*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Alanna Rhee believes that all mothers deserve to deliver safely, even the monsters of the world. As a human enslaved to the fairies of Aerin, she made a pact with the king when she was just a child. She signed in blood. After studying midwifery, and for ten years attending to the most dangerous births of other magical creatures -earning wealth and prestige for the kingdom- she would win her freedom. With three years left to serve, multiple fairy kingdoms are on the brink of war. Queen Esmera of the Westlands is hated, feared, and called a ‘classless woman’. Worse still, she carries a child with no father, conceived from a deal with an ‘Old God’. Not knowing what deformities the baby may show, only the most experienced midwife in the land will do.
Alanna is trusted by all. She is asked to attend to Esmera. She is also asked not to intervene in the difficult birth, and by her inaction, to cause death. Alanna must decide if even her freedom is worth the horror of allowing a woman to die in her most vulnerable moment.
I liked the sound of this book when I read the blurb, but it exceeded my expectations in both style and content – I absolutely loved it!
There is a love story here and a battle between, not so much good and evil, as compassionate and wilfully indifferent or ignorant. But the main focus is firmly on Alanna and her choices as a midwife, a slave, a woman, and I couldn’t put the book down.
I have discovered that I could read detailed accounts of monster/supernatural pregnancies, labours and births all day every day and never get tired of them – something I was not previously aware of in myself! This story combines all of the intimacy, struggle and courage of real-life birth stories with wonderfully imagined fantasy worldbuilding to fantastic effect.
There are some strong, powerful female characters here, that I really enjoyed reading, along with a couple of very different male characters, who I confess I was a lot less interested in. Alanna’s first person narrative gives an intimate insight into her thoughts, feelings and motivations and she is a compelling and engaging main character – honest about her faults and weaknesses, and always striving to do right and castigating herself for mistakes while trying hard to learn from them and let them go.
I’ve seen this book compared to Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses and I can see why, in terms of the general plot and setting, but honestly I think this book is better! I stopped after the first book in the ACOTAR series – I just wasn’t interested in reading about the characters or world any further – whereas I would devour any sequels to Monster Midwife gleefully. I would love to know more about the intricacies of supernatural midwifery and how Alanna’s life develops with the changes that had occurred by the end of this story (I don’t imagine we’d get many glimpses into the lives of any of the babies delivered, as Alanna admits they hold no interest to her once her role is over… a realistic little detail that really brought her to life for me). And I felt the balance between the fae and human elements – a difficult one to get right – was very well-handled by Lumen Reese here.
If you like your fantasy novels to have a little intrigue and a little romance, lots of moral dilemmas and a load of beautifully realistic character/worldbuilding detail then you should definitely try Monster Midwife. Fingers crossed for more Alanna from me, but in the meantime I look forward to reading anything Lumen Reese comes out with next.
Maybe I am too hard on myself; maybe I am not weak, just lost. I never knew my mother or my father, I have been rejected by the humans and by the fairies since I was a child, my only teachings being medical, the only moral tenant of my Self being that I do no harm, save the mothers, save the babies. It’s all I’m trained for. Everything else, every other situation I am figuring out as I go, like a fawn learning to walk; every dilemma frightening to my core with its newness. And my emotions are so hard to process in the moment that the only way I know whether I have done right or wrong is by whether I am kept up the next night, too haunted to sleep. And of course I don’t want to sleep lately, anyway.– Lumen Reese, Monster Midwife
Lumen Reese is an author of diverse fantasy, sci-fi and speculative fiction from West Michigan. Her other books include ‘Trial of the Lovebird Butcher’ and ‘Claire Got Herself in Trouble’.
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/zoominlumen
You can find all of her books, including Monster Midwife, on Smashwords.
Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops on the tour for more great reviews and content (see the poster below for details)!