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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."

The One Who Eats Monsters is a 2017 YA urban fantasy sapphic 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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  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: Ryn's fingernails are sharp enough to, quote, "Kill anything that can die, and a few things that cannot". They are, by implication, the sharpest things in the universe. She can literally take slices a few atoms thick off material objects.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Denise hooks up with drug dealer John Laek at the Nine Lives Night Club to get back at Naomi for inviting Ryn, and ends up being sexually assaulted and overdosing on drugs as a result.
    • Elli and Naomi both find the dark and mysterious parts of Ryn quite alluring, the former even lamenting that Ryn's a girl. Naomi also goes straight for the brooding boy Patrick Dailey during the summer camp arc.
  • All-Loving Hero: Naomi is very empathetic and kind. The reason she even became friends with Ryn is that she thought Ryn seemed like she could use one, and was intrigued rather than intimidated by Ryn's outlandish and feral mannerisms.
  • 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.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Mr. Saxby melts one of Ryn's arms with acid during their first fight. She regenerates it after a good night's sleep.
  • 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 Splat's 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.
    • In the prologue, a group of terrorists gang-rape Aina before cutting her throat and leaving her for dead. Ryn resurrects Aina and goes after the terrorists, slaughtering several of them before they manage to overpower her.
    • Splat, a particularly sadistic asura spawned from a snuff-porn ring, gets tortured out of his Hollow by Ryn, leaving Walter Banich in a full-body cast.
    • John Laek — a drug dealer affiliated with the Black Sea mafia — drugs Denise intending to rape and blackmail her like he's done to at least one other girl. When Naomi intervenes, Laek and his comrades threaten to rape her too... until Ryn makes Laek wet himself with a Death Glare and curb-stomps his thugs with brutal efficiency. At the end of the novel, Ryn makes a point of hunting them down and butchering them.
    • Burns — a racist white supremacist who'd been recruited by the asura cabal alongside Casper — and three of his friends end up being turned into a horrifying flesh-golem by Mr. Saxby, who sends them after Muse. Ryn rips the amalgam apart and eats their hearts, leaving the half-exploded corpse spattered across an ally and a couple of rooftops.
    • The final human agent of the Asura cabal, Patrick Dailey, was one of the people posting ways to kidnap, rape, and torture Naomi to death on the anti-Bradford forum. He attempts to seduce Naomi to get her alone, and when his attempts on Naomi's life fail thanks to Ryn he attempts to stab her in her sleep. With Ryn occupied fighting Saxby, Denise bashes him upside the head with a tree branch, Naomi kicks him in the nuts, Elli maces him with peppermint mouthspray, and then the three pin him down, strangle him into unconsciousness, and hog-tie him for the cops.
    • When Ryn catches Albert Birch masturbating next to her former roommate, she throws him through a wall. The ensuing police investigation shuts down Roosevelt Place.
  • Attempted Rape:
    • Harper Pruett tries to force Ryn to give him a blowjob after leading her into a broom closet and mistaking her increasingly irritated threats for her flirting with him. When she realizes what his intent is, she furiously headbutts him through the door.
    • Splat plans to rape and torture Naomi Bradford to death, though Ryn torches his van and foils his attempt on Naomi's life. Naomi is left traumatized by the encounter with Splat's mutilated Hollow and Ryn's borderline Living Shadow form, and suffers from chronic night-terrors.
    • At the Nine Lives nightclub, Denise is drugged into a stupor by John Laek and his thugs and almost winds up their sex-slave (he is later revealed to have gotten a blowjob from an underage girl, but this may have been a different girl). When Naomi intervenes to save her friend, Ryn delivers a thorough Curb-Stomp Battle provoked by one of the thugs declaring his intent to rape them too, stopping just short of killing them... this time — the novel's epilogue makes it clear she hunted them down and killed them once Naomi was safe.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: During the full moon, Ryn has difficulty focusing, and often makes rash decisions she later finds foolish.
  • Badass Boast: Ryn, being an unimaginably powerful monster/goddess from before the dawn of time who likes to smell the fear of the wicked, does this a lot. Some of her best:
    • When a militant terrorist group rapes and tortures a girl, Ryn comforts her after and promises to take care of them.
      Aina: They will hurt you! They're monsters!
      Ryn: I am the one who eats monsters.
    • When she promises Dust, a minor spirit, that a much larger spirit won't be a problem for him.
      Dust: Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you must be too young to know. Deva can't kill asura. Unlike you, we got no bodies to kill.
