The Maker Of Monsters-Lorraine Gregory

I was so enchanted with Lorraine Gregory’s The Maker Of Monsters I stayed up til silly o’clock in the morning just to discover how it all ends!

With its narrative hints towards Frankenstein, The Island Of Dr Moreau within a hero’s quest exploring the human condition including but not limited to grief, loss, anger, self-worth, courage it begs the question of what it means to be human, and who are the monsters in regards to cruelty and interference with and abuse of nature.

The touches of tenderness and humour throughout temper the intensity of the subject matter to soothe and suit particularly the younger middle grade audience but much treasure is there if you scratch beneath the surface.

Book cover for The Maker Of Monsters
Illustrated by Meg Hunt Book design by Holly Fulbrook

Brat is tired and worried. His master spends his time reanimating hybrid monsters to exact his revenge and they are getting out of control.

So out of control that his newest creation Wrath kills Lord Macawber but not before he can instruct Brat and his rag tag pair of reject monster friends to flee to the city with his magical locket- there they must find his lost daughter who is the only one capable of stopping ALL the monsters, but it will cost Brat everything.

What if they try again? What if I can’t stop them next time? It’s been seven years now since he began making monsters and I’m so tired of being afraid all the time.

As mentioned, The Maker Of Monsters draws on a rich literary tradition but it still feels fresh and a story to both appeal and speak to children to think about what it means to be human.

A clear comparison is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the ethics of bringing creatures to life. It follows the questions of the choices of bodies to reanimate with suggestions of different dangerous creatures in the same way as Frankenstein’s monster is presumed to be evil due to being made from the stolen corpses of criminals- but equally the mirror is held up to the Maker as who is the true monster.

Equally we see inspiration from HG Wells’ The Island Of Dr Moreau with a disgraced scholar performing experiments on animals in an isolated environment which is ethically abhorrent and goes terribly wrong with a creation killing the Maker. However Gregory casts Macawber not as a scientist intent on humanising animals as Moreau was, but instead to ‘diabolise’ animals to build an unbeatable army to destroy his enemy.

We are outcasts… they have convinced themselves we are worthless trash who lie and cheat and can’t be trusted. It makes it easier for them to throw us out.

There are also hints of contemporary ecological fantasy, modern dystopia and fantasy with the controlling dictator Lord Karush, a land spoiled by Magical wars and Outcast communities living on wits and knife edges.

Yet this feels new and exciting at the same time- I love when there is a recognisable rich heritage behind books-partially because it can help transpose the same questions and dilemmas accessible to children’s minds. Gregory has taken the best, the excitement and the wonder from older fantasy- horror and cranked a high octane pace yet still manages to craft a world teeming with rich detail and palpable culture.

‘And when the sun rises and the tide lowers once more, they’ll die. All of them. and it will be my fault…I’ve been a fool.Helping him with his plan, believing his lies, thinking I could stop him, imagining he would ever care about me.

Brat is a wonderfully raw and complex character aching to be loved, his fears at a height and self worth at rock bottom yet he musters the courage to march into the unknown to save the world in the absolute knowledge that if he succeeds it will take everything from him.

His sense of duty and absolute goodness is a counterpoint to the bloodlust and wanton warmongering of the monsters. The strength he has to achieve his task is inspiring even when injured and frightened he finds the strength to face it and carry on.

Of course sometimes his new friend Molly is there. Molly is a spitfire of a girl and I love the platonic bond between the two which grows into family. As an Outcast she has grit from surviving a hard life and a fighting spirit that lifts and encourages Brat that someone like her could believe in and support him. their dynamic is a wonderful feature of the story.

Tingle biscuit
Sherman biscuit
Tingle biscuit
Sherman biscuit!
‘Stop arguing about biscuits!’ I snap… ‘Come on then give me one of those biscuits.’ I tell Tingle and Sherman
They turn around and stare at me guiltily crumbs clustered round their mouths.

Tingle and Sherman add much comic relief from the darkness and potential horror of Wrath and the other monsters enraged by both their existence and captivity but also begs the deeper question of what makes a monster.

Tingle and Sherman are ‘failed’ or reject monsters left to die yet rescued by Brat as he himself once was by Macawber which is how he came to live on the island. Sherman’s cumbersomeness could lead Brat to their death with the pair reminding me at times of the song ‘He ain’t Heavy, he’s my brother’ whereas Tingle is joyful and childlike a ball of cuddles devoted to Brat and playfully teasing Sherman.

Overall, Gregory has crafted a wonderful novel here from the different ‘Igor’ perspective and it it’s depth is testament to its labour of love. A tightly paced and frenetic quest to save the world from monsters with twists abound it truly explores the human condition and will leave thoughts in your head and it’s warmth in your heart. Thoroughly and heartfully recommended.

The Maker Of Monsters by Lorraine Gregory is published by OUP. I received this book through a review scheme this has not affected my opinion.

8 thoughts on “The Maker Of Monsters-Lorraine Gregory

    1. This one is accessible at the younger end even though it is dark and scary it has a puppet like creature (Tingle) who it’s just dawned on me reminds me of a character from Bear in the Big Blue House which is a Jim Henson puppet, but super sweet.
      It’s dark, it’s desperately sad in places especially as things dawn on you but is still a fast pacey romp exhilarating is a good word with an impending sense of doom. It’s one that will lead me to read Mold too
      I love it because it reminds me of classic horror I read in my youth.

      Liked by 1 person

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