Reviewed by Ziqi Yue
The Monster Apprenticeis a fantasy novel that explores the themes of courage, friendship and love. Written by Felicity Banks, a Canberra author specializing in fantasy and interactive fiction, the text includes captivating descriptions of mythical creatures, pirates, conflict and a young girl’s quest to save her home.
The Monster Apprenticetells a story that a girl named Dance, who lives in an ice island with her family and friends. When pirates come to the island, and the people are frightened because they have no way to fight, Dance decision to try to save her home sends her on a journey of courage, survival and personal growth.
While the conflict with the pirates – who attempt to invade the island – is a main plotline of this story, it creates a backdrop of the reader to observe the Dance’s ability to thrive in the most brutal of circumstances. Furthermore, the plot also focuses on Dance’s change and growth during the process. Like so many other teenagers, she has some conflict with her parents and wants to prove herself to them. The relationship between Dance and her friends are always changing as well. While everyone has their own secrets, they still love each other and attempt to maintain their friendships. Young readers, especially, will be able to resonate with the plot as it mirror’s so many elements of young adulthood.
One moment of the book that I personally empathized with was a conversation between Dance and her dad; after she has broken her neighbor’s window. Rather than being allowed to escape punishment, her father states: ‘This is where I tell you that you’ll be paying for it yourself. In full.’ This is exactly what adults do: take responsibility for their own behavior; regardless of their intent. It reminded me of my own parents, who have said the same words to me.
Banks’ writing, within this novel, is both beautiful and vivid. ‘The night air was hot and still. My sheets lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. At the open window my curtains hung in unmoving black lines. No wind slid through to ease the stifling heat. My long black hair felt heavy around my head. I didn’t dare move.’ Furthermore, Banks showed the intelligence of a seasoned author to portray Dance’s emotions and inner thoughts.; like nervousness and anxiety. She clearly made a conscious effort to ensure the reader absorbs the humanness of Dance. Like Dance, we have all grown up with parental love and the company of friends. The things we meet, and the memories we make along the way, decide who we are. We might not face the same fantastical struggles as Dance, but we have all felt the same heartbreak, conflict and bravery she felt between the pages of The Monster’s Apprentice.