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Literature / The One Who Eats Monsters

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"The dark is terrible, surrounds you, and is never empty as it seems. Though monsters lurk, know this: none is hungrier than me."
Ryn
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"The One Who Eats Monsters" is a 2017 YA urban fantasy lesbian romance novel by Casey Matthews. Long ago, before history split in two, the elder monster Erynis was banished from civilized lands, never to be welcome among gods or kings. Fast forward untold millennia to the modern day, and a temporarily weakened Ryn is captured by a gang of nuclear arms smugglers, and then later "rescued" by the US military. The military mistakes her for a feral child, and brings her back to the US.

Turns out there's a loophole in the ancient banishment that allows Ryn to enter the United States if she was invited by its people. Unfortunately, the banishment still makes her subject to human laws, so she can't just escape from the mental institution they place her in. Luckily for her, eighteen months later, funding cuts force the institution closed, and Ryn is released into a group home. With her newly regained freedom, she goes back to her life's purpose; Hunting and consuming monsters both human and supernatural. On one of her night time hunts, she runs across Naomi Bradford, daughter of a republican senator, and finds out that a cabal of spirits (here called Asura) is targeting her for assassination. Naomi is rather pretty and her soul smells nice, so Ryn makes an unbreakable vow to protect her.

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Contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: Ryn's fingernails are sharp enough to, quote, "Kill anything that can die, and a few things that cannot".
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Naomi finds the the dark and mysterious parts of Ryn quite alluring.
  • All-Loving Hero: Naomi is very empathetic and kind. The reason she even became friends with Ryn is because she thought Ryn seemed like she could use one.
  • Alternate History: It's mentioned in passing that this world's history is slightly different from ours. For example, the "Soviet Empire" broke apart in the early 2000s, Bill Clinton was vice president, and he and president Paul Tsongas were assassinated by the Russians.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Ryn is the bigger fish. She mentions early on that there is absolutely nothing in the city that can truly challenge her—the really dangerous monsters are out in the wilds, and she's killed most of those anyway.
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  • An Arm and a Leg: Mr. Saxby melts one of Ryn's arms with acid during their first fight. She gets better.
  • Animal Motifs: Naomi compares Ryn to a cat multiple times.
  • And Show It to You: Ryn is strong enough to reach into a person's chest and rip out any organ she pleases. She thinks about ripping out the spine of one gang members at the club, and later rips out splats heart from behind.
  • Anti-Hero: Ryn's a force for good, but her methods are... harsh.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Naomi is very in denial about being attracted to Ryn. It takes actually kissing Ryn for her to admit she may not be entirely straight.
  • Asshole Victim: Due to Ryn's nature as a hunter of the evil, if you're at the wrong end of her claws, you deserve it.
  • Badass Gay: Ryn can easily dismantle any human in combat, and her supernatural foes don't stand much of a chance either.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Among Ryn's various biological differences, she has six gill like slits on her back, from which she can produce black, razor sharp fibres she calls her "Kanaf", which she can control to use as armour, a weapon, camouflage, grappling hook, ect. She can even change its colour and texture, which she uses to make it appear that she is wearing human clothes. It's a little bit like an angel's wings, and a little bit like an eldrich abomination's tentacles.
    • Note that the clothing made from this can be removed from her body, and worn by somebody else. However, it remains a part of her. Naomi describes it as oddly warm, and Ryn is rather embarrassed by being wrapped tightly around her entire torso.
  • Blasé Boast: Ryn often makes outlandish claims in an absolutely matter-of-fact tone. It usually takes people a while to realize she is not joking.
    Naomi: You're supposed to tell me, "No, it's too dangerous!"
    Ryn: All places are. Except those next to me.
  • Blood Knight: Ryn is usually a fairly subdued person, but she has a lot of job satisfaction when it comes to fighting.
    Ryn: I enjoy breaking things — breaking humans. It makes my spirit sing. And it is easy.
  • Body Horror: Mr. Saxby stitches together multiple people into a magically animated flesh golem to fight Ryn. It's quite horrific, especially for the people whose parts he used.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: A lesbian example. Ryn has a tendency towards brooding, and Naomi is usually able to pull her out of her shell, much to Ryn's bafflement.
  • Butch Lesbian: Described as a tomboy by other characters, Ryn is aghast at the idea of wearing high heels, and considers pants a technological leap over the skirt.
  • Bullet Catch: Employed by Ryn when a sniper targets Naomi. They get a special god-killing gun to deal with her... and she still catches the bullet. The only difference is that the force knocks her back a step every time.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Due to her extended period of solitude, Ryn has no practice telling lies and is very bad at it.
  • Car Fu: Splat resorts to throwing cars at Ryn during their fight. To the shock of no one she dodges.
  • Complete Immortality: While not immune to harm, Ryn cannot die. Even if her body were completely destroyed, she would just regenerate.
