing in one go. Every time I picked the book up I had to figure out where I was and who was who again. Turnbull is a masterful writer, that much goes without saying. Maybe I’ll revisit this one in the future. Maybe not. I’m told that if you can make it past the halfway mark, you’ll love it. I was certainly intrigued by everything leading up to the halfway mark, but there found I could go no further. Reading had become work for me, and I prefer reading that is fun.
The all too real topics this book addresses and the themes expressed within its pages are heavy, make no mistake. But it is a well-written novel that I think will appeal to people who enjoy complex plots and expositions of the human condition sprinkled with the possibility of magic being real. Is magic still magical if it’s real? That’s one question of many that No Gods, No Monsters had me chewing on. There’s very little by way of mainstream entertainment to compare this work to. It’s truly a standout piece.
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"What???" <- Me, approximately 12 chapters into Cadwell Turnbull's No Gods, No Monsters. Also me on the very last page of said book, just with a lot more distress that there was not more left to read.
NGNM hits on so much that I love about the sci fi genre: the collection of puzzle pieces becoming a full story; turning those who are usually marginalized or villianized into the hero; providing an "other" to make us examine how society views "others" in our world; and, more recently for the genre, telling these stories through the eyes of diverse, minority characters. Turnbull took all this and turned it up to 11. Not only are the monsters in his story actual monsters, but they are also Black and Latinx and queer and nonbinary - the "monsters" of society today. It's accomplished so easily in this book you'll wonder why all books don't have such a diverse cast of characters with such crazy and interesting storylines. But I get ahead of myself...
The book summary will have you think this story starts with the death of Laina's brother, but it doesn't. It actually starts with a miniature story before the story, with a character who is unnamed but who remains important throughout the book. Throughout the first half, we meet a broad cast of characters who, I admit, were a bit hard to keep track of for someone like me who is not good with names. I often found myself searching back through the book when a character was reintroduced in a different setting to make sure I was remembering them correctly. This jumping around does create the sense of putting together a puzzle, which I enjoy, but at times it did overwhelm. However, when these stories finally came together, when the monsters and humans from the seemingly disparate stories crossed paths in one major scene, it was quite the climax!
Why, then, did I start and end the book confused? Because when the book ended, there was still so much left unanswered, and as many storylines still being setup as there were ones that were closed. It's clear from reading it that this is the first book in a series. It's also clear that it's a book that would gain from a re-read (which I fully intend to do). But if you're someone like me who loves stories that are strange and fantastical and wild, then this one is for you. Even with the confusion, I enjoyed the ride from beginning to end, and am eagerly awaiting the next book in this saga!
4.5 out of 5 stars
At once beautiful and visceral and a little bit terrifying, no Gods No Monsters is an amalgam of Science Fiction and paranormality. Touching and tender at all the right moments, but violent and horrific at all the other ones.
WARNING: LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD!
In a not completely unbelievable near future, monsters have been discovered to be real. Werewolves, witches, vampires, psychics and so many other different kinds. Cabalistic societies on both sides trying to win their side of things. Some characters are extremely likeable, While others are easy to hate. Some you feel sorry for, and others get what they deserve.
This is one of the most interesting reads of the year so far. While it was a bit confusing at times to see who the narrator was and what it all meant, the interplay between characters and the building of the world in which they lived in was exquisitely well-defined.
Will I read the sequel? Just try and stop me! Now that I am into the story, there is no way I would miss how it all ends.
Thank you to Netgalley, Blackstone Publishing and Cadwell Turnbull for allowing me to read exceedingly interesting piece of fiction. All opinions are my own.
Trigger Warnings: Blood & Gore (but not in excess), Gun violence, Domestic abuse (implied)
I started this book about about seven thirty this evening. It's just shortly after midnight, and I don't even know how to begin describing the journey I've just taken. I find myself bereft and dissolving into comparatives--in some ways, the book feels so huge that I don't know where to start trying to analyze or break it down.
From the beginning, the precise yet evocative prose of NO GODS, NO MONSTERS elicits a hunger in you, each word firing off the pleasure centers in your brain. It was like sitting down to a resplendent meal while also starving, having to constantly balance wanting to forge ahead as quickly as possible while also being constantly aware that you should slow down and savor, because soon enough, the book will end. At some point, I realized I was actually hungry, but that I didn't want to stop to eat. It is the kind of book that makes you shove food in cold to avoid the distraction of turning away from its pages. The language alone is galaxy-wide and razor-sharp, an arresting poetry that made me think of Machado or Ocean Vuong.
In some ways, the book defies classification. It would fit neatly on any literary shelf, in philosophy, in fantasy, in science fiction. There are notes of body and cosmic horror that are so deliciously well-written I was reminded of the sickness I felt reading THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES, gothic notes that would fit neatly in the work of Shirley Jackson. It leaps from person to person, genre to genre, each piece distinct and yet somehow miraculously cohesive, a perfect mosaic of a book.
When combined with the multiple POV structure, a series of baton passes that starts to twist tighter as the book progresses, I found that NO GODS, NO MONSTERS echoes some of the books I've cherished the most over the last several years--the rich characterization, nuanced relationships, and living, breathing settings of MAMA DAY, the dreamy weirdness and evocative language of Vandemeer, the massive, weaving structure of Naomi Alderman's THE POWER or Emily St. John Mandel's the THE GLASS HOTEL mixed with ROSEWATER. Like ANNIHILATION, each character is fully realized, full of complex history and deep, distinct interests. I could easily wander in the world Turnbull has created for years, I think.
This is my first time reading Turnbull's work, but I can guarantee it certainly won't be the last.
Humanity by and large is not a fan of things that go bump in the night.
Or for that matter the creatures we imagine dwell in the shadows or which don’t conform to our idea of what is normal and right; for an expansive, inquisitive species, we have a fatal tendency to stay within solidly-etched lines that scream solid and known parameters.
But in Cadwell Turnbull’s luminously imaginative novel No Gods, No Monsters, people have no choice but to face up to the fact that the stuff of their nightmares – their ill-informed nightmares it must be noted because the “monsters” of the book are not all monstrous or worthy of fear and loathing – as they begin to come out of the shadows and the places between realities and make their presence known.
