Reader Reviewed The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon

The Monstrous Child

Written by Francesca Simon

13+ readers   Books of the Month   All Shortlists and Winners   11+ readers   
Download an extract Share this book

The Lovereading4Kids comment

January 2017 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for YA Book Prize 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, Children's Book category Francesca Simon has chosen a singular heroine for her first novel for teenagers. Hel is Queen of the Norse underworld, but never has the eternal teenage cry, ‘It’s not fair’ been more justified. Offspring of giants and gods, she is despised by all; human to the waist, she’s a ‘corpse baby’ - her legs are dangling and gangrenous at birth. Despatched to the Underworld, harbinger of Asgard’s downfall, she nonetheless retains her sharp tongue, her cynicism, her sense of humour and that’s what makes the book so interesting: who wouldn’t want to spend time in this teenager’s company as she works out how to make the best of her situation, unwisely falls in love and reluctantly accepts her fate. It’s an extraordinary novel, dark and grim, but Hel’s energy and vitality will keep readers on her side. ~ Andrea Reece

The Costa Judges said: “An ancient anti-heroine is given a fierce modern voice in this story of gods, monsters and growing up.”

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to the review by one of the Lovereading4kids editorial experts some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel members were also lucky enough to read and review this title. Click here to read their full reviews.

  • Rose Roberts, age 13 - 'It's one of those books that is so good you find it hard to describe. Emotional, this book is page-turning in a different way. It isn't full of action, but you read it at a speed as if it is.'
  • Katie Adeniji, age 16 - 'The Monstrous Child is an interesting read that - despite it's dark undertones - will intrigue a reader looking for a witty and cynical heroine to fall win love with.
  • Sidney Greenslade, age 13 - 'The Monstrous Child absorbed me completely. Compelling and incredibly, even scarily, vivid, I found myself utterly lost in Hel's beautifully described world.'
  • Eloise Mae Clarkson, age 14 - 'It was an enjoyable read and I would rate it five out of five stars.'
  • Ella Bourke, age 12 - 'Every single fantasy character you could think of lies within these pages. This book is not for the faint-hearted and not about lovable princesses.'
  • William Longlands, age 13 - 'The book is very descriptive and tells you lots so I would recommend it, especially if you want to find out about Norse Gods.'
  • Talia Jacobs, age 15 - 'The Monstrous Child is an interesting, gory read incorporating Norse Mythology! Great for 10-13 year olds. Hilarious and amusing, dark and gruesome, sorrowful and lovely, all in one!'
  • Chadwick, Melanie - 'A very dark tale based on Norse mythology which is steeped in death, disappointment and hatred.'
  • Edel Waugh - 'The world building in this book is exceptional, from the opening pages you know this is not going to be a light and fluffy read and with that known read on!'
  • Ruth Ward, Library & Resources Manager, Great Torrington School - 'You will be surprised at how this original story flows from the depths of darkness with strains of sarcastic humour. The Norse Goddess of the dead, Hel, tells her own ghastly story…deliciously loathsome tales await you…'
  • Kyra, age 17 - 'Doused with a concoction of mythology, a sassy narrator with a biting tongue, a world suffering under the vindictive reign of the Norse gods written in a darkly comical manner - you'll be bewitched.'


The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon

'Before you reject me, before you hate me, remember: I never asked to be Hel's queen.' But being a normal teenager wasn't an option either. Now she's stuck ruling the underworld. For eternity. She doesn't want your pity. But she does demand that you listen. It's only fair you hear her side of the story ...It didn't have to be like this.


