Published by the now defunct Strange Chemistry but you can get copies for your Kindle or even print copies off Amazon.
“Sometimes bad things need to be reminded they’re not the only ones who can bite.”
Today in the World of Word Craft post, you get to read Eliza Crewe’s thoughts on her craft and today I will talk to you about a Monster Girl who is very close to my heart. I, of course, am talking about no other than Meda, the protagonist of Crewe’s Soul Eater trilogy, the first two of which were released by Strange Chemistry before they went defunct. But the they are all as available as self-published books so nothing will hinder you from reading the trilogy if you wish. And by the time I’m done with this review, I hope you will wish.
First though, the synopsis of the first one which is an excellent example of what a synopsis should be:
Meet Meda. She eats people.
Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She’s special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can’t help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.
They can do what she can do. They’re like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.
Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.
The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.
In Yash’s post last week, she talked about the different kinds of Monster Girls that exist in YA fiction. From the synopsis, you probably can tell that Meda is the kind that is born a monster. And not just any kind of monster, mind you. She’s the kind of monster that often needs holy water and priests with dubious morals to exorcise. No, I’m not using the D word but it is very nearly implied. If this were any other YA novel, she’d be the bad guy–heck, even in this book, Meda straddles the fence between good and bad leaning toward the bad side because that side is natural to her. Also, I’m not sure if this matters, but she’s funny.
“I study the little creature in front of me. What is it about these dwarfish little humans? They lack smarts, lack skills and they never seem to have much money. Yet they are powerful little monsters – adults dance to the tunes played by their chubby little fingers. Is it the disproportionately big head? Or the eyes too big for that head? Did I have this effect on my own mother? Was that why she believed in my goodness, despite all evidence to the contrary?
Suddenly the lower lip pokes out and the eyes grow even bigger. I feel a tug in the region where my heart should be… I want to give it things…
Ahhhhhh! Look away! Look away! Evil, ensnaring, hypnotic monster.
Just kidding, but it is kind of cute. I feed it a cracker.”
Crewe creates Meda as an anti-hero who is a whole world of trouble but is made up of equal parts of vulnerability and snark. Her moral compass is skewed but can you really blame her? Her mother was her lone ally and after she dies, Meda has no one and nothing except her instincts to guide her. She needs to eat souls to survive so she eats them but as a compromise, she only focuses her Hunger on those who wear a veneer of humanity to hide their horrific proclivities.
When Meda is ‘saved’ from the other monsters (or Soul Eaters who, for reasons she doesn’t understand, what to kill her) by ‘Crusaders,’ people dedicated to keeping the world clean of demons (I said the D word) and who don’t seem to realize she is one of the beings they kill, Meda decides to accompany them because hey, she’s bored. And she kinda likes being safe. So she goes with them and meets Chi, the demon-slayer with a hero complex and Jo, who is physically disabled and has a chip the size of the Antarctica on her shoulder.
“Like any fatherless child, I’ve wondered about the man responsible for the glory that is me. Needless to say, it’s disappointing to learn he’s the kind who’d probably eat his young.”
Meda has mommy and daddy issues because who doesn’t? Though in her case, the mommy and daddy issues are a bit more complex and imperative than the normal being faces. Meda’s mom was a crusader while her father is a demon so Meda has conflicting urges in her. (This is not a spoiler.)
Meda’s story won me over for many reasons but the major reason is its emphasis on friendship. Though initially presented as a typical romance between the dude with the hero-complex (Chi) and Meda, the romance is actually not a central plot. Or rather, Meda is not one of the players in the romance story. It is Chi and the very reluctant Jo who have chemistry while Meda simply likes looking at Chi. It’s the progression of the friendship between Jo and Meda that is the most satisfying relationship in the story.
“I’m pretty sure Jo couldn’t talk about the weather without somehow including a threat. Forecast today: cloudy with a chance I’ll kick your ass.”
As Jo is also dealing with being physically imperfect among colleagues for whom physical fitness is a necessity in order to slay demons, she has a prickly shell. Also, she’s jealous of Meda and the ease with which Meda gets along with Chi. Crewe spends time in the first novel developing their friendship so that Meda has a friend–something she has never had before.
The second book subverts expectations and romantic tropes as well with the introduction of a love interest for Meda. How she deals with him and the temptations he offers coupled with the deterioration of her relationship with Jo who expects Meda to be someone she isn’t makes for grand reading. Jo and Meda’s friendship remains the prominent relationship in book two and it is so fascinating to see friendship change and be challenged.
Meda confronts the monster in her and comes up with solutions that may not be expected but are entirely true to her nature–monstrous and all. I loved that Meda accepts her monstrousness and though people try to shame her nature, she doesn’t let them get her down. Too much. She finds friends and finds a cause to fight for.
“Death is my art form–when I fight, I’m a ballerina. Graceful. Chi lacks my grace, but makes up for it in energy and enthusiasm. His fighting style is like breakdancing–strong and frenetic with some really sweet moves. Jo’s is . . .the Macarena. Ugly but gets the job done.”
And she doesn’t lose her charm or humour while fighting. If you like Monster Girls with a lot of heart, you should get your hands immediately on Cracked. You won’t regret it, I promise.