      Ryn: I am from the black places and the Long Ago. I can kill anything that can die, and a few things that cannot.
    • After Naomi is attacked, Ryn thinks one, but is too socially awkward to actually say it.
      Ryn: The dark is terrible, surrounds you, and is never empty as it seems. Though monsters lurk, know this: none is hungrier than me.
  • Badass Normal: Applies to Naomi and her friends, but special mention goes to Senator Bradford's assistant, Carol, who is kidnapped, wakes up stripped to her underwear in a cold trailer surrounded by torture implements, with a TV playing horror movies, and she still stands up to her captor and spits on him.
    Carol: I'd say you're only the third- or fourth-scariest thing I've ever spat on.
  • Bad Liar: Due to her extended period of solitude, Ryn has no practice telling lies and is absolutely terrible at it. She later learns to appreciate texting because it's a lot harder to tell when she's lying through a screen, and at one point she muses that perhaps the reason humans like young children is because they'll believe any lie, even one told by Ryn. Best exemplified in this exchange between Ms. Cross and Ryn:
    "Do you understand?"
    "Yes." Ryn waited to see if she was better at lying yet.
    "No," Ms. Cross sighed. "You don't."
  • Berserk Button: Do not tell Ryn she can't do something. She takes offence to this due to viewing humans and their society as inherently inferior to herself, and because she's ancient even among gods and monsters.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Among Ryn's various biological differences from humans, 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, clothes, 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 eldritch abomination's tentacles. The clothing made from her kanaf 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.
  • Black Eyes of Crazy: Ryn has matte black sclerae and glowing blue irises that terrify whoever looks into her eyes, befitting a predatory primordial goddess whose inability to blend in with humans saw her branded a monster. Her aggressive behaviour leads to several characters speculating that she has a developmental disorder at best and is flat-out insane at worst.
  • 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 finds her assumed arrogance oddly endearing.
    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:
    • Splat mutilates his first Hollow, Walter Banich, into a mess of wounds with his face stitched up with metal wire. Naomi rips the metal wire out when he attacks her, and Ryn pummels him into a full-body cast.
    • Mr. Saxby stitches Burns — a racist white supremacist who'd been recruited alongside Casper — and three of his friends into a magically-animated flesh golem to fight Ryn. It's quite horrific, especially for the people whose parts he used.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Ryn appoints herself Naomi's bodyguard, and the two of them slowly fall in love.
  • 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 Caspar Owens, a religious zealot sniper, targets Naomi. The Cabal gets a special god-killing alien weapon to deal with her... and she still catches the bullets. The only difference is that the force knocks her back a step every time.
  • Car Fu: Splat resorts to throwing cars at Ryn during their fight. To the shock of no one she dodges.
  • Child Soldier: Naomi, her father, and Mark assume this to be the case with Ryn. In particular, Mark — a trained soldier — is awed by Ryn's superhuman combat skills.
  • Closet Key: Ryn serves as one for Naomi, derailing the carefully-made heterosexual plan she'd concocted for how she was going to live her life.
  • 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. After adopting her, Kessler and Ms. Cross bribe Ryn into going to school by enrolling her in the same school as Naomi.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Most fights Ryn gets into are ridiculously one-sided in her favour, but special mention goes to her trouncing the drug dealers at the Nine Lives nightclub. Seeing a recording of it gets Senator Bradford to flip from forbidding Ryn from ever seeing Naomi again to personally requesting her service as Naomi's unofficial bodyguard; and Mark, a trained soldier, expresses jealousy and awe at Ryn's superhuman combat skills.
    • Subverted when she fights Mr. Saxby, who puts up a decent fight due to her being severely emotionally unbalanced at the time to the point of letting him land several hits. He then uses his special ability to develop a poison actually capable of killing her, prompting her to start taking it seriously. When they have their rematch, both of them are significantly better prepared, and Ryn crushes him despite him still having a poison able to kill her with one injection.
  • Crapsack World: This world seems a bit worse off than ours. It's implied the Cold War heated up, the US military maintains a fleet of "floating cities" throughout the globe, and New Petersburg itself seems to be pretty seedy — though that could be due to Ryn living in the bad part of town.
  • 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 lifetime of recovery.
  • Death Glare: For someone who always wears sunglasses, Ryn is remarkably adept at glaring people down. Her Black Eyes of Crazy make her a natural at this, as they induce instinctual terror in anyone who looks into them.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Ryn has an affinity for darkness and shadows, but she's overall a force for good.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Denise — Naomi's best friend — goes out of her way to be as sarcastic and rude as possible so as to balance out Naomi's niceness.
