Book Review: Vanessa Len’s Never a Hero is an exhilirating, fun and satisfying sequel

The highly anticipated sequel to Vanessa Len’s hit debut Only a Monster, Never a Hero is another wild ride through time and morality as Joan is forced to face the consequences of her actions and take on a new and powerful foe.

Joan is still reeling from her decision to unmake the hero. Riddled with guilt and grieving for things no one else remembers, Joan is desperate to avoid the monster world and all of its moral ambiguity at all costs. But, when the timeline brings her and Nick back together again, they end up on the run, this time with Joan’s old monster friend Aaron Oliver on the chase.

Terrified that the truth of the monster world will remind Nick of who he once was and set him on the path of the hero again, Joan treads a fine line of secrecy while trying to keep him safe. But the architect of his rise to hero is at work again and Joan still hasn’t figured out what the end game is. The monster court is closing in on them and Joan still doesn’t know why her power is forbidden – or even how to use it properly.

Len has once again crafted an exhilarating, fast-paced and captivating read. The story powers along so that putting it down is a challenge and picking it up again is only ever a two-minute break away.

Just as with its predecessor, Never a Hero doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions of the story. Len lets you fully enjoy the monster protagonists and the time periods they visit before firmly reminding you of the human cost of how they got there.

Whereas the events of the last book encouraged Joan to identify herself in the monster camp, this book has her straddling the line between monster and human, as people around her demand that she picks a side. Feeling too monstrous to be a human and too human to be a monster, Joan is left wondering how she can possibly reconcile these two seemingly opposite and competing halves of who she is.

On its surface, Never a Hero is a book filled with the common enjoyable tropes of the YA fantasy genre. Beneath though, the story roils will issues of identity, race, morality, family, loyalty and love. The worldbuilding of Never a Hero is clever, intuitive, and nuanced. Time travel is a difficult device to convincingly write, and yet Len’s depiction of the timeline as an almost sentient being, and the simple methods by which she explains it, are a testament to her skill as a storyteller.

Never a Hero is one of the most satisfying sequels I’ve ever read. It’s fun, it’s intelligent, and it was an absolute joy to return to Joan’s world. I am counting down the days for the final instalment in the trilogy.



Vanessa Len’s Never a Hero is out now through Allen & Unwin. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE

Read our review of the first book in the series, Only a Monster HERE.

You can also read our interview with author Vanessa Len HERE.

Jess Gately

Jess Gately is a freelance editor and writer with a particular love for speculative fiction and graphic novels.