Monkey Around by Jadie Jang: Review

I was lucky enough to be given an ARC for Monkey Around which is a debut novel for Jadie Jang (Claire Light). I say I was lucky because one thing I love reading are debut novels. As a reviewer it gives me the opportunity to read a new style, a new story and to help get the word out there for a new writer. There is always a buzz around new novels too and when you can find one you like, it becomes a new favourite book.

Some information about this book:

  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Release date: August 3rd 2021
  • Page count: 405
  • Series: Standalone
Book Cover

With Monkey Around I was really excited to read it specifically because I find Asian culture really interesting, fascinating at times and the fact this book’s main character is essentially The Monkey King of legend was a real pull. I wanted to see how Jadie was going to put a historical legend like TMK into modern-day.

The story itself follows a barista, activist and supernat (super-natural person) called Maya as she carries out work for one Ayo Espinosa in the bay area of San Francisco. Ayo has a coffee shop which is effectively a sanctuary for supernats where they can be themselves away from humans. In this story, supernats all seem to be shapeshifters, not essentially X-Men like characters or powers. Behind this coffee shop, away from prying eyes, is where any other ‘off the books’ business gets completed and Maya is tasked early on to locate a person who has fallen in with a gang to spite her older brother, who wants her back safely.

The story sees Maya try to balance her own responsibilities with her work, a magazine she is working on and her activism, alongside this new rescue/investigator gig. As the story gets deeper Maya gets into more and more danger as supernats start getting killed by something un-explainable. Maya has to work out what is going on and stop it or she could be the next victim.

This story has a lot of little bits going on within it and certainly has some good parts. There are various supernats which come from various religions or cultures and play a part in this story. This is interesting because you are told what they are or where they come from although the different names for them may take some getting used to. There is a small amount of romance in the story (which I don’t really mind) although not ever fully explored (not completely anyway) and there is the magic of the Monkey King (maybe this should be Monkey Queen). The story itself is actually a really cool idea and felt unique.

I really liked the shapeshifting that occurs. Set in a modern-day SF I found it appealing, creative, fresh and original. For all we know shapeshifters are real and they live among us… This book realises that and makes it actual. I felt that the powers afforded to Maya were, in the context of this story, way too strong and found that apart from that one thing, she was never really in danger and when she was in danger I seldom felt that she might actually receive any permanent damage which rendered the danger of said ‘thing’ not scary.

The action in this book is great, fast paced but very light. Characters fight, shapeshift and throw one another across streets and into vehicles. You won’t be finding anything grim-dark in here but then looking at the cover for the book you shouldn’t be expecting it. It serves its purpose, which it does do well enabling the progression of the storyline and character arcs.

The characters in this story are fleshed out enough to not feel completely wooden but the only one I really connected with was Maya. Her balancing of the various issues she had plus monkey were always at the forefront of the story and that’s obviously a good thing considering she is the voice of the story (written in first person) – I just wished I rooted for more characters.

To conclude, as I said before I like to help push new author’s work – I feel that Monkey Around is a good urban fantasy book that people will like. I think the people that would like this book are ones who don’t want Abercrombie, Sanderson, Eriksen or their like. This is for the beach days, the sit by the pool days and the wrap up in a blanket and chill days. This is an ideal story for casual readers. A fun story that closes off everything it starts but is maybe lacking for readers who want maximum fleshed out worlds, deep conflict or creative magic systems.

Rating 3/5 – Grab the book on your Kindle and enjoy in your favourite place, smiling as Maya takes you around San Francisco dodging bullets and more shady things.

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