Tiffany Noboru doesn’t think she needs the childish talismans her parents left around her room to protect her from the things that go bump in the night. She learns how wrong she is when she is attacked and wakes up in a strange room with wings. She died and is now a gargoyle with the duty to protect the living. With many questions and few answers, she must figure out why she died and how to get home while dealing with a mentor more interested in chasing ghosts than teaching her, a dormitory of girls who taunt more than tutor, and a ghost who want to destroy them all.
I don’t generally write reviews of novels, but I have a soft spot in my heart for gargoyles. So when I was offered the opportunity to read a novel about gargoyles for review, I decided I’d give it a try. While I’m not the target audience, I found Girlgoyle to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The story starts in an unusual place; the death of the protagonist Tiffany Noboru. She is fourteen-years-old at the time of her demise, and very much the awkward teen. She is uncomfortable with her appearance, especially now that she has wings, and doesn’t want to be noticed or embarrassed. Unfortunately her poor flying gets her both. She has always felt small and considers her size and lack of physical strength a weakness. But what she lacks in muscles, she more than makes up for in determination, or more often stubbornness. No matter how difficult things get for her, she doesn’t give up. She’s shown to be smart, capable, compassionate and independent.
This is a good thing, since from the moment Tiffany enters the gargoyle world, she is given barely any explanation of where she is, what’s going on, or why she even there. She gets thrown into the world and is left to flounder by both the girls in her barracks who are supposed to help her assimilate, and her mentor, Franklin, who is obsessed with a ghost called Bones. He takes Tiffany on dangerous excursions topside, breaking rules left and right, but with no reason why. She finds a friend in Hedika, a higher rank girl who doesn’t have a mentor and is ostracized by the other girls. But for most of the book, she, and by extension the reader, is left wondering what is going on.
This is the book’s biggest weakness. It is the first book in a series, in a completely new world. While there is some world building shown through Tiffany’s experiences, this book could have really used some strategic info dumping. I know writers like to steer away from too much exposition, but having too little can be just as problematic. If this story had been written in an already established world, or in the real world, it would be as necessary. But with the few revelations that were given, I found I had more questions than the book answered.
The plot does hit some of the standard points seen in young adult novels now. The protagonist not fitting in at first. The clique of girls who harass more than help. The protagonist getting the whole group in trouble, and then saving the day in the end.
These elements are minor to the over all story. The characters really carry the it through its slower moments. They are well-developed and relatable, and most were quite likable. Franklin, Hedika and Duke, a retired Sentinel friend of Franklin’s, make a great team. Once the story gets past the introduction of the characters and Tiffany’s situation, the story ramps up. There is a lot of action, including a big fight at the end with big-bad Bones, but even before that, the story was a real page turner, and I had a hard time putting it down.
Girlgoyle is illustrated with art work by artist Miimork. Her work has a distinct look and a manga-esque style that fits well with the writing. While I did have some issues with some details (or lack thereof), they are minor and easily rectified, hopefully in the next book. The world that Better Hero Army has created is a fascinating on, well worth exploring. The story is well suited for its tween-to-teen audience, and some good scary moments. Over all I found Girlgoyle to be fun and a thrilling ride, one I would encourage others to join in.
Review copy provided by author