Turnbull never actually comes out and says exactly why the werewolves, shapeshifters and dragons think they are safer out in the light and the known spaces that in the hiding places that have served them well for millennia, but it is intimated that something is lurking in the darkness that is heinous and awful that the monsters, such as they are, feel safer in the harsh light of bigotry and hatred than in their traditionally favoured boltholes.
There should be unsettling and it is for many people who resort to lashing out and striking back rather than seeking to broaden their understanding of the complicated complexity of life which does always take the forms we expect. (Example A are the bizarre creatures that lurk in the depths of our oceans; they don’t appear like anything we know and yet they are just as valid an expression of life as any other.)
In a storyline that is wildly, brilliantly imaginative and yet grounded in nuanced layers and an intimate understanding of the confounding contrariness of the human condition, Turnbull seeks to expose the dark underbelly of society and, no, it does not necessarily belong to the world of monsters, though some genuinely evil terrors do indeed reside there.
No, the underbelly in question sits firmly and squarely in the realm of bog standard Homo Sapiens, many of whom see the emergence of these once-fantastical creatures as some sort of declaration of war on the so-called certainties of the world around them.
The truth is, as Turnbull beautifully and affectingly evokes through the stories of a number of interconnected people, is that what we accept as normal and known sits firmly within the often limiting confines of our perceptions.
Even when we see the truth and hidden wonders of the world, there are many among us who prefer to tell themselves them imagined it all or that they thought it all up in a moment of madness.
This happens again and again in No Gods, No Monsters and takes place even when footage has gone viral and, you would think, there can be no arguing back from the truth of what the eye has seen and the heart now knows to be true.
The brilliance of No Gods, No Monsters, which is written so achingly and intimately beautifully that you are immersed in its gently powerful narrative within words of its opening, is that it tells its explosive story, not in overwrought narrative punctuation points, awash in hysteria and melodrama, but in the quiet stories of its characters.
Laina is the first of the many compelling people we meet in the book, a young woman involved in an open relationship with husband Ridley and girlfriend Rebecca who has to grapple with the violent shooting death of her junkie brother by police.
In and of itself that would be catastrophically traumatic but as she watches the video of her brother’s last moments, she is struck by a strangeness so palpable and powerful that it upends everything she ever thought she knew about life.
She reacts relatively positively to the shredding of the certainties of life she once held to, but others are not so fortunate and No Gods, No Monsters goes between those who deal well with the shadows coming alive and sending their inhabitants out into the light, and those who do not and are caught in secret societies dedicated to ending the “threat” of the monsters within and without.
It is a revelatory exploration of the way people react to unexpected and unsettling change because Turnbull isn’t content to lay everything out in stark black and white; here in No Gods, No Monsters are authentically complex tales of the good and the bad in humanity and an intelligent questioning who the real monsters are in this story.
Its narrative hangs together in a wholly unique way with No Gods, No Monsters switching times and tenses, diving in and out of our world into fantastical realms between worlds – the multiverse makes an appearance and it’s cleverly handled – all while telling a tale through the eyes of wholly disparate group of people.
The only downside to what is just about every way a breath of fresh air in the urban fantasy genre is that we are only able to spend limited amounts of time with a sprawling cast of characters; however, this is ameliorated to a reasonably satisfying degree by the interconnectedness between this vast assemblage of characters.
In the end, while the characters matter and Turnbull realises them in way that make them memorable, what really comes to the fore in No Gods, No Monsters is how much we lie to ourselves about what matters to us, what we want from life and what we would be willing to accept if all our understanding of how life is were slowly but surely blown to smithereens.
This is a novel that has a huge amount of explosively impacting things to say but which does it in a slow-building way that allows you time to understand the people involved, the sheer scale of what they are confronting, and the enormity of what is happening to society.
Richly emotionally resonant, fantastically clever and sublimely, affectingly well written, No Gods, No Monsters is a compellingly poetical but brutal tale of how humanity in all its diversity (and it embraces queerness and a host of other divergences from the main with a passion) talks a big game of curiosity and thoughtful endeavour but how often falls over the feet of its own prejudices and flawed perceptions with much work remaining before we can truly say we have lived up to our potential to embrace life in all its wondrous multiplicity of expression and exuberance of possibility.
Thank you NetGalley for an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
TW(for the book): implied sexual abuse, drug abuse, implied domestic abuse, police brutality, gun violence.
“No Gods No Monsters” by Cadwell Turnbull is a fascinating narration about various blatant injustices that happen around us,but laced with a touch of fantasy. Though the overtones of this book are quite heavy and heart-wrenching, it was certainly an unputdownable book.
The story starts with Liana coming to know about her brother’s sudden death. What appears to be police brutality is actually a more sinister cause-monsters! Yep,monsters that are real and living among common people. This death causes a series of seemingly unrelated unfortunate events all over the world. But,why? And more importantly,why now?
The only flaw I found was the author kept introducing characters and plot points. However,in the end I saw that they were all necessary. You just need to be patient and trust where the story is going.
A cleverly written,unique and extremely inclusive urban fantasy that keeps you on your toes all through. Filled with metaphors,this book almost acts as a funhouse mirror for today’s dreary society.
Soon after I began reading it, I suspected that "No Gods, No Monsters" was going to become one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels, and I was correct. This book gives just about everything you can ask for: compelling characters, fast-paced yet thoughtful writing, and a plot that gradually unfolds in the most elegant way imaginable.
The narrative voice was right up my alley, for one thing, pivoting between breezy and incredibly profound in the space of a page, which kept me completely engaged from start to finish. Incorporating the narrator into the plot was an incredible move that I think very few authors could pull off as well as Turnbull did.
I was also fascinated by every character that the story visited. Without fail, every time the focus shifted to someone new, I would convince myself that surely they would be my absolute favorite character, but proceed to love the next just as much, if not more. The balance between character study and plot was absolutely flawless, as well.
Overall, this was the perfect book for me. I love nothing more than a gritty fantasy filled with flawed, compelling characters, and that's exactly what this was. I can't wait to see it on the shelves this fall.
