‘It’s a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. But very few people know that all monsters come from a person’s last sigh.’
Monsters have come from attics, cellars, bridges and tunnels to convene in ‘The Hole’ deep under the earth’s surface for Hatching Day. A day of celebration when monsters gather to see the new borns crack the shell of their dark eggs and emerge into their monstrous world.
Not only do they gather to witness the event but also to claim their own kind. It’s always a time of excitement but this time Thunderguts – the Ogre King and largest of all monsters – is expecting something special to be born.
All gathered are stunned when what looks to be a human boy emerges. The result of elderly Samuel’s last sigh combining with his 10-week-old granddaughters first laugh – this creature is an unprecedented mix of both good and bad.
Thunderguts is determined to have this creature for himself – for his own reasons but when the chaos and excitement of Hatching Day causes him to be lost amongst the crowd it’s a bunch of gargoyles – Wheedle, Bladder and Spigot, that welcome the boy as one of their own.
Up in the city, the hybrid monster that they refer to as ‘Imp’ finds there’s a lot to learn and sleep, hunger and other human-like needs often hold him back but he is also in possession of acute hearing, sight and the ability to empathise and feel human emotions.
When Thunderguts tracks him to the spires that the gargoyles inhabit ‘Imp’ must abandon his new family and set out alone. Soon he finds himself exactly where he began in the middle of the Kavanagh family who embrace him when they recognise the late Samuel’s spirit in him.
He feels at once at home and out of place. It isn’t until he inadvertently brings danger into the house and a great tragedy occurs that he comes to realise just how important belonging really is and that despite pressure to behave a particular way, you always have a choice.
T.C. Shelley has created a richly layered world above and below ground, with truly moving characters. The story covers themes of family, loyalty, choice and belonging and it hurtles along at a fast-pace.
It’s clear that T. C. Shelley has a passion for folklore and fairy tales that has been put to good use in this first book of a deeply magical fantasy trilogy for 9+ readers.
T.C. Shelley studied Creative Writing and Literature at university. She has been teaching English for over twenty years and her first school was classified as the most remote in Australia. She loves an audience and long before she took up teaching was writing and performing her poetry and short stories. She began writing novels to entertain her daughter, who wisely suggested that she try to get them published. Shelley lives with her husband, her daughter and two dogs in Perth, Western Australia. The Monster Who Wasn’t is her first novel.