Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: The Monstrumologist

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good book that has the ability to really get under my skin. I’m talking about the type of storyline that jars the very fiber of your psyche, so that as soon as you're done reading for the night you put the book down and in complete paranoia, you look over your shoulder—was that oddly shaped shadow on the wall always there? You hear a scratching at the window and your head turns; you cautiously get up and open the curtains just to be sure.


The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey would fall into category of novels that make you think twice before you let your head hit the pillow and you dare to close your eyes.

The way in which the novel is written is pretty interesting. A writer, who we assume is Yancey, obtains some journals from the director of facilities in a local nursing home. He said that a patient has just died and since no one has come by to claim his possessions he thought that Yancey would enjoy reading the journals. The novel is essentially what was written inside them.

Poor Will Henry. For as much as he tries to help, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, it seems as if his efforts are never good enough. "Snap to, Will Henry!" The doctor yells, and Will Henry hurries to carry out the doctor's next request.

Twelve-year-old Will Henry became Dr. Warthrop's assistant after his parents were killed in a house fire. Now orphaned, Will Henry now lives with the doctor, unfortunately for Will Henry the doctor is a monstrumologist, meaning that he studies monsters. Also unfortunately for Will Henry the Anthropophagi, a species of monster, are loose in New Jerusalem.

Will Henry and the doctor first learn of the Anthropophagi's existence in the U.S. when Erasmus Gray brings a large burlap sack to the doctor's house one night. Upon further examination of the sack they realize that it doesn’t just contain one corpse, but two.

An Anthropophagus is wrapped around the body of the girl, it died trying to implant its offspring into the deceased girl's body. The corpse was going to be food for the baby Anthropophagus. Think maggots living inside a dead animal. The doctor makes an incision and the fetus comes wriggling out. I'll wait while you make sure this morning's breakfast doesn't come back up.

Dr. Warthrop, being a scientist and a monstrumologist, sees the opportunity for studying the Anthropophagi, and suddenly Will Henry finds himself involved the most terrifying monster hunt of his life.

The Monstrumologist series is technically a young adult horror fiction, but Yancey spares no details in the first part of this series. For horror affectionados like myself, this is definitely a good thing. The monsters in this book are terrifying, headless humanoid creatures driven by the need to feed on human flesh.


From chapter one I knew I would love this book. As a general warning this book is not for the faint of heart. There are some pretty gory scenes that read like something straight out of a rated R horror flick.

In addition to the gory scenes and frightening monsters, I love the characters in this novel.

Although he was a secondary character, I really enjoyed John Kearns’ character, another monstrumologist who makes an appearance later on in the novel. I thought Warthrop was a "mad scientist," but it's evident that he doesn't even begin to compare with Kearns. At some point Kearns has effectively blurred the line of science and ethics. He will do anything in the name of scientific discovery, even if that means that some people get hurt in the process.

There is also a noticeable amount of character growth by the end of the novel, specifically involving Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop.

In the beginning, Will Henry is terrified of the monsters that the doctor studies. When he goes down to the basement to fetch the doctor's trunk he is so paranoid that he can't even take his eyes off of the dead Anthropophagus hanging from the ceiling.

Despite the doctor's claims that Will Henry will one day take over his legacy you can tell the young apprentice doesn't quite believe it until the end of the novel when he realizes that despite being constantly ordered around, Warthrop really does care. Dr. Warthrop also seems to finally acknowledge that in addition to being his assistant, Will Henry is also his friend and confidant. A very nice, warm and fuzzy ending to an enjoyably gruesome read.

Rating: 5/5


Look for second and third books in this series, The Curse of the Wendigo and The Isle of Blood; both in bookstores now!


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