This was a fascinating and complex book. The changing perspectives was intensely well executed and fascinating, though it took about 25% of the book to get comfortable with it. The concept was interesting and the characters excellent. The deftness of the weaving together of all the narrative threads was wonderful. Once I got used to the pov switches and learnt which characters were which, this was an outstanding read.
You know, I wasn’t expecting this book. Like, I knew I had it, that’s not what I mean. No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull really just took me by surprise. It’s gorgeously written with a VERY intricate plot. I genuinely didn’t want to put it down at times, even as I was falling asleep (not due to the book, but due to have two children under the age of four).
Okay, so what is so good about this book? The plot centers around several disparate characters that are all a part of a massive secret: Monsters and Gods are real. The book starts with the murder of Laina’s brother in what looks like your regular old police brutality. But then, Laina receives a USB drive with the real, unedited footage of her brother’s death. Her brother was a monster. Then, shortly after, a pack of werewolves decides to make themselves known by standing in the middle of a highway and shifting. Weirdly enough, even though it was on national news, no one remembers how that actually happened.
There are secret societies trying to help protect monsters from humans. There are politicians wanting to come out as monsters and vie for their freedom. There are tons of different monsters coming to terms with the new world they live in. There are dragons, werewolves, seers, techmages, all working together to prevent a catastrophe. It’s so good.
HOWEVER, it is a bit confusing, especially if you don’t read it in a few sittings. It took me a couple weeks to get through it and it was hard to follow at times. I had to go back and look at characters and the like to figure out what was going on. So, my recommendation is to read this in as few days as possible (mainly because it is JUST SO DAMN GOOD).
I highly recommend picking this book up on September 7th, 2021 at your favorite indie bookstore.
This book takes place in a world where mythical monsters such as werewolves and ghosts have always existed, but have stayed hidden. Suddenly, monsters begin coming out of the shadows and committing crimes, including killing the brother of the protagonist, Laina. Suddenly the entire world starts devolving into chaos as people panic at this monumental revelation. Hate crimes and murders begin rising as more monsters come out of the woodwork, including monsters inside of people. All of this is a metaphor for our current world, where we "other" many people of different religious or ethnic groups, and the hate crimes that are perpetrated against them as a result of this hate and fear. You can easily see the parallels to the modern-day, but it doesn't get too preachy, which is good. It's a fun page-turner, even if it feels a bit overstuffed with too many characters and monsters to follow. But if you can keep up with the myriad characters, this will be a fun read.
I absolutely loved this book. The writing was flawless, and the setting felt gothic and was absolutely spectacular. Turnbull clearly plotted this entire novel out very intricately, and all the characters fit together in the most marvelous ways, moments of intensity overlapping at very perfect moments. Also, I definitely connected to Laina, and I enjoyed her voice and viewing these events from her perspective.
Turnbull writes a visceral and complicated world of shapeshifters, ghosts, and dragons, all butting up and shuffling against the painstaking modern humanity, and the result is a delightful friction. The pacing is carefully literary at times, favoring worldbuilding over any single character, but No Gods, No Monsters, is a strong, thoughtful story about what it really takes to be human.
In this genre-bending fantastical thriller, Cadwell Turnbull delivers a fresh and original take on your typical crime/murder mystery story. A wonderfully inclusive cast of characters (more of this, please!), Turnbull delivers a mythical mystery, introducing monsters, werewolves, and something that's pushing them out of the darkness and into the spotlight. An excellent setup for what is sure to be a thrilling series!
Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for advance access to this title!
This was such a good read. The author did a great job of setting up a rich world filled with unique creatures and secret societies, while still grounding their work in the very real racial/gender/social hierarchies that push people to fight for their rights to exist. The characters grapple with the right way to fight for acceptance and the right way to push against a system that does not recognize them. At the same time, the fantasy world is rich, full of relatable characters, and the story reveals itself to you in a satisfying way. Told through a series of short interconnected chapters, this book would appeal to those eager to explore a world of fantasy and lore but who don't necessarily need all the loose ends tied up in a bow. I'm hoping the author releases more books in their universe because I really enjoyed reading it - the world building gave me Neil Gaiman vibes.
Where on earth to start with this book??
In the M. Night Shyamalan movie "Signs", there is a scene that creeped out a generation. The footage is a shaky, handheld style rendering of a kids' birthday party. Everyone is running to the window. The footage looks out the window and you're looking at an ordinary yard and then BOOM a weird grey alien appears in an alleyway, looks directly at you, then runs away, and everyone starts screaming. It's not big flashy Hollywood CGI - we're talking a 2002 film here. But that's precisely what makes it so creepy - it feels REAL. It feels like it could really be some dad's handycam footage from an average lounge room. It makes you think - omg imagine if that were real?? - in a way that smooth shiny footage wouldn't.
That's what reading this book felt like to me. I would not consider this fantasy, not even urban fantasy. It's more like a kind of speculative near-future realist dystopia that just happens to feature werewolves and a dragon. It's not fantastical. It's CREEPY. I admit I almost put it down fairly early on - the disembodied voice, a child eating hands... it was almost too creepy for me to handle. And yet there was a curiosity I couldn't shake, so I kept going.
The way the book is told feels more like a series of somewhat interconnected vignettes than a truly cohesive narrative. Just as you're getting to know one character, it switches drastically to a different person and story. It requires quite a lot of patience. It's... fractured.
It's so fractured that it's hard to even pin down a short synopsis. Essentially, a video emerges one day in the near future of werewolves shifting back into humans. Suddenly the world is alerted to the existence of things that have lived in the shadows. But then the end of that video disappears from every copy of it worldwide. All evidence of the shifting is gone. Those who didn't see it on live TV think that people let their imaginations run wild. Those who did see it start to question their own memory. But there are shifts happening beneath the surface of things, monsters are being pushed into the light. By whom? And why?
The emergence of that video is known as - The Fracture.