  • Demonic Possession: Most flesh-riding Asura turn their hosts into almost-soulless broken shells via a combination of Mind Rape, physical rape, and torture — part of the reason why Ryn is so disgusted by them.
  • Determinator: Ryn. Do not get in her way, and do not think that anything you can do is going to frighten or even slow her down much, especially when she's protecting Naomi. She can't feel fear, she doesn't care about pain, and she can't be (permanently) killed. One of her Greek names, Adrasteia, literally means "inescapable." Even if you find a way to seriously hurt her with, say, Godkiller poison, she'll cut off her own arm to stop the spread of the poison.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: Erynis, a monstrous primordial Deva of revenge and darkness, falls in love with a human girl named Naomi Bradford. Once Naomi learns what Ryn is, she's awestruck that something so ancient and inhuman would fall in love with her.
  • Dirty Old Man: Albert Birch is an ephebophile who molests several of the boys and girls in his care, and who pressured Susan's old roommate into having sex with him until she eventually committed suicide. When he walks in on Ryn having a shower and openly ogles her she intimidates him into leaving her alone, but in her absence from the group home he resumes his perversions. Until she returns and throws him through a wall, whereupon an investigation uncovers his depravity and he's thrown in jail.
  • Divine Race Lift: Ryn is older than recorded history and her primary names in myth are Erynis and Nemesis (both Greek). Despite this, the soldiers who rescue her immediately conclude from her appearance that she is not native to the unnamed country they found her in and is probably English or American. It is implied that Ryn can shapeshift, but it is never explained why she chose to appear Caucasian instead of the same ethnicity as the locals.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Muse, a hedonistic asura, repeatedly expresses interest in taking Ryn's virginity and hits on her several times despite Ryn vehemently rejecting her advances.
  • Draconic Abomination: In order to fight Ryn on even footing, Mr. Saxby uses his flesh-stitching to create a dragon-shaped body to fight her. While it can fly and breathe fire like a normal dragon, it also has a bevy of Lovecraftian Superpowers at its disposal — such as sprouting venomous quills from any part of its body, shapeshifting, and dispersing into a horde of vermin to escape and reassemble itself elsewhere. By consuming Ryn's flesh, Saxby uses this body to develop a venom he claims is potent enough to kill Ryn and at the very least severely weaken her in her next life, but never gets an opportunity to use it on her.
  • The Dreaded: Once the cabal of asura learns Ryn's real name, they become much more afraid of her. Not afraid enough, though. They are wise to do so, as Ryn's real name, Erynis, indicates that she is the origin of the legend of the Erinyes, also known as the Furies. Her other "aliases," including Nemesis, the Implacable One, and She Who Cannot Be Escaped, back this up. It should be noted that these aliases were given to her by gods.
  • Elite Four: The cabal of asura form one. There's Ghorm, the leader; Mr. Saxby, The Dragon (literally later on in the book); Tooloo, the strategist; and Splat, the muscle.
  • The Empath: One of the powers that 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.
  • Empty Quiver: The reason that Kessler's unit is sent after the smuggling ring is that they've stolen what's implied to be a nuke or at least weapons-grade nuclear material.
  • Erotic Dream: After learning that Ryn was the shadowy entity that rescued her from Splat, Naomi starts alternating between dreams of Ryn attacking her and making love to her, confusing her because she firmly believes herself to be heterosexual.
  • Exact Words: After Patrick tries to stab Naomi, she begs Ryn not to kill him, which Ryn thinks gives her some room to work.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Inverted. Ryn has teeth that are compared to those of a wolf. At the beginning of the novel, she doesn't realize that Kessler is trying to help her and sinks her fangs into his forearm, which ends up permanently scarring him. Naomi thinks they're Cute Little Fangs.
  • Food Chain of Evil: The title of the book isn't being metaphorical; Ryn's reason for existence is to hunt other monsters and wicked humans and eat their hearts, thereby destroying their souls.
  • Geas: Ryn — and the other Deva too monstrous to pass themselves off as humans — were placed under one by the Fates, forbidding them from setting foot in human civilizations ruled by kings or gods. A loophole lets her live in the United States when their government invites her in, but she's still bound by human laws.
    • There's apparently a similar one for "temples of the new religions," presumably churches, mosques, and probably some other houses of worship. This one applies to all Devas and Asuras, and it's unclear who placed it or how.