  • Compulsory School Age: Ryn is forced to attend school for a time to due her apparent age. She skips on a constant basis, is eventually expelled for saving a bully's life, and at that point she is past the compulsory age so she doesn't bother finding a new school.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: To save Splat's human host, Ryn has to essentially beat Splat out of him, saving his life, but leaving him with a life time of recovery.
  • Death Glare: For some one who always wears sunglasses, Ryn is remarkably adept at glaring people down.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Ryn has an affinity for darkness and shadows, but she's overall a force for good.
  • The Dreaded: Once the cabal of spirits learns Ryn's real name, they become much more afraid of her. Not afraid enough, though.
  • Elite Four: The cabal of asura form one. There's Ghorm, The leader, Mr. Saxby, The dragon, Tooloo, The strategist, and Splat, The muscle.
  • The Empath: One of the powers and Asura can have, with Muse and Tooloo both being one. According to Muse, it's more of a Sherlock Scan than out and out mind reading.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Inverted. Ryn has teeth that are compared to those of a wolf. Naomi thinks they are Cute Little Fangs.
  • The Glasses Come Off: When Ryn removes her sunglasses, it's a sign she's shed her human disguise and is now playing for keeps.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Ryn's eyes have matte black sclera and her irises are described as rings of blue fire. Looking into them causes a person to instinctively panic.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Sure, Ryn's a good guy, but that doesn't stop her from tearing rapists limb from limb.
  • Height Angst: Averted. Ryn prefers to be short for the stealth and combat advantages it brings.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Anti-hero Ryn falls for Redhead Naomi.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ryn suffers a mild case after scaring Naomi on their double date, Which leads to her letting Mr. Saxby have some free shots on her because she thinks she deserves pain.
  • Hopeless with Tech: As with most human things, Ryn is completely useless when it comes to anything technological.
  • Hypocritical Humor: O'Rourke finds the sharp metal batarang Ryn got from her date, and notes that only stupid kids buy the things. He has three of them.
  • I Am What I Am: Ryn makes no bones about being a monster first and foremost. She feels no guilt or remorse about killing; It's simply her purpose.
  • Implacable Man: Nothing stops Ryn from getting her prey. One of the villains tries to bargain with her, despite knowing she is called "The Implacable one".
  • Insane Troll Logic: Asura who can manipulate minds cause this in their victims. The mortals are twisted until they believe whatever wildly contradictory things are needed by the asura. An eco-terrorrist, a racist rapist, and a religious soldier all work together despite knowing they have been told wildly different stories and would rather kill each other, and they just never question it.
  • In the Hood: Ryn's Kanaf is a grey hoodie in its civilian guise, and hooded black cloak in its more natural state. It makes her nearly invisible in shadow, and causes any witnesses to identify her as the Grim Reaper.
  • I Own This Town: When Ryn first arrives in New Petersburg, She declares the city her territory, her hunting grounds.
  • Lunacy: Ryn's power waxes and wanes with the moon, with her being at her most powerful the day of the full moon.
  • Masquerade: Monsters, gods and spirits exist just beyond human knowledge. A spell called The Veil erases memories and evidence of the supernatural.
  • Monsters That Eat Other Monsters: The title of the book isn't being metaphorical; Ryn's reason for existence is to hunt other monsters and eat their hearts, thereby destroying their souls
  • Mook Horror Show: One of Ryn's encounters with the cabal is framed from their perspective, with Ryn taking them out one by one.
  • Mugging the Monster: Ryn may look like a short teenage girl, but any human that tries to take her on quickly finds out that it's a bad idea to mess with her or Naomi.
  • Necromancer: It's extremely taxing, but Ryn can pull the souls of the recently deceased back from the other side.
  • No Party Given: Averted. Naomi's dad is explicitly a US Republican, though he acts more like a libertarian. Note that many US libertarians join the Republican party due to overlapping policies.
  • No Social Skills: Ryn is terrible with word, can't read faces, or intuit other people's emotions. Naomi is the only one whose face she understands.
  • Not Helping Your Case: One of the cabal's human mooks is a religious nut that thinks Naomi's dad is the anti-Christ, and that killing her will kill him. Naomi being protected by a literal supernatural being doesn't exactly dissuade his beliefs.
  • Not Hyperbole: All of Ryn's boasts but special mention goes to when she chops up the lettuce with superhuman speed and precision. "There has never been a time when I could not do that." Not just has she always had that ability, but due to the fact that she is technically older than time, there has never been a time when she did not exist, meaning there has literally never been a time where she could not do that.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Kessler is fresh from the army, while O'Rourke is a veteran cop who knows this town
  • Older Than They Look: Ryn is older than history can record, but looks to be around 16 years old.
  • Opaque Lenses: When among humans, Ryn wears dark sunglasses to hide her eyes.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Asura are invisible, intangible (To most things) creatures born from intense emotions that can posses objects and living things
  • Parental Substitute: Kessler (one of the soldier who found Ryn) and Ms. Cross (Ryn's caseworker) become Ryn's defacto mom and dad.