There is a strong thread of social commentary that runs through this novel. Because I'm woefully uneducated on such things, I had no idea that the title was a play on an anarchist slogan - "no gods, no masters", meaning that no human should be held above another. Once you realise that, you see how incredibly clever the title of this book is - "no gods, no monsters", a call to equality, that no one should be held either above or below another. There is an open relationship, characters of varying gender identities and sexualities and races, a few discussions and representations of cooperatives and socialist-anarchist type communities. This book is the very antithesis of a heteronormative, default-white novel and it feels very authentic.
This is a novel that pushes the boundaries of the way things have always been done, and so the structure of it is only fitting, in my opinion. It's not a standard novel because it doesn't WANT to be a standard novel - that, in fact, is the whole point. It's subversive - it wants to challenge you and the way you think things "should" be done, just because they've always been done that way.
There is an omniscient third person narrator who increasingly becomes part of the story. It is quite disconcerting at first. Imagine you're just reading along a seemly standard third person narration, when suddenly one of the characters starts addressing the narrator, a non-physical presence. It's jarring, although it does come together a bit more towards the end.
Speaking of the end, it finishes somewhat abruptly. The whole book is a very slow build up, to a kind of climactic scene, but then it finishes in a way that is still very unresolved. Goodreads suggests this is part one of a "Saga", so I guess there's more to come. Still, it was an unsatisfying ending after such a long, slow book - especially if you're unsure if you can stomach another whole book of this weirdness.
I saw a review that invoked Gaiman's American Gods and that definitely feels like an apt comparison to me, in vibe if not content. There's an eerieness to it all, a sense of mild horror. Have you ever looked up into the night sky and imagined what it would be like if suddenly gravity stopped working and everyone fell off the earth and was burned up in the stratosphere?? The absolute horror of it, the helplessness, the vastness of a universe that doesn't really give a crap? It probably is a little weird that I have, but that's exactly the feeling this book gave me.
I would not recommend you pick this up if you're expecting standard fantasy. This is not it. If you want to read absolutely different from anything you've ever read before, something a little weird and experimental, give it a try. And don't say I didn't warn you :-P.
Trigger warnings include sexual abuse of a minor, domestic abuse, mild body horror, drug addiction, police shooting of a Black man, an active shooter scene.
A fascinating take on the idea of the supernatural hiding in plain sight. The characters were relatable and the novel is relevant to the current political context.
I reviewed this book on behalf of the magazine Booklist. My review will appear there, in the magazine.
This was such a unique read. Turnbull's novel is beautifully written; the prose is stunning. I found the plot to be riveting, though a little bit confusing at times (there are some flashbacks and some events seem to be told out of order). The author writes about sorrow and loss in a way that feels authentic. "No Gods, No Monsters" discusses topics such as police brutality and race-based oppression, while simultaneously weaving supernatural themes into the narrative.
I would recommend this to people who enjoy literary fiction and urban fantasy.
Turnbull is a smooth writer. Whatever tale he is telling just flows so easily from page to page, even when the subject matter is heavy. He ensures that his readers will have an easy time of it, while remaining interested and engaged.
He did it with The Lesson and he has brought this same style to No Gods, No Monsters. As he builds the reveal that monsters are among us, Turnbull is also raising questions around community and family: how they grow and change, what brings them together, what drives them apart, and how the shadowy areas overlap.
The story of No Gods, No Monsters is one of those stories that has moving parts which requires attention and which rewards a reader that sticks it out. With storylines that move forwards and backwards through time and place, expanding the cast of characters, introducing new magics and monsters, and then looping everyone together in some way was just a great reading experience.
I love a book that keeps me puzzled here, clues me in there, and that has heart. Because at the heart of this story is family and finding a place to be safe and to belong. Isn't that what we all want?
This book is incredibly well-written. I really enjoyed the monster aspects of it, and it provides a creepy-thriller vibe throughout. The format of this book felt like a snapshot of different stories; some narratives the reader returns to while others are just passing by in a section. The large cast works well and helps provide scope of the changing landscape of a speculative-fiction near-future world where humanity has to grapple with magic and science and monsters in various ways. While some of the science parts felt a little over my head, I was able to follow along and remain engaged till the very end. Thank you so much Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
I really liked Turnbull's debut work. So, this piece had a bit of cognitive hype to live up to--if nowhere else than in my mind, and mine alone.
Consider it done. Hype in check.
If I'm being honest, I was confused at first. Several aspects of the story seemed either convoluted or just flat out missing. A few chapters in, however, I decided to just let the story unfold. Once I got out of my own head and simply allowed Turnbull to do his thing--which he does very well--the process of reading was enhanced. He tells his story masterfully.
I really liked the overall arc this story takes. I also appreciate his "scholastic eye." He's an academic, that's easy to tell. Yet, he weaves some philosophical and/or ideological elements into this web of entertainment in an enjoyable and wortwhile way. Color me impressed.
Wow. This was so much more than I expected. A great read, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series. For fans of N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became.
No Gods, No Monsters is a pretty interesting book. Obviously the first part of a series, No Gods, No Monsters introduces a world where monsters exist and are on the verge of coming out. The story opens with a woman learning that her brother has been killed. Video of the killing shows that her brother was a member of a pack of werewolves.
From there things twist and turn. Many characters are introduced and their overlapping stories end up combining into a larger narrative. The writing is agile and the world-building is interesting. I really enjoyed the language the author uses. And the characters are refreshingly diverse.
I am really looking forward to future volumes of this series.
Urban fantasy is not my go-to subgenre, but the plot summary of No Gods, No Monsters caught my eye with “what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger: monsters are real,” and I’d seen good things about Cadwell Turnbull’s writing, so I requested and was approved for my first ARC.
What I got was a book that broke sharply from my stereotypes about urban fantasy, an audacious tapestry of a novel teeming with different perspectives and switching rapidly—often within a chapter—between first and third-person and past and present tense. No Gods, No Monsters is, as promised, a story about a world suddenly discovering that monsters are real. But it is not at all a straightforward one, with perspective shifting back and forth between monsters themselves, family members of monsters, conspiracy theorists hunting for secret societies, and more, with every perspective having its own backstory, such that each section feels like a novelette of its own as much as it feels like a piece of a greater whole.