  • Girls Love Chocolate: Ryn likes the way chocolate smells, as she's smelled it before, but when Naomi buys her some hot cocoa and she actually gets to taste it, she, an ancient being older than Time itself, says it's the best thing she's ever had. This also is, in retrospect, arguably the Chocolate of Romance.
  • 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. Literally instinctively, because Ryn has been preying on humans as long as there have been humans.
  • A God I Am Not: Ryn initially tells Dust that she's a monster rather than a goddess, despite being a Deva and having been worshipped throughout history as a deity of darkness and revenge. However, she later mentally calls herself a goddess when grousing about being told to beg for Naomi's forgiveness, and doesn't correct Naomi when she calls Ryn both a goddess and a monster.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: In the summer camp arc of the book, the Asura Cabal's final human agent attempts to do this to Naomi. Patrick Dailey exploits the All Girls Want Bad Boys trope to seduce Naomi, who's in denial about her subconscious feelings for Ryn and looking to reaffirm to herself that she's heterosexual. Ryn foils his attempts to get her alone out of jealousy and saves Naomi from drowning when Patrick pushes her into the river, whereupon Patrick snaps and goes berserk.
  • Going Commando: Naomi is mortified to learn that Ryn doesn't wear panties or a bra, just a chest-wrap made from her kanaf. This becomes an in-joke between the two of them, and a point of flirtation when they become a couple.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Sure, Ryn's a good guy, but that doesn't stop her from tearing rapists limb from limb.
  • Happily Adopted: At the end of the book, Ryn is adopted by Kessler and Ms. Cross — both of whom are aware she's something other than human but nevertheless care for her.
  • Healing Factor: Ryn, who can recover from having her arm cut off (well, from cutting her own arm off) with a good night's sleep. Ryn also has Healing Hands, or at least when she breathes on someone who's been cut, the cut heals quite a bit more or less instantly.
  • Height Angst: Averted. Ryn prefers to be short for the stealth and combat advantages it brings.
  • Help Mistaken for Attack:
    • When Kessler's unit finds Ryn, who physically appears to be a teenage girl, she's wrapped in garbage bags and baling wire, with said wire also wrapped around her throat and with one wrist staked to a pole. They're utterly horrified and immediately start cutting her free as quickly as possible. Ryn takes it badly, assuming they're like the rest of the "soldiers" who populate the area, and lashes out at them; the only reason Kessler and the other soldiers survive is because Ryn is so weakened.
    • Also, at one point Ryn stops a bullied girl from stabbing Harper Pruett, who'd been Slut-Shaming her, but she moves so quickly by the time people realize what's going on, all they see is Ryn standing behind Harper — who she'd previously attacked — with the knife. Later, video evidence shows that Ryn was not the attacker, but it's still a big mess that gets her expelled from the school.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Autism: When discussing Ryn with Kessler, Ms. Cross speculates that she has a form of autism due to her incomprehension of social niceties and aversion to crowds. To be absolutely fair, Ms. Cross says that Ryn is likely somewhere on the spectrum, and notes that even if she is, it's far from the only thing that's not typical about Ryn, including previously mentioning that Ryn has a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder.
    Ms. Cross: [about Ryn] She learns quickly—even the mechanics of language—but she only understands facial expressions in the most clinical sense. Can't lie, doesn't grok money or manners or the basics of friendship, love, or even family. She's atomized, and on some level... I question whether she wants to learn. I know the way she processes expressions and the tendency toward sensory overload probably put her somewhere on the autism spectrum, but it's not her only barrier. There's a lot she won't learn just because she resents it.
  • Hopeless with Tech: As with most human things, Ryn is completely useless when it comes to anything technological. She does learn to appreciate texting at the end of the novel, as her usual Bad Liar tendencies are much harder to detect through words on a screen.
  • Humanoid Abomination: While Ryn is technically a deva, she can do things that even other deva can't — like shred asura with her claws. While she can pass as human most of the time, her teeth and eyes betray her true nature and instinctually terrify those who witness them. She initially cares nothing for human society, resenting that her curse binds her to its laws, but discovers that — to an extent — Humanity Is Infectious and eventually falls in love.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Ryn, obviously, is not human, and has a great deal of difficulty understanding them at times.
  • 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 four 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.
