Monster Slayers, by Lukas Ritter

Monster Slayers, by Lukas Ritter (Wizards of the Coast, 2010, middle grade, 249 pages)

Evin longs to leave his village--longs to put his Rougish skills to the test and to become a heroic slayer of monsters. When he watches from the edge of the forest as his village is overrun by gnolls, who set the buildings alight and kidnap the its inhabitants, it seems like his chance might have come. He and his friend Jorick (who dreams of becoming a great swordsman), the only two left free, set off to save their friends and family. Their path brings them to a young elf wizard, a girl named Betilivatis, whose helpful book, A Practical Guide to Monsters, and even more helpful magical abilities, enable them to reach the underground chambers where the villagers have been imprisoned....

But things aren't quite adding up in Evin's mind. Betilivatis seems to be hiding secrets, something very odd seems to have happened to the villagers, and the motivations of the gnolls seem far stranger than one might expect. And even stranger still, Evin begins to be tormented by the feeling that he himself might not be the person he thinks he is....

What began as a straightforward, very Dungeons and Dragons-like adventure turns into a much more twisty tale, as Evin and his companions begin to question everything they have taken for granted, and find out that the true enemy is much more dangerous than just a few monsters....

And so, what seemed to me at first a perfectly adequate middle grade adventure, fine for kids, but not much more than that, ended up catching and holding my attention. I wouldn't go so far as to urge adult fans of mg sff to seek this one out, but I'd happily recommend this to the kid whose beginning to take an interest in Dungeons and Dragons, and any kid who enjoys a fun fantasy adventure. I think it would be pretty perfect for the kid who enjoyed, for instance, the Dragon Slayer Academy books, and is ready for something a bit more challenging in a similar vein.

Wizards of the Coast, the folks who bring us Dungeons and Dragons, as well as D. and D. inspired books such as this, have created an introductory on-line D. and D. adventure, The Heroes of Hesiod, for kids 6 and up, which is based on this book. My own older son has been asking me to play D. and D. with him, and I think I will point him here....

And here's an interview with Lukas Ritter at Nina Hess.

Note on age: There is violence, and there are tense moments, but the gore is not lavish, and the tension not so scary as to cause bad dreams. It's a generously spaced book, too, and the vocabulary is not particularly daunting, making it a good one for the not quite so confident younger middle grade reader.

(disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at ALA this summer)


  1. Thanks for the review! Glad to hear you liked the book.

  2. Hmm. This sounds quite interesting, and a bit like D.M. Cornish for a younger crowd. The cover art even looks a little like his style. (Or maybe I'm just really excited for Factotum's release.)

  3. mmmm....I don't think I'd go as far as to say that, Maureen...This book is so much simpler in its world-building that it doesn't come close. It's pleasant enough for an undemanding reader, but not nearly as sophisticated as Cornish.

  4. I had reserved this one from the library, but had to return it unread. Looks like - one of these days, at least - I should maybe track it down again. Thanks for the review!

  5. Okay--it must have been the feverish anticipation talking, then. :)


Free Blog Counter

Button styles