No Gods, No Monsters is a tough book to review, and it definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes. If you aren’t comfortable enjoying small-scale pieces of story while being in the dark about where the overarching plot is going, this won’t be for you. There is plot convergence, but it takes a long time to become apparent, and even when it does, there isn’t that moment where everything clicks into place and we see exactly why we’ve been learning about so many small stories.
But the small stories are almost universally wonderful. Turnbull’s prose is ambitious and engaging, and he makes every point-of-view character come to life, even if they only get a chapter of page time. There’s a remarkable diversity of characters, all with different aims and different struggles, but every one of them has a poignant story of loss that anchors their narrative and makes them come alive as individuals.
As I said, No Gods, No Monsters is a tough book to review, and it’s a tough book to rate as well. I imagine that those who enjoy literary-leaning fantasy may find a new favorite here, and those who want clear plot progression will be disappointed. But I’m in the middle, and I’m trying to weigh my disappointment at an ending that pulled the pieces together but didn’t fit them seamlessly against my adoration of so many individual subplots and more than a few individual passages. Ultimately, I find myself somewhere in the middle, and No Gods, No Monsters joins Rosewater and The Vanished Birds as books I’ve read this year where I enjoyed the set pieces more than the cohesive whole. If anything, it’s an even more stark division—the stories that make up No Gods, No Monsters are individually better than those other two, while the overarching narrative is less clear. But there is plenty of room for further story in the world Turnbull has created, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the sequel.
Recommended if you like: literary fantasy, excellent prose, myriad fully-developed characters.
A beautifully written book. Interesting use of monstrosity as a way of investigating racial injustices.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best urban fantasy novels I have ever read. (TLDR: You should read this)
'No Gods, No Monsters' has all the elements you would expect of an urban fantasy novel - magic, monsters, gods, and a situation gone terribly awry - but it contains something that can only be described as quintessentially more.
The beauty of this novel is in the unfolding of events; it reads like a delicate origami piece that you undo carefully, trying to understand how it came to be. (You must understand that in telling more of the plot, I would give the game away, which was half the joy of this novel; I apologise if that makes this review somewhat confusing to read). The story is told from one of the most interesting perspectives that I have read outside of a short stories. In that, itself, the mysteries begin to coil upon themselves; there are so many intricacies in this tale, and yet, the entire duration of reading this, I found myself simply pleased to be along for the ride.
The social commentary in 'No Gods, No Monsters' was immaculate. The representation was beyond the usual tokenistic diversity: there were characters from all walks of life, and because of that, the world created is immersive and realistic. Beyond that, big issues were raised and outlined in the most concise way possible, bringing in a glorious array of ideas that made me think, from social justice, to critical reading, to metaphysics. This alone makes this a novel I will no doubt read again, and again.
If you like big ideas, and well crafted stories, this is for you. If you like writing that is beautiful, and flows in the most beautiful way, this is for you. If you like stories that make you think, where reading it feels like assembling a puzzle, piece by piece, then this is for you.
CW: Violence, Suicide Mention, Gore.
ARC Provided by the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Such a unique novel! I was extremely impressed by the poignant conversation about marginalization and prejudice. I was loved how this novel provided such an excellent conversation about such complex issues.
Wonderful representation for queer and nonwhite people. All of the people in this book felt flawed in a realistic way. They are what kept me coming back for more.
The novel is very slow, focusing on characters over plot. This can be considered urban fantasy with mild horror, but it honestly read more like a literary piece of social commentary. I would have liked to learn more about the fantastical elements, but that is because I am strongly attracted to fantasy elements in novels.
I would recommend this one to readers looking for an insightful exploration of the challenges that affect marginalized people in America today.
No Gods, No Monsters
(The Convergence Saga #1)
by Cadwell Turnbull
This book is one of the strangest books I have read! That's not bad, I love strange! It just makes it difficult to review and make sense to anyone reading the review. I will try to avoid spoilers, there might be a hint of some but in this book you wouldn't have a clue what I am talking about anyway.
Here goes. Werewolves have decides to come out. Maybe someone is making them? But our gal of the story finds out that her brother is killed, shot by a cop. What the cop's body cam reveals is stunning. She wants to find out what is going on. The video goes viral then disappears.
No monsters, No gods is the protest saying as the marches go through towns. But there several monsters and gods in this book and we meet some of each. Not just werewolves but powerful mages, shifters, and more. Gods that walk with nebulas for eyes. Gods that purr. People that teleport between places and some teleport between time. A boy, that is very much not a boy, and he is kind but used as a weapon.
The story unfolds slowly, one person at a time until they all come together. Then it bounces between places, time, and people's lives. This was the difficult part for me. That and Hugh's life. I really got a bit bored there.
This is a different kind of fantasy book then I have read in a long time. Lots of great things going for it. Other than the above mentioned issues, it was great. It is something I had to concentrate on. Not a book to rush through. A book to soak up, to simmer, to bathe in, and let it baste my brain.
I had to wait a few days to review it to really think it over. I did enjoy it and it was the strangest and oddest book I have read this year but that is certainly not a bad thing.
I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for letting me read this intriguing book!
“Monsters existed in the liminal space of half-belief and practical superstition. Even folks who claimed not to believe in God knew not to tempt devils. Superstition provided a certain kind of freedom, allowed a certain kind of power.”
A big epic story that pits regular folks against the forces of the unknown and the great powers of the universe. All manner of monsters are real: werewolves, witches, dragons, gods who walk among us and more hidden from human sight until now. When two secret societies begin warring, the tension of one against the other crushes the innocent between them. When Laina’s brother is shot by police a secret video reveals his part in a werewolf pack. When Harry investigates a missing online friend, he is brutally recruited for violence. When Ridley’s co-op meets to discuss new projects, they discover the unexpected. And a man returns to St. Thomas to unpack is family history, he discovers a unique power of his own.
My one complaint is the world created in No Gods, No Monsters is too big for a single volume. We’ve only just gotten started. It feels like that first hill on a roller coaster, a great ride that promises so much more. With so much going on, it defies easy description but demands a thoughtful read. Now I’m hooked and waiting for the next volume. Underpinning everything is the desire to be fully known, to connect with others who understand and accept completely and to make right wrongs from a past we may not have understood in the making.
