Once a Monster

Robert Dinsdale

21 September 2023
936 pages


'Imaginative mash-up of the mythical with Victorian gothic.' - The Times

'Inventive and irresistible retelling of the legend of the Minotaur.' - I News

London, 1861: Ten-year-old Nell belongs to a crew of mudlarks who work a stretch of the Thames along the Ratcliffe Highway. An orphan since her mother died four years past, leaving Nell with only broken dreams and a pair of satin slippers in her possession, she spends her days dredging up coals, copper and pieces of iron spilled by the river barges – searching for treasure in the mud in order to appease her master, Benjamin Murdstone.

But one day, Nell discovers a body on the shore. It’s not the first corpse she’s encountered, but by far the strangest. Nearly seven feet tall, the creature has matted hair covering his legs, and on his head are the suggestion of horns. Nell’s fellow mudlarks urge her to steal his boots and rifle his pockets, but as she ventures closer the figure draws breath – and Nell is forced to make a decision which will change her life forever . . .

From the critically acclaimed author of The Toymakers comes an imaginative retelling of the legend of the Minotaur, full of myth and magic and steeped in the grime of Victorian London; perfect for lovers of historical fiction with a mythical twist such as Stone Blind and Circe.

Praise for Once A Monster:

‘A labyrinthine delight of a novel . . . Dickensian darkness is infused with ancient myth. Historical writing at its finest . . . .’ - Essie Fox, bestselling author of The Somnambulist and The Fascination

The story flows as smoothly as the waters of the Thames, and is just as dark and deep. Of note is Dinsdale’s ability to turn a phrase, shimmering like fine crystal held to the light. A dazzling and heartfelt book.' - Luna McNamara, author of Psyche and Eros

[An] imaginative mash-up of the mythical with Victorian gothic.
A wonderful magic trick of a story, full of very human monsters and monstrous humans. Dinsdale is a beautiful, evocative story teller.
Robert Dinsdale mixes history and mythology with great panache in Once a Monster