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The Monster by Garth Nix & Sean Williams

Jaide and Jack Shield have a secret. When they’re unexpectedly sent to live with their mysterious Grandma X, they’re thrust into a world where cats talk and strange weather comes out of nowhere. There they learn that they’re troubletwisters, with powers they must use to stop the Evil from taking over our world.

Before, they’d defeated the Evil through luck and intuition. Now though, Jaide and Jack will have to learn how to use their powers, and how to keep on their toes when evil forces return.

I think this series is improving: the action is better in this instalment, and the story flows more smoothly. The main premise behind The Monster is intriguing, and it’s definitely executed better than Troubletwisters, but I would have liked to see a discussion of the nature of The Evil and why the Wardens need to exist. I think the authors are still underestimating their audience, because the book is filled with simple dialogue and endless repetition of the simplest of concepts (although it could be argued that the protagonists need it, because of their brashness).

There are several things that disturb me about the protagonists. For one, they are convinced that they know better than everyone around them. I know kids are usually like that, but in this case, there are no repercussions for their constant disobedience and general bad behaviour, and they never really get into trouble for deliberately circumventing their grandmother’s instructions and warnings. Jaide, in particular, makes some bad decisions in this book – first accusing an innocent person of being evil and refusing to pursue other theories even when it became clear that she was wrong, and then sticking her nose into Kleo’s business even though her help was neither wanted nor necessary. Jaide starts worrying that how all she wants to do is help, but no one lets her, and it quickly descends into whining.

None of those things are helped by the tendency of the adults, especially Grandmother X, to keep things from the kids even though it was obvious that they knew something was wrong. All it did was prompt them to investigate on their own, and led to a bigger mess for the adults to clean up. Surely, if all younger generations of Wardens are so trouble-prone they’re called troubletwisters, someone would have figured out that it might be better to tell them some things.

It also perplexes me that, for all their insatiable curiosity and tendency to dig up secrets, the twins still haven’t thought about throw-away comments like “Wardens are always born as twins”, and “one will always fall”. Especially when no other seemingly idle comment escapes their attention, and they have wild theories about everything else. It just seems a bit silly that they are ignoring what’s staring them right in the face.

While definitely more enjoyable and finessed than the previous book, The Monster is still plagued by flat characters and a predictable plot. Nix and Williams seem almost hesitant with this series, as if they can’t write it the way they want to, so it comes across as stunted and unsatisfying. I’m really hoping the next books picks the series up, although I don’t have the highest hopes.

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