If you enjoyed The Changeling, American Gods, and The Stand You will enjoy this book.
I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe this one (in the best possible way.) No Gods, No Monsters explores what happens when the world finds out that monsters are real. What begins as narratives following several disparate characters slowly draws together, observed by a mysterious narrator whose own story is slowly revealed. Literary Urban Fantasy is the closest to a genre I can come up with, with a side of intense, nearly Lovecraftian creepiness. The writing is simply gorgeous, and the representation is stellar, with lesbian, bisexual, asexual, NB and trans rep, as well as Black, Latinx and Asian rep. It’s easy to get lost between all the different characters at first, but if you can stick with it, it’s worth the effort.
tw: drug abuse, domestic abuse, gore
When Laina's brother dies, her first inclination is to believe that Lincoln is just another Black man who is killed at the hands of police in America. She soon learns that this may have not been the case when a USB drive mysteriously appears in her apartment. On that drive is the truth about the last moments of Lincoln's life, will she be ready for what it reveals but more importantly will the rest of the world, once she decides to release it???
No Gods, No Monsters is book 1 of The Convergence Saga, Cadwell Turnbull's brilliant literary dark fantasy series. Turnbull takes the reader on a beautifully written interconnected maze of events. But interesting and complex characters are the heart of this story, whether they be monster, human, or god. There are a few characters which help to weave each story seamlessly but as the reader you truly are focused on each tale, even though you want to know more about the previous one, you are quickly immersed in the next one, after few paragraphs. Turnbull is always making the reader think with excellent social analysis/criticism and discussion of geopolitics. Finally, I loved the monster mythology which is mostly composed of West Indian/West African folklore. As the reader, I was never quite sure where Turnbull would take me, but once I got there I was never disappointed, and I don't think most readers will be either.
I am slowly beginning to enjoy more urban fantasy, and this one is only making me enjoy the genre even more. There are monsters here, for sure, and the author does a good job of conveying the fact that there are REAL monsters of the hairy, dripping-fang variety but also monsters that live within us. Which monsters are the worst would make for a great book club discussion.
The characters and action are both vividly drawn, sometimes moving so fast I had to go back and re-read passages just to make sure I caught it all! The ending appeared to set the stage for a sequel and maybe even a series. Urban fantasy fans will enjoy.
No Gods, No Monsters is definitely not going to be the book for everyone, but I enjoyed it immensely.
The story was strangely told, as sometimes the narrator will refer to themselves as I, but then we switch to what seems like multiple POVs of other people in third person. This was deliberate, as we do eventually figure out why. I think there will be people who won’t give this book a chance to reveal itself, but I just went with it.
The story had multiple plots, characters, and pieces that didn’t seem to go together for quite awhile. It was a lot to keep track of, but something told me that my patience would pay off. I should share that I recently read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and loathed it for 50% of the story and stuck with it and ended up absolutely loving it. The darkness and existence of secret societies were really the only thing in common with that book, but it was enough to keep me intrigued and keep me invested in the story. Plus, I enjoyed the Caribbean inspired elements and setting and wanted to know more about who I thought was the main character.
No Gods, No Monsters was so clever.. I loved the way it tied in real Orders and quantum theories to build a plausible story. It was so well done! Also, the title and mantra mirroring that of No Gods, No Masters was pretty brilliant. There were just so many layers to this in so many ways and I loved that.
I also loved that the creatures walking among everyone were called monsters, like they owned the all inclusive name despite any negative connotations. There weren’t 20 names for different sects of people, it was just monsters. I feel that this book was really inclusive, which I enjoyed, but I loved the lack of labels the monsters were giving themselves in this story. I love the fact that we are doing our best as a society to share what makes us who we are, but I do grow a little tired of the constant need to categorize and label everything, so I found that to just be refreshing.
This wasn’t a neat book that told a linear story, but it was totally worth powering through and letting it tell it’s story in its own way.
I definitely recommend this and I couldn’t’ stop thinking about it when I was reading it. I don’t always share the plots of every book I read with my husband because I read SO many books and he doesn’t need recaps of every single one, but this one was weird and interesting enough to get me talking about it nonstop for the past couple of days.
No Gods, No Monsters is a book you have to go with the flow on. I loved it, in the end, but I think it's going to be one of those books that polarises readers.
Almost flow of conciousness, almost (initially) a series of linked short stories, rather than a novel, the reader is greeted with the sister of a man shot by police, as she is led to the discovery of the truth behind his death. In this way, Cadwell Turnbull starts as he means to go on, with monsters just another of the many marginalized groups in the world. Different in their own way, but just as human and just as vulnerable to injustice and misunderstanding - just as undeserving of either.
This was a tricky book to get into, I won't lie; the narration moves from person to person without warning, and between perspectives just as abruptly. Even the omniscient narrator turns out to be first person; it's a little jarring in places, but if you're able to get into the flow of it it really does work beautifully. It helps that the writing is gorgeous, and that the characters are easy to connect with - the more you can trust the author to eventually pull back (some of) the curtain, the better time you'll have. The range of diversity in both the monsters and the human characters was just perfection.
This is the first book in a series, and there's a fairly open ending; it matches the story style, and doesn't walk too close to the cliffhanger style, so I'll certainly be back for book two.
Wow. Let me start this off and say this one is a doozy.
No Gods, No Monsters is truly a gripping story. I have to praise the writing on this one. It's beautifully written and descriptive. You can tell so much thought and time was put into the characters and their backgrounds. Everyone felt three dimensional and thought out. And they had flaws! Characters did things we didn't agree with but they were never villainized, which I absolutely loved reading. Everyone had a story and a motivation.
The mystery of the narrator was SO intriguing and well done. A nameless floating consciousness seeing into the lives of so many different people that all collide in one great ending.
It took me a little while to get into, however. There's a lot of information and characters being thrown at you in the first one hundred pages. Often, I felt confused about what was happening- but then again, I think that's done on purpose. There are times you meet someone briefly, don't hear from them and then you're in their pov again thinking: "wait who is this?" So when reading, take your time. But once you're in the halfway mark you're completely in it.
