In gang-ridden, monster-infested multicultural Dalston, unlikely allies Roshan and Lolly must fight the most sinister force of all: the property developers gentrifying East London.
After six months behind bars, all British-Indian Roshan wants to do is stay out of trouble—until his best friend, Kay, is kidnapped by a gang working for businessman Conrad Vess. Kay is dating Vess’ stepdaughter, Lolly, a pink-haired white girl and self-described “bad bitch” who rides a monster named Neana. Neana is one of a series of monsters that appeared in the holes dug by developers gentrifying the neighborhood of Dalston—developers like Vess. Although there is no love lost between Roshan and Lolly, they form an uneasy friendship as they search for Kay and, in the process, uncover the neighborhood’s most sinister secrets. Peopled with stylized, even grotesque character renderings, Mann’s vibrant panels perfectly capture the tensions fueling the class battle simmering beneath the narrative. He adeptly centers the story on moments in the lives of characters of color, writing Roshan’s father’s dialogue in the Punjabi alphabet and including an oracle who wears hijab. The tropes, however, feel trite, such as an opening subplot in which businessmen feed humans to monsters for sport. In the end, the familiarity of the plot elements undercuts the tension created by the brilliant illustrations and complex, well-voiced characters.
The novel ends with a promise of a sequel that has the potential to be a more gripping read than this debut. (Graphic horror. 14-adult)