  • Parking Garage: Splat tries to abduct Naomi from a mall parking garage until Ryn intervenes allowing Naomi it escape. She has nightmares about the encounter of the rest of the book.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Ryn is brutal, efficient, and completely without mercy. She loves the smell of fear from the evil, and she takes great pleasure in stalking her prey. Oh and the book title isn't being metaphorical.
  • Physical God: Ryn is powerful and old beyond human comprehension. She's basically a god of vengeance in all but title.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Ryn may be slender and short, built more for stealth than brawling, but she's super-humanly strong, able to easily punch through metal and stone.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Ryn gets one in every once in a while:
    • After being shot at by a sniper:
    Muse: Shit, What is that!
    Ryn: A Dead man.
    • Saxby's stitched together monstrosity says that if it kills Ryn, maybe the Asura will let it die:
    Ryn: Death is here now. Come closer. It sleeps in my hands.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Ryn hunts and devours all kinds of evil, but she seems to hate rapists most of all. It's revealed later in the book that she herself was raped by the smugglers at the start of the novel, possibly making this Rape and Revenge.
  • Red Baron: Ryn has quite a few names, each more badass than the last. There's Erynis ("The Implacable One"), Adrasteia ("The one from whom there is no escape"), Nemesis (the Greek goddess of vengeance), and Lailah ("Night" in Hebrew).
  • Shapeshifting: It's not observed in the events of the novel, but it's implied that Ryn's physical form is entirely up to her.
  • The Needless Ryn only needs to sleep one day a month, the day of the new moon, but she can skip that if she needs with some resulting drowsiness. She also can eat, drink and breath, but won’t die, and will only become ever so slightly weaker, if she doesn’t.
  • Soul Eating: When Ryn consumes the hearts of the wicked, their souls are relegated to the fires of Gehenna. The ashes even float out of her mouth.
  • Spock Speak: When she's not communicating by hissing or snarling, Ryn speaks in very formal, slightly antiquated way with limited use of contractions. She has almost no understanding of idioms or metaphors.
  • Square Race, Round Class: Ryn is a perfect ambush predator, with her entire body built to hide, stalk, and kill silently. Her attempts to protect Naomi mean that she is often forced into direct confrontations, where she is at her weakest. Except she is such a ridiculously high-level entity that even her "weakest" means she can usually defeat her opponents with brute strength.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Ryn technically stalks Naomi every night, but it's purely to protect her and without any of the abusive qualities stalking usually holds. Naomi is still justifiably freaked when she finds out.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The cabal of spirits know that if Ryn learns their names, she will never stop hunting them, no matter where they go or how long it takes. There's a reason the other gods call her "the one from whom there is no escape".
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: Ryn's eyes. Partially from magic and partially from the fact that she's been around so long that humanity evolved to have an instinctual fear of her eyes.
  • Super Senses: Ryn has a supernaturally good sense of smell and hearing, to the point were she can smell the quality of a person's soul and hear conversations blocks away.
  • Talking Your Way Out:
    • Naomi manages to talk down one of the Cabal's human agents by appealing to his better nature.
    • An asura tries this on Ryn; he even has an ability to stretch perception of time to make moments last for years so that he has as long as he needs to convince anyone. Except Ryn, being older than time, has infinite patience and far too much experience to get bogged down in trivialities.
  • Terrifying Rescuer: When Naomi accidentally spots Ryn as she flees from Splat, She is understandably shaken by the eldritch living shadow with glowing eyes. It gives her nightmares for months, much to Ryn's horror.
  • Time Abyss: Ryn is at least as old as the Sumerians, but likely even older. She references when campfires were the height of human technology.
  • Time Crash: The new gods "shattered time" somehow, making it difficult for Ryn to pin down her own age.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Pain is the best way to get a spirit to leave their host; During her fight with Splat, Ryn causes said pain by pulling out Splat's teeth one by one as they fight.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Naomi hates violence and only uses it as a last resort.
  • True Sight: Asura are normally invisible, but consuming psilocybin mushrooms grants one the ability to see them.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Ryn is constantly underestimated by her foes, much to their detriment. Mark, the Bradford bodyguard, initially dismisses her as a boastful teenager, until he sees the video of her beating up three big guys without any trouble whatsoever.
    Mark: I don't know anyone who could do that, and I know guys I wouldn't take on without a SEAL team to back me up.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Ryn can literally smell the tension Naomi is feeling at certain points.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Ryn would prefer that Naomi be unharmed and intends to keep it that way. Naomi, on the other hand, is less jazzed about Ryn killing people to protect her
  • Wall Crawl: Ryn can climb walls and ceilings using her nails.
  • Weather Manipulation: When in nature, away from human artifice, Ryn can control the weather.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Ryn is overpowered by terrorists at the start of the novel. This only happened because she had just resurrected someone (which exhausts her), given the girl some of her power to heal her (which exhausts her), given the girl some more power to heal her brother (which exhausts her), it was a new moon (which means her powers were at their weakest to start), and the terrorists managed to ambush her due to bad luck. Even so, she killed half of them before they stapled her to a post, and later events in the novel make it clear that she was going to kill them the second she had recovered enough to break free from the pole.

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