Monkey Around by Jadie Jang: Review

Sun Wukong (The Monkey King) is in San Francisco! Shapeshifters, gangbangers and a whole bunch of super-natural stuff is going down in this new book by debut author Jadie Jang!

I was given an ARC (Advanced Review Copy/Advanced Reader Copy) by Rebellion Publishing in return for an honest review of this book which you will find below.

Some information about this book:

  • Release date: August 3rd 2021 (US) / August 5th 2021 (UK)
  • Published by: Solaris (Rebellion)
  • Pages: 407
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Series: Standalone

Blurb:

San Francisco has a Monkey King – and she’s kinda freaked out.

Barista, activist, and were-monkey Maya McQueen was well on her way to figuring herself out. Well, part of the way. 25% of the way. If you squint.

But now the Bay Area is being shaken up. Occupy Wall Street has come home to roost; and on the supernatural side there’s disappearances, shapeshifter murders, and the city’s spirit trying to find its guardian.

Maya doesn’t have a lot of time before chaos turns up at her door, and she needs to solve all of her problems. Well, most of them. The urgent ones, anyhow.

But who says the solutions have to be neat? Because Monkey is always out for mischief.

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Very colourful cover, looks great!

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.

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 but have the ability to change into an animal. Behind this coffee shop though, 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.

We follow Maya a she tries to balance her own responsibilities with 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 while completing her task of rescuing a missing person.

This story has a lot of little bits going on within it and has some great 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. The amount of lore explored here is really cool and really opens your eyes to how vibrant and different the city and characters are. 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 very unique. The modern-day retelling of The Monkey King has been done well.

I really liked the shapeshifting that occurs throughout this story. 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 via the fact that she is the Monkey King were very strong and made her a very competent protagonist. I would personally have liked to see the danger for her turned up a bit more in certain parts of this story.

The action in this book is great and fast paced. Characters fight, shapeshift and throw one another across streets and into vehicles. The action does a great job of enabling the progression of the storyline and character arcs whilst simultaneously providing world-building of a real place since not everyone will have been to SF.

The characters in this story are quirky and have their own different personalities. Maya was the stand out character though, her balancing of the various issues she had plus monkey in her mind 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 of the characters on a deeper level.

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 story that readers of fantasy/urban fantasy will enjoy. I think the people that would like this book the most are those who don’t want huge tomes by the likes of Abercrombie, Sanderson, Eriksen or their ilk. This book is perfect for someone who wants to read something fun and lively. This story will make you laugh and smile while turning the page to see what’s going to happen next to The Monkey King of San Francisco or her friends.

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

If you like science fiction and fantasy books then consider joining The Oasis Discord here – it’s free and has a great community, buddy reads, community reads and much more!

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