Read my review of the previous book in the Monsters & Mayhem series, Lightning Born by Sam Burns.
Though this book is advertised as a dark romance, horror-retelling, et cetera, it really isn’t. The book opens with classic jungle adventure vibes combined with a healthy dose of modern chemistry, and anyone who doesn’t enjoy science can sympathize with the situation that Kittisak has found himself in. After all, he’s only a college student who’s taken on an absurd assignment to pass a class, but he didn’t also sign up to get lost in the jungle. Hiers creates a powerful scenario that makes me concerned for the main character without delving into unnecessary creepiness, which does a lot to set up the curiosity Kittisak feels for Shu rather than immediate fear or revulsion.
This transitions to a storyline that emphasizes both Shu’s alien and familiar aspects as he cares for Kittisak and their interesting relationship strengthens. Yes, there is titillating monster spiciness, but this story also takes on excellent cultural exploration with some well-done real-world touches. For example, Kittisak assumes Shu’s language is completely foreign, while knowledgeable readers will recognize the sprinkle of Portuguese words that make sense considering the Amazonian location.
By the time I was completely invested in this book, I’d rather forgotten that there was supposed to be anything dark or horrific about it. Transfer Kittisak a few hundred years in the future and stick him on an alien planet, and this would be indistinguishable from a fun science-fiction human/alien love story. Hiers also pleasantly surprised me with the delightfully happy ending, for both Shu and Kittisak and the scientific discovery that originally launched the adventure.