4 of 5 stars The Monster of Elendhaven, Jennifer Giesbrecht's debut novella, is not for the fainthearted. However, while it contains dark themes, the shorter length keeps it on the tolerably terrifying end of the horror spectrum. If you gobble it up in one sitting like I did, it reads like a beautifully transcribed nightmare.

In a novella, every word has to count toward building character, plot, and mood. Giesbrecht's storytelling is bare-boned yet atmospheric, her dialogue as cutting as her characters' knives and scalpels. The Monster of Elendhaven builds a house of cards whose foundation is the unhealthy, codependent relationship between Elendhaven's self-proclaimed monster and a sadistic magician bent on destruction.

A personal note: While reading, I kept drawing parallels between The Monster of Elendhaven and Emily Tesh's Silver in the Wood that released this summer. Both are debut novellas featuring queer relationships and both are steeped in magic. In most other respects, they're opposites: death versus life; destruction versus growth. A relationship that festers versus one that blooms. But both are incredible stories and both authors are ones I'll be watching eagerly for future releases. content warnings: murder, rape, body horror, self-harm


The cake is vanilla sponge sandwiched with vanilla bean cheesecake and cherry coulis “blood.”

For the cake (recipe adapted from Preppy Kitchen)

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 4 egg whites, room temperature

  • 4 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2/3 cup sour cream, room temperature

  • 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature

For the cheesecake

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

For the cherry filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch

  • pinch salt

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 4 cups fresh tart red cherries or 4 cups frozen unsweetened tart red cherries, pitted

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