The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
448 pages (hardcover)
Simon & Schuster
This was a truly horrific, macabre novel that made my blood run cold and kept me captivated every step of the way that Will Henry took while following his Master.
I didn’t really enjoy how the book began. The reader is introduced to the main character William James Henry as a delusional man who has lived extraordinarily long, but had just died, and what would make up The Monstrumologist are actually three of his journals, which are so fantastical that they could only be fiction, even though they feature his own life. I found this… disheartening and bleak. I couldn’t imagine that there would be any possibilities for Will Henry. The whole time that I read about him, I kept on thinking, ‘He’s going to die,’ and even though he would live a long life, he had an end. You usually don’t come across that too much in literature with the main characters. So that made it hard to really feel emotionally connected to Will Henry initially.
The pacing is really quick for this book. It starts off with a stranger at Will Henry’s Master’s (Doctor Pellinor Warthrop) doorstep, bringing with him an even stranger and horrific load on a foggy night. There is a lot of description that may slow down the book however, but perhaps the excellent descriptions are what make this book so haunting and horrific. The encounters are told with such vivid and macabre clarity that they feel real in the mind’s eye. It disturbed me sure, but it kept true to the nature of the rest of the book, withholding nothing to tell the truth. And I loved it for that. A few simple days felt like a week with the descriptions, but this is very believable, considering Will Henry hardly slept during those two days.
As the book went on I started actually feeling for and connecting with Will Henry, forgetting the prologue and letting myself get attached. I love his interactions with the Doctor, how their relationship grew, and I think that he really loved him, even though he thoroughly denied that fact. And, if not, then the Doctor loved him, no matter how the Doctor had treated him before. The Doctor was quite hilarious, and I grew fond of his character too. I could understand how he treated Will Henry. Yancey gives reason for it, even though the reason doesn’t excuse his behaviour. All of the characters I found were likeable, or at least enjoyable to read about. Kearns gave me the willies with his morbid enthusiasm, but I still loved him for his eccentric behaviour. I also loved what was revealed about Kearns in the very end of the book- it fit perfectly into his character, and was very believable.
This probably isn’t the book to read if you’re faint at heart or looking for a girl-power book. I could probably count the female characters that actually make a living appearance on one hand. And, considering that the novel takes place in New England just after the Civil war, the female characters aren’t treated too well.
I also loved the way it ended. It wasn’t how I thought it would end, having twisted the whole way with Yancey’s clever planting of foreshadowed events, but it ended on a good note. It gave a possibility for more for Will Henry, when, at the beginning, all I could think of was the end. Will Henry’s death, along with Pellinor’s death, which was riddled with blame in my mind, was the only end I could see at the very beginning. But I was pleased, along with the fact that the ending gave Will Henry a possible future, that the Doctor was also not as guilty as I first thought he was in Will Henry’s death.
The Monstrumologist is truly a horror novel, fantastical yet at the same time realistic, exploring life and, of course, death, and the nature of morality.
Also, did anyone catch a possible Dracula allusion? Now, I found that the novel reminded me of Dracula in a small way, probably with character interactions and whatnot, but at the end of The Monstrumologist they mentioned a Doctor Abram Von Helrung and in Dracula there is the Doctor Abraham Van Helsing. Coincidence? We’ll have to wait and see. I’m very excited for the next instalment, The Curse of the Wendigo.
(Now this review was written right after I first finished the book, shortly after it was originally published in 2009. Nonetheless, this book is still one of my favourites.)