  • I Know Your True Name: Asura use nicknames because using true names is "dangerous" for them
  • 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", only to have her inform him that she doesn't take plea deals and rip him to shreds.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: Ryn has eyes with matte black sclera and rings of blue fire for irises; as they're an immutable and unmistakable sign of her divinity, she wears dark sunglasses most of the time and claims they're prescription.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Asura who can manipulate minds cause this in their victims. As a result of Ghorm's machinations, the Asura Cabal's mortal agents are twisted until they believe whatever wildly contradictory things are needed by the asura to sic them on Senator Bradford and Naomi. An eco-terrorist, 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.
    • And then there's Patrick, who wants to kill Naomi because her father supports pro-gun legislation and a gun killed his mother. When she tries to point out how little sense it makes, she realizes that he can't even hear what she's saying anymore.
  • Instant Expert: So long as she can witness them beforehand, Ryn is capable of easily performing complex tasks that usually require years of training and practise — justified by her being millennia old and having superhuman perceptive and motor-control skills. School is so easy for her that within a few days of her arriving she has to invoke Do Well, But Not Perfect to avoid drawing undue attention to herself; while institutionalized she learns to play complex piano pieces with the grace of a master after watching another inmate do it once; and she easily beats Muse — a seasoned gambler — in a game of pool despite never having played before in her life. The pool game is notable because it's the only one we see from Ryn's perspective. She spends several minutes trying to find the trick, the thing that actually makes the game difficult... and then realizes there isn't one.
  • In the Hood: Ryn's Kanaf is a grey hoodie in its civilian guise, and a hooded black cloak in its more natural state. It makes her nearly invisible in shadows, and causes any witnesses to identify her as the Grim Reaper.
  • Intrinsic Vow: This applies to any vow made by an asura or a deva. Once made, they literally cannot violate a vow.
  • I Own This Town: When Ryn first arrives in New Petersburg, she declares the city her territory, her hunting grounds.
  • Kiss of Life: When Naomi nearly drowns after being thrown into a river by Patrick, Ryn dives down after her and gives her mouth-to-mouth to transfer oxygen to her. This also has the effect of giving Naomi a taste of Ryn's supernatural senses, and leads to her realizing she's not as heterosexual as she's been claiming.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: When Naomi and her friends first meet Ryn, who's dressed in a figure-concealing hoodie and cargo pants, they initially assume she's a boy. Elli in particular laments Ryn being a girl, noting she has a thing for the brooding, mysterious types.
  • Living Weapon: In order to dispose of Ryn, Caspar Owens — a Bible-thumping sniper hired by the Cabal to kill Naomi under the delusion that her father is the Antichrist — is given a shape-shifting eldritch weapon built by the Deep Ones/Kl’thunians to kill gods. In Caspar's hands the weapon takes the form of a black rifle with red markings... but Ryn No Sells its bullets and slices it apart with her claws.
  • Lunacy: Ryn's power waxes and wanes with the moon, with her being at her most powerful the day of the full moon.
  • Made of Evil:
    • Splat, Ghorm, and Mr. Saxby are a trio of Asura spawned by the darkness of humanity. Splat is a misogynistic sadist born from the collective depravity of a snuff-porn ring, and delights in rape and torture; Ghorm was spawned from a cult and is capable of reshaping the minds and perceptions of those he targets; and Mr. Saxby was spawned from one of Josef Mengele's brutal experiments on twins in Auschwitz, and can reshape the bodies of his targets at will.
    • Not all Asura are this: Tooloo — while still evil — was spawned from the apathy generated by the digital era and is completely emotionless, and considering how most empath Asura are, well, empathetic, it's likely that they aren't spawned that way either.
  • Magic Mushroom: The spirit forms of asura are invisible even to deva, unless they first consume psilocybin mushrooms.
  • Masquerade: Monsters, gods, and spirits exist just beyond human knowledge. A spell called The Veil erases memories and evidence of the supernatural, but there are ways of temporarily circumventing it.
  • Meaningful Name: All of Ryn's names have a basis in mythology, though it's unclear if she just shares their names or actually was those figures of myth. She does recall watching the ancestors of humans huddle in the night before they learned to make fire, so she's definitely old enough.
  • Mook Horror Show: One of Ryn's encounters with the cabal is framed from their perspective, with Ryn taking them out one by one.
  • Morality Pet: Ryn actually feels less inclined to kill one of the cabal's henchmen due to Naomi's prompting, which as an entity that exists to kill bad guys is quite the feat.
  • 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. In the prologue, she uses this power to resurrect Aina, and is relieved she doesn't have to do it to Naomi after Casper Owens attacks the Bradford house.
  • 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 to with some resulting drowsiness. She also can go without eating, drinking, and breathing, and will only become ever so slightly weaker as a result.
  • Never Say That Again: Ryn is very, very powerful, very, very old, and has a very, very low opinion of humanity. So when a human tells her she can't do something, she does not respond well. Her usual response is to stare at the person and say, "Tell me one more time what I can not do. I dare you." She never loses it but it's implied that if the person didn't back down, this would be a Berserk Button.
  • No Party Given: Averted. Naomi's dad is explicitly a Libertarian member of the Republican Party. Note that many US Libertarians join the Republican party due to overlapping policies.
  • The Nose Knows: Ryn has quite the sense of smell, able to follow scents across cities, sense changes in body chemistry and hormones, and even tell the quality of a soul through scent alone.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Ryn's senses are keen enough to detect that Naomi is subconsciously attracted to her, though she initially doesn't register why. Naomi vehemently denies this during their falling-out, but after getting a dose of Ryn's divine power she is mortified to learn that it's true.
  • No Social Skills: Ryn is terrible with words and 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 Caspar Owens, 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, and he takes Ryn catching his bullets as evidence that his delusions are correct.
  • 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.
  • Occult Detective: O'Rourke tries to be one despite the Veil acting to erase all mortal knowledge of the supernatural. It's revealed that his "black binder" cases are literal — he files away unexplainable pieces of evidence in black binders made of goat skin — which preserves the contents from the Veil's corrosion.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Kessler is fresh from the army, while O'Rourke is a veteran cop who knows the 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.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Senator Bradford is remarkably open-minded for a Republican, likely owing to his libertarian leanings. He supports the legalization of marijuana, opposes the country's immigration laws, and is seemingly okay with his daughter being in a romantic relationship with another girl.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Asura are invisible, intangible (to most things) creatures born from intense emotions that can possess objects and living things. Even Ryn can't see them without first consuming psilocybin mushrooms.
  • Our Gods Are Different: According to Ryn, the entities that humans worship as gods and goddesses are Deva that were able to blend into human civilization. Despite being categorized as a monster for her inability to do so, Ryn is a divine being with power surpassing that of most other Deva, and occasionally slips up and refers to herself as a goddess.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: According to Ryn, most monsters — herself included — are just Deva that were unable to blend in with humans and were banished from civilization by the Fates.
  • Parental Substitute: Kessler (one of the soldiers who found Ryn) and Ms. Cross (Ryn's caseworker) become Ryn's defacto dad and mom.
  • Parking Garage: Splat tries to abduct Naomi from a mall parking garage until Ryn intervenes, allowing Naomi to escape. She has nightmares about the encounter for the rest of the book.
  • Papa Wolf: After Splat's attempt on Naomi's life, Senator Bradford goes to extreme lengths to keep his daughter safe — hiring a soldier to patrol his property and even proposing a bill to allow teenagers to carry firearms. After learning that Naomi's new friend Ryn was the one who coaxed her into leaving the safety of her home to go to the Nine Lives nightclub, where she and her friend Denise were almost raped by some drug dealers, he furiously forbids Ryn from ever seeing his daughter again... only to immediately rescind this after being shown a video of Ryn curb-stomping the drug dealers to protect Naomi, and personally asks Ryn to keep his daughter safe.
  • 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.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Some deva used to try and hunt Ryn for sport, seeing her as the last wild thing. These battles destroyed entire nations and left immutable scars in the earth.
  • Physical God: Ryn is powerful and old beyond human comprehension. She's also a goddess of vengeance (though she is categorically a monster, not a goddess in the book's internal mythology), having been known as Nemesis and Adrasteia to the Greeks. Only the Fates are more powerful than she is, and have cursed her to be unable to set foot in civilization without first being invited.
  • Picky Eater: Ryn despises the taste of processed foods, animals raised in slaughterhouses, and plantation-grown fruits and vegetables. She prefers fresh fruits and meat she's hunted herself, and during the summer camp section cannot understand why the humans stick to canned food when there is perfectly good fresh game nearby.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Ryn may be slender and short, built more for stealth than brawling, but she's superhumanly strong, able to easily punch through metal and stone.
  • Pre-Asskicking 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.
  • Predator Turned Protector: Ryn is an ancient and monstrous Deva who exists to consume the evil of the world. She quickly takes a liking to Naomi Bradford, and swears an unbreakable oath to protect her.
