SPSFC Finalist Review: Monster of the Dark by K.T. Belt

We’ve made it to the finals of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC), and six of the seven finalists are new reads for my judging team. The farther we get into the competition, the more highly recommended each book comes–each of the seven has been hand-picked out of a 30-book slush pile by one of the ten judging teams, and each fell in the top quarter of a semifinal round consisting entirely of the books that had been hand-picked by those first-round judging teams. Every book we read from here out has multiple other bloggers singing its praises. But, as we saw with the previous two rounds, we still bring a variety of interests, likes, and dislikes to the table, and a book hitting with one reader doesn’t always mean it will hit with everyone. Along with our scores–which will be averaged with the nine other judging teams to determine the winner–we’ve done our best to explain what we like or dislike about any given book, but it’s up to the readers to try to extrapolate from our tastes to their own tastes.

Today we’ll be looking at a coming-of-age novel in the midst of a brutal organization for training young Clairvoyants: Monster of the Dark by K.T. Belt.

Jay’s Review and Rating

It’s no secret that fear of war is the animating concern driving the series that opens with Monster of the Dark, and the book appears to set the stage for a conflict that I expect to happen in the second book. But if war is to be the main theme, the training-centric first book is merely prologue. And–even setting aside the wisdom of opening a series with an extended introduction–it doesn’t really work as a prologue. I could perhaps understand it as a prequel, allowing superfans the chance to see the origin story of an established heroine. But without enough context to pin down the motivations of Carmen’s handlers, the entire training sequence seems confused and disjointed. And that makes for an inconsistent origin story that produces a few quality scenes but generally makes it hard to invest in what’s coming next. 

Jay has rated Monster of the Dark 4/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Esme’s Review and Rating

Esme Did Not Attempt Monster of the Dark.

Lilyn’s Review and Rating

This felt like training montage extended to the limits of endurance and then a few tottering steps beyond that. All of the characters felt like cardboard versions of what they were meant to be. The plot was…well, see the montage comment. There was so much fighting and death and yet it read extremely tepid. While the writing was generally easy to read there was some very clumsy phrasing that happened fairly frequently. I was never able to get immersed in the story, nor was I able to care about the characters. Definitely not for me.

Lilyn has rated Monster of the Dark 3/10.

Bill’s Review and Rating

Monster of the Dark moves at a rapid pace and, contrary to some other critics, I found the characters interesting, though ultimately frustrating as well. The MC is struggling with a war between her humanity and the pull of The Dark (which does not mean evil) within her. I think. She’s struggling with something, but the exact expression from her and her teachers is a bit too muddled. I’ll also note that she interacts with a significant other female character about halfway through the book and suddenly we get lots of sentences like “She barely heard her, since, as soon as she finished speaking, her fist was rocketing toward her chest.” And yet I did find it a very quick story that kept moving forward in a compelling manner. I would not read the sequel – but it was a close thing.
Bill has rated Monster of the Dark 6/10.

Tracy’s Review and Rating

Tracy Did Not Attempt Monster of the Dark.

Official Scores

Jay 4
Esme DNA
Lilyn 3
Bill 6
Tracy DNA
Team 4.33

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *