I signed up to receive an Advance Reading Copy of Michelle Davidson Argyle’s new novel, MONARCH. I’m part of her blog tour and today’s my day.
MONARCH entertains diverse issues, from the plight of the Monarch butterfly to the underground network at the CIA (protagonist Nick's home away from home) and their global reach in the so-called War on Drugs. What, you ask, could these two things possibly have in common?
The migration struggles of the monarch and the natural world are central to the theme, tied to the illegal logging activities in Mexico. That, to me, was interesting, and I would have liked it explored in more detail. The connection was murky, but we're left with a feeling of hope. Whether realistic or not, that is up to the reader to determine.
From the opening scene, there's no shortage of murder and mayhem. The main villain is portrayed as the drug lord, Ferreira, but he is faceless—we never actually meet him. Having a faceless antagonist makes him less real and not a serious threat. The real antagonist, in my opinion, is Nick’s adversary, Kyle, and while he is a dispicable guy (an antagonist you love to hate), his character seems forced and contradictory.
There is a sharp focus on relationships in MONARCH, with conflicting results. Some were of no concern to me, while others of more interest weren't fully developed. For instance, I just began to take an interest in Nick's relationship with Lilian (the keeper of the Monarch Inn and romantic interest from his past) when I was suddenly whisked off to another hemisphere to explore his ambiguous relationship with the drug lord's wife, Catarina.
There was a lot of juxtapositioning of characters, back story, and location: from San Diego to West Virginia to Brazil, but after instilling some serious doubts in the reader, the author secured all loose ends in a satisfying way.
I especially like the cover, which was developed from Michelle’s own idea.
Michelle's website is here, where you can find a list of upcoming dates for readings and signings.
She also blogs at The Innocent Flower and coauthors The Literary Lab with Scott G. F. Bailey and Davin Malasarn where she helps edit and publish "The Literary Lab Presents..." series of anthologies, an annual nonprofit publication that donates all proceeds to charity. Their most recent publication was NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND ANTHOLOGY, a collection of stories and poems from 24 different writers, and I can attest to Michelle’s tireless work and keen insight into the world of editing.
This is the first time I've received an ARC and it was exciting to be part of the process. Michelle's next novel, THE BREAKAWAY, comes out next year.