I definitely would recommend reading this gem twice. Once you have all the information going back will have everything make a bit more sense later on. But all in all, this is a good start to a series. I'm interested to see where Turnbull takes it.
Cadwell Turnbull’s new novel, NO GODS, NO MONSTERS, will be published in a few weeks (September 7). Via NetGalley, I got to read an advance copy, in return for providing an honest review.
Cadwell Turnbull was previously the author of THE LESSON, a parable about colonialism in the form of a story about aliens (from a planet technologically far superior to ours) establishing a presence in the US Virgin Islands (where the author is actually from). That novel excelled at combining vignettes of everyday life with its sf premise, which worked both allegorically (as a representation of colonialism) and intimately and realistically, in terms of the characters and their interactions.
This combination of everydayness with weird/uncanny premises works even better in NO GODS, NO MONSTERS, which makes sense entirely on its own, but which is also announced as the first volume of a trilogy (the “Convergence Saga”). The speculative premise here is one that might more readily be characterized as urban fantasy than as science fiction: there are “monsters” among us in the world as we know it now, shapeshifters (werewolves etc), psychics of various sorts, soucouyants (people from West Indies folklore who can cast off their skins and move about invisibly), and many others.
NO GODS, NO MONSTERS, however, has a far different feel than any other urban fantasy I have read. And this has a lot to do with the everydayness I mentioned. There are magical powers, and there are people using these powers both for good and ill; but for the most part, these powers are just another part of the life circumstances of the people who wield them, and who just want to get on with their lives, pursue activities of value, have romances, and so on — just like everybody else.
This in itself is a brilliant commentary on our social myths and fantasies. All too often, both in works of fiction and in what might be called the social imaginary, a distinction is made between ordinary folks and people with extraordinary powers, who become either heroes/saviors or villains (or both, depending). This type of story itself depends upon a bigoted set of assumptions; since the “ordinary folks” are generally assumed to be straight white men. Think of how the newspapers distinguish between everyman and so-called ‘special interests’ — the “average” American is always somebody like a white male working-class midwesterner who is mad as hell about immigrants and people of color allegedly getting ahead at his expense, and who therefore supports Trump. Why is such a person any more ‘ordinary’ than, say, an unmarried Black lesbian mother of two kids who has to work backbreaking jobs with long commutes just to make ends meet?
Anyway, one of the great things about NO GODS, NO MONSTERS is that it simply ignores such bigoted assumptions. Among the many characters we meet in this book, an ordinary person just trying to get along with their life might well be, say, a biracial trans man who is married to a woman but who generally considers himself asexual, and who is an anarchist activist devoted to organizing bottom-up cooperative enterprises owned and run by their workers (rather than by a capitalist boss). Or an ordinary person just trying to get along with their life might be an ex-drug addict now trying to repair relations with estranged family members, but who is also a werewolf, and who has been able to go straight and pull themselves together due to his bonds with his werewolf community. Or an ordinary person just trying to get along with their life might be somebody like the novel’s narrator, a failed academic who leaves the US mainland and goes back to his home in the Virgin Islands; he isn’t quite sure what he wants, or where he is headed, but he has the imaginative power to enter other peoples’ lives and observe them silently, which is where the material of the novel comes from.
In other words, there are lots of ways of being ordinary; most people just want to get along. It is this wanting just to get along that turns them into social activists, because our society is set up in such a way as to block their flourishing. There are many instances of this in the novel, having to do with racism, economic inequality, heterosexism, and so on. But most strongly, in this novel, it has to do with people having to hide their feelings and their very existence because they are “monsters.” Early in the novel, one of the main characters has to deal with how her estranged brother was murdered, a Black man shot and killed by a cop. Except it also turns out that her brother was a werewolf, and the cop shot him when he was in animal form. Werewolves keep to themselves, and do not harm ‘ordinary’ human beings, but who not part of the magical/monster underground is going to believe this?
In the course of the novel, the existence of monsters is revealed to the general public (or to straight people), in an event called The Fracture. Many of the monsters are more relieved than disturbed by this; they are anxious to come out of the closet and go public with who they are – a civil rights movement arises. But there are also forces seeking to suppress the evidence, and to make the monsters disappear from public view once again. The videos that proliferated across the Internet, showing the transformation of werewolved back into human form, mysteriously get erased. This itself seems to be a supernatural act. For there are also secret societies of monsters with their own hidden agendas, who seek to manipulate events for their own power and profit. And some of the monsters do in fact have scary supernatural powers. And there is also a lot of bigotry against monsters on the part of other people, even otherwise progressive other people. And there is still a lot of violence; this is a book that does not shy from representing murder, mutilation, and other ugly forms of abuse. Some of this violence is of the sort that we expect from the supernatural-with-elements-of-horror subgenre that this book belongs to. But more of the violence comes from straight people killing monsters by shooting guns — a form of violence that monsters are just as susceptible to as any other human beings. Monsters, like other outsider minorities, are much more often the victims of violence than its perpetrators.
NO GODS, NO MONSTERS does not have a single narrative focus; the narrative will stay with one character or set of characters for a few chapters, then switch attention to other ones. This back-and-forth seems to have disturbed some of the more simpleminded advance readers who posted on Goodreads; but it is essential to how the book works. This is a sort of networked novel. Human beings, ‘monsters’ or not, are social beings; nobody is an island unto themselves. What happens to people happens in the context of their relationships to other people. The different characters and plot strands scattered through the novel ultimately turn out to be interconnected — albeit interconnected often by what network theorists call ‘weak ties’, rather than through some grandiose and paranoid design. I have already said that the novel focuses on everydayness, and that it absorbs its supernatural and ‘monstrous’ visions into this everydayness; well, loose entanglements and interconnections are part of this everydayness. The novel gives us a powerful sense that, although nobody is unequivocally in control, nobody is insignificant either. This is one of the novel’s gifts, and part of what makes it so moving.
