Alex Finch: Monster Hunter

Alex Finch Monster Hunter

Alex Finch: Monster Hunter was written by Cate Dean and first published in 2013. It is an urban fantasy story which focuses on a teenage geek whose life is turned upside down when she learns that monsters are real. The story forms the first part of The Monster Files series and is followed by Truth and Consequences (2014), Welcome to The Haven (2014) and A Monster Files Wedding (2015).

Alex Finch is used to being a loner. She’s always been a tomboy and would rather spend her free time playing around with her computer than hanging around with the other girls in her class. When her English teacher pairs her up with Misty Corwin – perky head cheerleader, Alex knows that it will end badly. What she doesn’t expect is for Misty to leave all of their notes at a bus stop.

Alex and Misty head off to retrieve the notes but the unthinkable happens. They are attacked by a savage werewolf. They are rescued by Sam, the handsome heir of the town’s founding family. Alex has had a crush on him for years but he’s never shown any interest in her before. Not before he saw her bravely trying to protect Misty from the monster.

In an instant, Alex’s world is turned upside down. Now she’s aware that there are mythical beasts stalking around her hometown and Sam’s family are in some way involved in controlling them. When more people are attacked and children start to disappear, Sam suspects that the werewolf may be to blame. However as Alex researches into the town’s past, she soon comes to realise that there are worse monsters lurking beneath its streets…

Sometimes, writing negative reviews is hard. Really hard. Not every novel is as offensively awful as Shadowmancer. Sometimes authors can have really great concepts but just slip up in the execution. To cut to the chase, that’s the problem that I found when reading Alex Finch: Monster Hunter.

The basic premise of this novel was great fun. At its core, it’s the story of a teenage computer geek who discovers that her town is a safe haven for monsters. The tale was fast to find its feet, throwing the reader into the action within a couple of pages and maintaining a very light tone. It reminded me a lot of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only if the main character was Willow rather than Buffy. It had snarky teens, witty dialogue and a couple of fairly tense action sequences. It even had its own educated English adult (who came in the form of Alex’s Dad).

The thing I liked about the novel most was its setting. Although the text was not overly descriptive, I always had a very clear image of the locations in my mind. From the eerie old boiler room of the school to the subterranean ghost town, the novel had some great set pieces that really did spark my imagination. I only wish that more time had been spent establishing how the town came to be. While the origins of the Haven are brushed upon, Dean is very light on the details in this novel. I really hope that the sequels nail down some firm world building as I would be curious to learn more about the ghost town in particular.

However, for all its good ideas, Alex Finch: Monster Hunter was hampered by poor editing. I will say that it’s not the worst novel that I’ve reviewed on this blog so far. The grammar and spelling are largely acceptable and so the book is at least readable. It’s more an issue with the story’s cohesion on the whole. It was like the author knew what she wanted to say but was just unable to eloquently express herself.

My interpretation of the things that happened in the story largely came from reading between the lines. The novel just didn’t seem complete in its own right. It was more an extended introduction to the series. A lot of events in the story just seemed to happen with no rhyme or reason and I read on expecting for there to be answers but was ultimately left disappointed.

  • Why was the librarian the only one to receive a video of the monster attack (and why did no one question this)?
  • Why does Sam insist that no one knows about the monsters, even going so far as making Alex sign a confidentiality agreement, only to then proceed to reveal this secret to at least three other people?
  • Why did Jake become a werewolf right after he was bitten but Sam still be human ten years later?
  • Why did Dean feel the need to remind the reader that Alex was a dancer in every single chapter when this was only tangentially relevant to the overall plot?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the issues I found while reading the book. It felt a little at times as though the novel was an early draft, rather than a finished work. There were so many things in the story that seemed superfluous, or felt as though they should be developed but never were. Even though the book was short, it still felt as though it needed to be streamlined to make it easier to read.

When I reached the final chapter, I was just left feeling pretty apathetic on the whole. The story ends rather abruptly, offering little closure and leaving virtually all plot threads still hanging. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’re probably aware of how I feel about cliff hangers. While this wasn’t the most offensive one that I’ve ever talked about, it just made the novel leave off on a bit of a downer. All in all, it just felt like a cheap trick to make the reader pick up the next book.

The problems with the prose also extended to the characters. It’s really hard to talk about any distinctive traits of the primary cast because they were wildly inconsistent. While I initially thought that the cast were going to be based around recognisable Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters (Alex as Willow, Sam as Angel, Misty as Cordelia), this didn’t turn out to be the case. Unfortunately this was mainly because, after a few chapters, all the characters seemed to blend into one.

No one had any distinguishing characteristics that allowed me to pick them out from the others. Sometimes, I even struggled to tell who was talking. Alex and Sam were by far the worst in this regard because they were forever saying one thing and doing another. An example of this was when Sam told Alex that he couldn’t involve her in one chapter and then immediately ran to her to ask for help in the next. I could never trust any character to behave in a certain way. Even Alex’s Dad, who professed to want to keep his daughter safe, had a habit of then sending her off alone into dark sewers.

The only character that I felt anything for was Misty. This was a character that really could have been interesting but she was woefully underused. Throughout the story, Alex is always quick to judge people on their social standing. Because Misty is a cheerleader, Alex assumes that she must be a vapid airhead (playing up on the standard nerds vs populars cliché that is common in young adult literature). However, Alex soon changes her mind as she spends time with Misty and comes to the conclusion that she is actually rather smart for a cheerleader. However, this intelligence is never seen in the novel. Misty is given little to do beyond calling for the occasional doctor. I really hope that Dean develops her character more in the sequel as I think she could be a really fun character.

I don’t really have a lot more to say about this novel. I did love the concept of the story but felt that it was executed very poorly. The book on the whole felt more like an early draft than a finished novel. With a better edit and a bit of polish it could have been something special but unfortunately, it needed a bit more time in development. However, the eBook is currently free on Amazon and so if you’re in any way curious, it’s a great time to grab yourself a copy.

Alex Finch: Monster Hunter can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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