Hel, the protagonist of this deliciously fun YA debut from Simon (the Horrid Henry series), is the daughter of trickster god Loki and Angrboda the giantess. Hel was born a monster: while her top half is normal, she has the legs of a corpse. The Fates have foretold that Hel's brothers, Fenrir the wolf and Jormungand the snake, will kill Odin and Thor during Ragnarok, so the deities abduct the siblings and bring them to Asgard. Hel falls in love with the god Baldr, but her happiness is short-lived: Odin incapacitates Hel's kin, then ban-ishes her to Niflheim to rule the dead. By recasting the Norse queen of hell as a snarky, disaffected teenager, Simon makes the ancient relatable and adds humor to an otherwise grim and gruesome tale: Let's pause and take a closer look at just some of Dad's children, Hel offers. Eight legs (Sleipnir). Four legs (Fenrir). No legs (Jormungand). Corpse legs (yours truly). Though the book is light on plot and narrative drive, it oozes style, and Simon's evocative descriptions transport readers to the strange and brutal world of Norse myth. Ages 12-up. (June)

Hel keeps it interesting, and her scenes hold attention. Hel's story is unique

--School Library Journal In this British import from the author of the Horrid Henry series, a young Norse goddess with an accursed affliction (she was born with the legs of a rotting corpse) is banished from Asgard to Niflheim, the underworld, to reign over the dead. Hel, the daughter of Loki and the giantess Angrboda, at first does her best by building an enormous hall and welcoming the dead, but she is consumed with thoughts of revenge against Odin and longing for Baldr, the lone god who was kind to her. Teenage Hel tells her story directly to the reader in first person, with equal amounts bitter sarcasm, miserable whining, and cold rage. While Hel's anachronistic tone is modern, fast-paced, and funny, it grows tiresome, as there isn't much else to the story: this is more of a stylish monologue than a retelling. Readers may enjoy Hel's flippant insolence, aimed at adults, while others may find the quirky presentation of Norse mythology a good companion to Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.

trapped in her fetid underworld, Hel (aka Goddess of the Dead) has had enough eternity, thanks, and she's about to tell you why.Jotunheim, land of the giants, leaves plenty to be desired. Snow, sleet, and howling winds scour the mountains. It's no Asgard. A seemingly ordinary girl on top, Hel's legs are in a permanent state of decay--blotched with gangrene, wrapped in bandages. Her father, Loki, rarely visits the family cave. But then the children are kidnapped and brought to golden Asgard, as Odin hopes to render her ill-fated brothers harmless, at least for now. At first overlooked, narrator Hel develops a huge crush on Baldr, a beautiful, kindly--and married--god, before Odin hurls her to Niflheim to rule over the dead. This permanent teen doesn't take her fate lying down--at first. Failing to escape, she occupies herself constructing a palace for the dead and dreams of Baldr, fated to die eventually and come to her. But as years pass, she grows bitter and vengeful, and she doesn't hesitate to tell readers: I have no friends. I don't want any friends. I'm fine by myself. I am cradled by hate and fury

About the Author

Francesca Simon

Francesca Simon was born in St Louis, Missouri, grew up in California, and attended both Yale and Oxford Universities, where she specialised in Medieval Studies.

If you'd like to know a bit more about Horrid Henry click here to read a letter from the author.

Author photo © Francesco Guidicini

More books by this author

Loading similar books...

Other Formats

Book Info


304 pages


Francesca Simon
More books by Francesca Simon

Author's Website



Faber & Faber

Publication date

5th January 2017




It is fantastic, you get to read lots of books and you always find something new and amazing in them.

Erica Motoc, age 7

I love finding new books to read. My mummy and me look at the new ones coming out. I have written reviews of some of them!

Jessica Cobbin – age 7

We love Lovereading4kids because they put books in front of us we wouldn’t otherwise have read. They make us more adventurous readers!

Emily Jacques

I love all the books they recommend & put up for me to review. I also love the fact that they give new authors the chance to share their boo

Daisy Pennock – age 15

LoveReading4Kids is a modern and creative way of emphasising the value and importance of books in this digital age #booksforlife

Amrit Bunet – Teen

You give me age appropriate ideas of books I can read and buy for the children and find out what other children their age think of them too.

Katie Lonsdale

It is THE website to use for narrowing down your search for any book. Definitely knocks the socks off any other book review website.

Nickey and Tomasz Hawryszczuk

We love Lovereading4kids because it promotes reading choices, new authors and a sense of community for children of all ages!

Rachel Bridgeman

Lovereading 4 schools