  • Puny Earthlings: Ryn has a pretty dim view of humans and generally sees herself as above them, but she does begrudgingly stoop to our level when it comes to Naomi.
  • Really Gets Around: At the nightclub, Denise declares that she wants to hit on and be hit on by as many boys as possible, and even flirts with Ryn — saying that she's up for trying anything once. She also indicates she'd be open to hooking up with Naomi were Naomi into girls.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • The novel's prologue is told from the perspective of Aina, a teenage girl who went to look for Erynis so that she could offer her life in exchange for her brother being cured of his terminal illness. She ends up gang-raped and murdered by a group of terrorists smuggling nuclear material. Erynis resurrects and heals her, then gives Aina some of her essence to heal her brother.
    • Ryn hunts and devours all kinds of evil, but she seems to hate rapists most of all. In the prologue it's mentioned that Aina's uncle was taken by the Great Spirit (the locals' name for Ryn) for molesting his daughter. It's revealed later in the book that she herself was raped by the smugglers at the start of the novel, and was intent on slaughtering them for violating her as soon as she regained her strength.
  • Red Baron: Ryn has quite a few names, each more badass than the last. There's Erynis ("The Implacable One"), Nemesis and Adrasteia (the Greek goddess of vengeance and "the one from whom there is no escape"), the Great Spirit, and Lailah ("Night" in Hebrew).
  • Resurrective Immortality: While not immune to harm, Ryn cannot truly die. Even if her body were completely destroyed, she would just regenerate or eventually manifest a new one.
  • The Sacred Darkness: Ryn has been worshiped as a goddess of both vengeance and darkness, with her kanaf letting her blend into the darkness at will.
  • Sadist: Splat was spawned from the collective depravity of a snuff-porn ring, and is a horrifically sadistic and misogynistic asura who delights in rape and torture.
  • Scars Are Forever: Ryn's healing factor lets her recover from lacerations, bullet wounds, broken bones, and even missing limbs in record time as though nothing happened... but the scar from where a railroad spike was driven through her arm is there to stay.
  • 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. She can also freely control the color, shape, and texture of her kanaf.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • After realizing that Ryn is the best protection Naomi can have, Senator Bradford grills Naomi for details on Ryn like he would a prospective boyfriend, notes that her reaction is the same as when he met Naomi's mother, and happily encourages them to hang out more often.
    • Denise almost immediately picks up on Ryn's feelings for Naomi and playfully teases her about them. Later in the book she starts teasing Naomi about being a Shameless Fanservice Girl for changing clothes in front of Ryn.
    • Ms. Cross encourages Ryn to explore her feelings for Naomi hoping it would help her learn to socialize better and cope with the trauma of having been tortured and raped by the smugglers.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: Nothing Ryn faces even comes close to her level. The only real times she is injured or even challenged are when she allows herself to be hurt during her Heroic BSoD, and at the very beginning of the novel when she deliberately weakens herself during a time when she is already weaker than normal (see Worf Had the Flu).
  • Soul Eating: When Ryn consumes the hearts of the wicked, their souls are relegated to the fires of gehenna, where they burn to nothingness. The ashes even float out of her mouth.
  • Smells Sexy: Ryn notes that Naomi's soul smells pure, which is one of the things that initially endears the mortal to her. She later discovers that Naomi's scent changes to become tantalizing when they are in close proximity to each other, and Naomi finding this out for herself is one of the things that clues her in that she's attracted to Ryn.
  • Spock Speak: When she's not communicating by hissing or snarling, Ryn speaks in a very formal, slightly antiquated way with limited use of contractions. She also 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 and even during the day, but it's purely to protect her from a genuine threat and without any of the abusive qualities stalking usually holds. Naomi is still justifiably freaked when she finds out.
  • Stealth Pun: In the epilogue, Ryn is hunting the gangster who drugged and tried to rape Denise. One of her hiding places is underneath his bed.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The cabal of asura 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 induce terror in any mortal who looks into them. Partially from divine magic and partially from the fact that she's been around so long that humans evolved to have an instinctual fear of her eyes.
  • Super-Senses: Ryn has a supernaturally good sense of smell and hearing, to the point where she can smell the quality of a person's soul and hear conversations blocks away. After accidentally being infused with Ryn's power, Naomi is overwhelmed by all her senses temporarily being dialed up to eleven.
