Elle Reads, Of Monsters & Men

OF MONSTERS AND MEN // part two: let’s get post-apocalyptic (series review)

This installment brings us to a niche that will make you wish for more—gay monster romance set in the post-apocalypse. Aside from m+m romance and monsters, I’m also a huge fan of the Fallout franchise, so Lily Mayne’s Monstrous series ticks A LOT of boxes for me.

I initially read the first book, SOUL EATER, early in 2021 and the second book, EDIN, hadn’t come out at the time; then I got busy with other shit and never circled back to continue the series. As of this review there are currently four books in the series, all of which are covered for this post, with more on the way!

SOUL EATER (MONSTROUS #1) by Lily Mayne

Review: In this series, the apocalypse’s inciting incident occurs when an existential plane of monsters overlaps with the human plane, leaving the known world overrun with horrifying creatures that force most humans to shrink to cities or military compounds. Book one is the story of Danny, who’s been told all his life that monsters are obviously Bad; yet in the midst of being spared by one who’s noted for cross-country mass murder, Danny begins to Question Everything. And Danny really questions everything when he discovers exactly what drives Wyn to kill.

Wyn the Soul Eater could be argued as more supernatural being than monster, but anything not originating from the human realm is considered a monster. And as the worldbuilding shows us, there ain’t just one kind of monster with a capital M. Some are parasites that infect humans to reproduce, some are likely better than humans on the spectrum of compassion, and some are living bullet sponges that live only to consume. Wyn, of course, is the sort who invites a human to tag along with him across the Wastes and makes sure his human is fed and watered and gets enough sleep and is a little insecure about his monstrous appearance, which he hides beneath a hood throughout most of the story; but, as illustrated very early in the book, he is the military’s #1 enemy because of his bullet immunity and his ability to mow down humans, seemingly without hesitation.

This was a re-read for me but it was good to get back into this world and the characters and remember why I enjoyed this book so much. It definitely asks the question “What is a monster, truly?” and proceeds to examine it thoroughly.

Steam: Oh, you’re gonna get some steam. Once it starts it doesn’t really let up and for me personally that is fantastic. Not to mention when you find out what the Soul Eater is packing… 🔥🥵

Content Tags: monstrous but misunderstood, I’ll destroy the world for you, monster dick > corrupt military

Length: Novel

BUY HERE: Amazon (Available for KU)


EDIN (MONSTROUS #2) by Lily Mayne

Review: Edin shows up as a side character in SOUL EATER, and if you read that book and didn’t immediately fall in love with the big purple beefcake who can re-grow limbs and probably gives the best hugs, I’m not sure what to tell you.

EDIN also centers around military members—namely two soldiers, Hunter and Charlie, who arrive at the Nebraska military base from SOUL EATER some time after Wyn’s escape frees all the captive creatures. As Hunter and Charlie head to another base in Tennessee, Charlie is captured by monsters, and in the process of trying to save him, Hunter finds himself stuck in a sinkhole, clinging to a rusty pipe. He’s eventually saved by Edin—a large, purple monster with horns and a prehensile tail. Edin seems knowledgeable about the monsters that took Charlie, who’s nowhere to be found, and offers to help Hunter find him.

Much like Danny in SOUL EATER, Hunter has been fed the same “monsters = bad” refrain by the military, except he’s been hearing it for twelve years and has seen more action in the field, which has left him with scars and a prosthetic leg. He’s reluctant to rely on anyone other than his partner Charlie—but he has no choice to trust Edin, who seems unflappably calm for a big purple monster in the face of Hunter’s prickly demeanor. Wyn and Danny also make an appearance in this book, and I think that initiates the biggest turning point for Hunter—when he realizes that even after 12 years of roaming the wastes as a soldier, he may not have a clue how anything works outside of the military’s protection. In EDIN, we see more of this series’ lore unfold—namely, more monsters, enough to inspire an index at the back of the book. But also a few more populated areas and more references to how things are going in the “big cities” that are supposedly strongholds to keep the humans in and the monsters out.