This sense of interconnection also pertains to the narrator. Though often he is recounting, in the third person, what happens to other people, he also has his own story, and his own emotional problems — his failed relationships, although entirely mundane, resonate strongly with the failures and problems experienced by the other characters, who are either monsters or the straight people who love them. The narrator’s insight into the lives of these other characters is itself something of a monster-like power; his “I” is there, although invisible, when things happen to other people. Mostly he is unnoticed, but sometimes the monsters, with their supernatural powers, are able to detect his presence, He seems, therefore, to be able to travel through time and space via astral projection; there are also references to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the sad life of that theory’s inventor, Hugh Everett, itself becomes a strand in the novel interwoven with the entirely fictional ones. It is noteworthy how the special status of the narrator who says “I” does not seem like a metafictional/postmodern conceit, but is itself woven into the textures of the novel’s world of networked interchanges, mirroring situations, and general drift. Throughout the book, existential crisis and everydayness also interpenetrate one another.
The novel’s title, NO GODS, NO MONSTERS, is itself a play on the old anarchist slogan, “no gods, no masters.” This is an egalitarian hope, something that cuts against the structure of the system of patriarchal racial capitalism in which we actually live. But such an “axiom of equality” (to cite something that has been formulated in varying ways by such theorists as Jacques Ranciere and Alain Badiou) is essential both to what it means to be human, and now to what it might mean to be posthuman or more-than-human. It is essential to anybody’s flourishing. In the novel, there are both gods and monsters. But the slogan “no gods, no monsters” is chanted by the monsters themselves, and their supporters. The “monsters” we meet do not want to give up being monsters — which is who they are, or what it means to be themselves — but they want to abolish the sense that “the monster” is an absolute other, an aberrant category, designating people (or sentient beings) who cannot be admitted into society. Isn’t this the dilemma faced by so many insurgent groups today (people of color, women, gays and lesbians, trans people, disabled people, and so on) who are always getting accused of “identity politics” when they point up how they are being excluded and victimized precisely on the basis of their perceived “identity”?
In short, NO GODS, NO MONSTERS is a reflection on some of the most crucial issues and social conditions that we are faced with today. At the same time, it is quite singular — different from just about anything else I have read. Its combination of detached drifting and fascination makes for a unique reading experience, a tone I have not found anywhere else.
THIS WAS SOO GOOD, REAAD IT, trust me you won't be disappointed. It was different not a bad different just not like anything I've read before. I loved learning about the different monsters and their abilities. The first 30% or so was a bit confusing with the introduction of the different characters and not knowing who was telling the story and how they connected but once we cleared that hill I was good.
No Gods, No Monsters starts out as the story of Laina, whose desire to understand the circumstances that led to her estranged brother’s murder by police leads her to the discovery that monsters live among us. However, the book quickly expands its scope, jumping between the perspectives of a fascinating ensemble of characters, several of whom are creatures humans previously only existed in legends.
Turnbull has written an exceptional story about othering, oppression, family, acceptance, and the rawest aspects of the human condition. The novel is haunting and unsettling at times, with some lines burrowing under your skin and searing themselves onto your memory. But while No Gods, No Monsters speaks to so many familiar truths, it explores them in completely unique — and exquisitely strange — ways. How Turnbull moves between POVs and through time can be disorienting, but if you can trust in the process without demanding too much immediate clarity, reading it is a powerfully satisfying experience. The prose is spellbinding, every character is richly drawn, and it’s driven by a fast-paced plot with several unexpected turns. I was incredibly relieved after finishing to see that No Gods, No Monsters is only the first installment in an ongoing series, since I’m already ready for more.
Absolutely amazing read! I loved this book and the min theme of how humans and monsters and they aren’t in completely different categories. It’s like the lines are blurred. I read this book so fast and loved all of it!!
Thank you Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for this great advanced ebook!
No Gods, No Monsters is a fantastic supernatural story! Turnbull’s writing style is one of the best!
Beautiful dialogue, real character growth coming out to the world. This is one story y'all will not want to miss!
This is a fascinating narrative perspective, and fast-paced plot, kept me on the edge of my seat from the very first page. It will suck you right in!
I can't wait for the next one
Thank you again for this awesome book!
No Gods, No Monsters gets off to a slow start but soon kicks into high gear with gripping action and a compelling story. Great characters, both human and monster, and a captivating plot that is very well written. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review an ARC of this book. There were some formatting issues with the Kindle version, however.
The premise of this book was really intriguing, not my normal genre. So glad I took the chance. Told through multiple points of view, this is a fantasy novel that is so timely, it almost followed the current headlines of today.
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cadwell Turnbull’s debut novel The Lesson won the Neukom Institute Literary Arts award for a speculative fiction debut novel, and his short fiction has been included in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019. His second novel, No Gods, No Monsters, marks the beginning of a larger project for him: a series that Turnbull is calling The Convergence Saga. I have some suspicions about what the significance of that series name might be, but that would be getting into spoilery territory. What I can say is that the book details the aftermath of society learning of the existence of beings who might loosely be called monsters—werewolves and the like.
The biggest strength of this story is its complexity. Turnbull refuses simplistic categories for his characters. There are more than two sides, and all of them include both humans and monsters. Also, the monsters are just as divided as the humans are about how to respond to the public’s new awareness of their existence. Some factions want to cover up the revelation, out of fear that widespread knowledge of monsters’ existence will lead to them being manipulated by governments or persecuted by bigots. Others feel like this is an opportunity to come out of the closet and claim an equal place in society. Some belong to other marginalized groups—one character is trans and another nonbinary, and several are Black—and seek to build solidarity with others who have been subject to oppression or cultural erasure.
Of course, the very term “monsters” is fraught in this context. It’s the one used in the narration throughout the book and by many of the characters, including some who are monsters. But as one might guess from the title of the book, characters participating in a demonstration that forms the novel’s climax insist that those with magical abilities are neither gods nor monsters—neither superior nor inferior to ordinary humans. This is very much a story of people reaching out to each other, building solidarity, and trying to navigate a place for themselves in the world. All of this makes it a very timely and very powerful book, and I look forward to seeing the Convergence Saga continue.