  • Symbiotic Possession: Unlike the other asura, who go for Demonic Possession, Muse shares her body with her host — Melony Wiercinski — with both benefiting from the situation. Muse gets to be as hedonistic as she desires, and Melony becomes The Ageless and immune to diseases.
  • Talking Your Way Out:
    • Naomi manages to talk down Caspar Owens, one of the Cabal's human agents, by appealing to his better nature. She later tries this with Patrick, but he's too twisted with hatred towards her for it to have any effect.
    • When Ryn finally corners the Asura Cabal, Ghorm tries this on her using his ability to stretch her perception of time to make moments last for years, giving him as long as he needs to convince anyone of anything. Except Ryn, being older than time, has infinite patience and far too much experience to get bogged down in trivialities, and is also powerful enough that she can just negate what he's doing if she wants to.
  • 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; though after learning the shadow was Ryn, she starts having erotic dreams about it as well.
  • 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 religions "shattered time" somehow, making it difficult for Ryn to pin down her own age. She notes that other gods remember the past differently than she does due to coming from different worlds.
  • Time Master: Deva and Asura have the ability to control their perception of time, thus able to stretch a second into infinity, or speed through boredom.
  • Time of Myths: This is where Ryn is from. "I am from the before times and the Long Ago." It's implied that there was some event or period where most mythical creatures were either banished or subjected to a set of rules so strong they literally remade reality. According to Ryn, before this event, time itself flowed differently, so she can't really say how old she is.
  • 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 Hollow'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 family's bodyguard, initially dismisses her as a boastful teenager until he sees the video of her beating up three big guys with a level of skill that clearly marks her as someone intimately familiar with combat.
    Mark: She knows how to hurt people in ways you don't learn in a studio. [...] No one I've met can do that — not with that speed and force — and I've met guys I wouldn't take on without a SWAT team. [...] That's not luck. That's uncanny. You can't do that unless you fight like a motherfucker on fire.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Ryn can literally smell the tension Naomi is feeling at certain points.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Despite no less than five doctors wanting to write about it, Major Blackmun considers Ryn's obviously inhuman anatomy to be totally irrelevant. It is possible this is the Veil at work.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Most of the humans the Asura Cabal uses are this, twisted by Ghorm's mental manipulation powers into going after Senator Bradford through his daughter.
    • At the end of the novel, it's revealed that Ryn herself has been one for the Deva known as Set the Pretender, who used Dust as a proxy to manipulate her into going after his rival Glycon's minions. Ryn is livid when she finds out and declares her intent to kill both of them — Glycon for daring to target Naomi and Set the Pretender for daring to manipulate her.
  • 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: Out in the wild, away from human artifice, the weather reacts to Ryn's mood and she can control it directly. During the summer camp arc, her sadness causes it to rain when she sees Patrick and Naomi almost kiss, she smites Saxby with a hurricane's worth of lightning, and when she's afraid Naomi's been killed by Patrick, her despair causes it to snow.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • After Ryn attempts to destroy her friendship with Naomi by revealing she is the shadowy entity that Naomi glimpsed hunting Splat and has been having nightmares about, Denise berates her for breaking Naomi's heart by suddenly vanishing without so much as a goodbye.
    • In the final arc of the novel, Naomi — frustrated over Ryn jealously intervening in her romance with Patrick — learns that Ryn has feelings for her and has been stalking her, and furiously berates her before telling her to leave her alone forever, though she comes to regret it when Patrick reveals himself as a bad guy and tries to drown her.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Ryn is overpowered, brutally tortured, and raped by terrorists at the start of the novel. This only happened because she had just resurrected someone (which exhausted 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 further exhausted her), it was a new moon (which means her powers were at their weakest to start with), 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 the rest of them the second she had recovered enough to break free from the pole. Statements made by some of them strongly imply that they realized this and tried to kill her, and failed so miserably that one mook begs Kessler to kill him and take his body far away from her, while she's still stapled to the post, because she can't die and she's going to break free soon.
  • Writer on Board:
    • Naomi's father is explicitly libertarian, and is shown to be a Reasonable Authority Figure.
    • One of the few stories we are given about Naomi's mother to show what she was like centers entirely around biting comments she made to her dean because he was "pro-Marxist".
    • Of the Cabal's human minions, only the ex-military religious fanatic is shown to be remotely sympathetic and able to be redeemed. The "Gaia-hugging hippy" and the gun hater are almost as vile as the racist rapist, and Naomi's attempt to talk Patrick down has no effect at all, unlike with Owens.