Steam: The spice is more evenly spaced out compared to SOUL EATER, but please do not read that as “not enough”—there’s plenty of hot (and tender!) moments between Hunter and Edin (slightly spoilery comment: someone calls Hunter a size queen and they are NOT WRONG)

Content Tags: one-sided begrudging partners to lovers, monster with a heart of gold, deserting a corrupt military in the name of domestic bliss

Length: Novel

BUY HERE: Amazon (Available for KU)


THE RYCKE (MONSTROUS #3) by Lily Mayne

“That was a rycke… if you ever see one, run.” – Wyn, SOUL EATER

“If [a rycke] lived as long as Wyn or me, none of us would be here.” – Edin, EDIN

Review: THE RYCKE opens with two raider besties, Ghost and Rig, scavenging the same busted-out military base that had been holding monster specimens captive. They stumble upon a battered, partially-winged monster, left behind and still chained up. They decide from the monster’s timid temperament that he’s harmless, and choose to free him and escort him back to their raider camp.

The camp becomes a place of brewing turmoil–the camp’s new, somewhat reluctant leader is struggling to exert control, and many camp inhabitants are uneasy at having a “beastie” present, even though One (later known as Aury) proves to be quiet and gentle. To make matters inherently worse, strange visitors arrive at the camp—an old RV being charioted through the Wastes by two reined monsters and a huge, gray beastie sporting a proportionately sized warhammer. The RV’s owner is a collector of monsters known as Mary, and as bad luck would have it, she’s arrived to take Aury—known as a rycke—with her, and the camp can either hand Aury over in exchange for supplies, or she’ll simply wait for it to leave and follow

Despite the camp’s growing tensions, Ghost and Aury grow close; Ghost breaks through Aury’s tense speechlessness by reading to him, and in turn Aury begins to visit Ghost and reads to him while he recovers from a sudden illness from venturing back into the wastes. Eventually Ghost and Aury are sent on a recon mission to another friendly raider camp, mainly so Aury can sidestep capture. When Ghost and Aury arrive at the other camp, they find it’s been overtaken by not-so-friendly raiders. As they threaten to escort Ghost back to his home to usurp it as well, Aury takes on a sudden, terrifying form—his true form, and Ghost finally understands why the mere sight of a rycke inspires unconditional fear in every other monster. In THE RYCKE, it was good to step away from the military influence that presented heavily in the first two books. Probably cliché of me to say but I’m always drawn to characters who survive extreme situations without losing some semblance of kindness for others—be it monster or human, and we get to see that on a slightly larger scale in book three with Ghost’s raider found family.

Steam: Extremely spicy, very sweet, featuring a forked tongue, sharp bodily protrusions, and an abundance of fluids.

Content Tags: found family via raiders, solid male friendships, most feared and powerful monster actually doesn’t want to fight, bonding over domestic activities and survival techniques, monsters choosing their mate

Length: Novel

BUY HERE: Amazon (Available for KU)


GLOAM (MONSTROUS #4) by Lily Mayne

Review: GLOAM starts off with a bit of overlap from THE RYCKE, right before Ghost and Aury sneak away from the camp to avoid collector Mary. This book follows Ghost’s BFF Rig, who’s the camp’s resident handyman, who has eyes for the giant gray monster chained to Mary’s RV with a cage around his head. Rig makes contact with the monster—whose name is Gloam—and finds that he is unable to speak and cannot answer any questions about the nature of his predicament. They communicate via written messages until Rig decides to do everything in his power to free the monster. He strikes a deal with Mary to work for her in her menagerie of captured creatures, and thus joins the caravan across the wastes.

The journey is disrupted when Mary suddenly orders Gloam to take them north. Gloam reveals her plan to Rig that could potentially spell his death, and he urges Rig to return to his camp. But Rig refuses to abandon Gloam, determined to free him from his cage and his servitude.

Gloam is packed with tense action and more terrifying reveals about the state of the Wastes, from a monster-worshipping cannibal cult to Mary’s horrible menagerie of (mostly harmless) monsters. The relationship that blooms between Rig and Gloam is fiercely tender.

Steam: Even under a watchful eye, Rig and Gloam manage to get busy in secret for the first half of the book and it’s super hot when they’re finally able to let loose. Gloam has some interesting anatomy that Rig is very into. 👀

Content Tags: what is that thing and how do I fuck it, scary monster man is actually a big intelligent softie, did I mention the cannibal death cult, (some) humans are absolutely the worst, the ones who aren’t overcome their imposter syndrome through LOVE

Length: Novel

BUY HERE: Amazon (Available for KU)