The Monstrumologist - Rick Yancey


Synopsis: These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me. So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorp, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.


Review: The voice and style in which The Monstrumologist - set in 1800s New England - is written, is so fundamentally at odds with that of The 5th Wave (which I read previously) that unless I knew otherwise for a fact, I would never believe they could have been written by the same author. The prose in this novel is beautiful. I would question its designation as a YA read based on the level of gore - at one point I actually had to put it down for a moment and think about nice things - but its prose is the perfect mix of readable and substantial to appeal to a YA audience without being too 'easy'. I would have loved a book like this, when I was a teenager.

As complex and creative as I would hope for from the writer of The 5th Wave - though written long before it - The Monstrumologist lures the reader into the underbelly of the natural world, wherein a scientist and his 12-year-old assistant tend to 'abberant biology' - creatures so nightmarish they have been relinquished to the world of myths instead of nature. Rather than a huge monster-fest, this novel focuses on the discovery and dispatch of one pod of a single type of monster, the Anthropophagi. Doing so allows the author to expend detail on the development of the characters, their relationships, their backstories, the backstory of the monsters, how everything ties up - and he does all of this with immense finesse.

The characters deserve a paragraph all of their own. The brilliant, detached, occasionally wretched Dr. Warthrop cuts a formidable but lamentable figure, haunted as he is not by the literal horrors of his work, but the demons of his past and legacy. The tenacious 12-year-old, Will Henry, conflicted by the abhorrence of the doctor's work and will to persevere in memory of his father. John Kearns, the charismatic, unpredictably sociopathic British monster hunter. Even the secondary characters - the grave-robber Erasmus Gray, young Malachi Stinnet, tortured Captain Varner, all contribute to the emotional evocation of this novel.

Visceral, unremitting, heart-wrenching; everything about this book is wholesome and satisfying. I can't wait to start the second book in the series. If the Gothic horror of Victorian times appeals to you, this is definitely one not to miss - but consider yourself warned: the ick-factor is high. Love it.

Rating: 5/5

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