Odd And True by Cat Winters book review

Two sisters fight different forms of evil in Cat Winters’ Odd And True

How do you fight a monster? If it’s a demon from another world, then incantations and mirrors might work. But what if it’s something a bit more earthly?

That’s the problem facing 15-year-old Trudchen Grey. Growing up, her sister Odette had always insisted that their family was special; that their mother was a monster-hunter, and that once the two of them came of age, they’d follow in her footsteps. But Od was sent away to work when she turned 15, leaving her sister alone to wonder whether any of it was actually, you know, true. So when Od reappears, asking Tru to run away with her to defeat the Leeds Devil, Tru goes with her – even though she doesn’t completely believe any more…

Set in the early 1900s, in that heady period when science and Spiritualism were battling for dominance over people’s hearts and minds, Odd And True is a sweet and heart-wrenching novel about sisterly love and the power of stories. Cat Winters uses the historical setting to her advantage, even drawing in real cryptozoology (there really were sightings of a goat-headed, bat-winged monster in New Jersey in 1909!) to add authentic period colour. Her themes aren’t pinned to any particular time, though; it’s about loyalty and prejudice, about the horrible things people do to one another, and the lengths they’ll go to for the people they care about.

It’s maybe a little over-plotted; some of its reveals are easily guessable, while the epilogue somehow manages to be both too much story and not enough, but it’s so well-intentioned that it’s hard to hold that against it. If nothing else, it’ll make you think again about fairy tales – especially what they have to say about evil, and how to defeat it. Maybe they’re not just for kids after all.