Title: Monarch of the Glen
Author: Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Published: 8th November 2016
Synopsis: We first meet Baldur ‘Shadow’ Moon’s in AMERICAN GODS, where he gets caught up in a war between gods in the USA. In THE MONARCH OF THE GLEN, Shadow’s journey has brought him to the north coast of Scotland, where he finds himself a bouncer at a party.
Shadow Moon has been away from America for nearly two years. His nights are broken with dangerous dreams. Sometimes he almost believes he doesn’t care if he ever returns home. In the Highlands of Scotland, where the sky is pale white and it feels as remote as any place can possibly be, the beautiful and wealthy gather at a grand old house in the glen. And when the strange local doctor offers him work at a party, Shadow is intrigued. He knows there is no good reason for him to be there? So what do they want with him?
Neil Gaiman revisits the world of American Gods in this short novella, revolving around Shadow and his ongoing journey, battling monsters and gods, and many other aspects of life beyond the confines of what the rest of the world knows. Shadow’s journey has taken him from America to Europe and now, to Scotland, where the job from the mysterious doctor at a strange, remote gathering for many wealthy people, organised by Mr. Alice, and taken to the place my a Mr. Smith. Shadow is unsure of what awaits him, thinking he is there for security or another job. But what awaits him, and the decision he must make, is more terrifying and stranger than he could ever have imagined, even after what he has been through.
The black and white, mostly line illustrations by Daniel Egnéus add to the atmosphere of the story – they represent the characters in a way that isn’t idealistic or perfect – to show that their imperfections on the outside. Whilst the words hint to their inner imperfections and flaws, the secrets they hide and their true intentions, and allow the reader to enjoy the story through the words and visual representations of the characters.
Neil Gaiman’s work covers a wide range of characters and stories, taking the reader into a world that they know but at the same time, is unfamiliar, and uncertain at times – speaking to the fairy tales and myths that have been told and retold for many generations – and reinventing them for a new audience. Having read a few of Neil’s previous novels, I am used to his style and characters. For those who enjoy urban fantasy, fantasy and in a way, magical realism, these books, and indeed Monarch of the Glen, are wonderful reads. Gaiman’s stories do not sugarcoat the reality of the worlds he creates – he shows the good, the bad and the grey, and his characters are complex and the kind that are not predictable, who face challenges and decisions they’re not sure what to do about. Shadow is one of these characters. Another great Neil Gaiman to add to the collection.