Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Thursday, May 2, 2013 9:00 AM
Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Published: September 22, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Series: The Monstrumologist #1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Horror
Pages: 434
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
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“Yes, my dear child, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.”
― Rick Yancey, The Monstrumologist

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 Warthorpe, 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.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts? (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Do you know that feeling you get when you've discovered a new favorite series? In my case, I am on cloud nine. I want to dance a jig, frolic through a meadow of flowers...you get the idea. This was how I felt after I started The Monstrumologist. I was captivated from the beginning. In fact, after finishing my library copy of The Monstrumologist, I proceeded to purchase all of the books that are currently out in the series, including the one I just read which I bought for rereading and loaning purposes. And after recommending the first book to my mom - well, actually after thrusting it in her face and forcing her to read it - I devoured the rest of the series. It's that phenomenal. It's creepy, spine-tingling, brillant writing, and I just might be obsessed with Rick Yancey now. Don't worry. I'm not the stalker type. Or am I?

 The Monstrumologist is a genius mix of Sherlock Holmes, Fringe and Supernatural. I actually consider Pellinore Warthrop to be the monstrumological equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, though I can't say Will Henry compares to Watson. Warthrop's more of a father figure to Will than a comrade, seeing as Will starts off the series at the young age of 12. Although, Warthrop does instruct Will in the matters of monstrumology just as Sherlock demonstrates the powers of deductive reasoning to Watson.

The Monstrumologist is a truly horrifying tale that brings to life the monsters that lurk in every child's imagination. Monstrumologists both study and hunt these unnatural creatures, while the rest of society remains, for the most part, blissfully unaware of their existence. I appreciated that Yancey's imagination extended beyond the usual suspects, such as vampires, werewolves, and the like. Instead, the predator in The Monstrumologist is the Anthropopagus (plural, Anthropophagi). The Anthropophagi are a cannibalistic species that have, instead of a head, a face on their torso. This mythical creature has been described by both Herodotus in his Histories and Shakespeare in the Merry Wives of Windsor and Othello:
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.
— Othello, Act 1. Scene III
The Anthropophagi were absolutely terrifying in The Monstrumologist. They are more than capable hunters, with rows of sharklike teeth in their gaping maw and a freakish ability to climb and jump great distances. I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after reading about these monsters who love to eat, of course, humans, and won't settle for any old goat or pig. These beasties are extremely territorial and love to rip apart their meal so that bloody viscera splatters everywhere. They are definitely not the romantic interest or a sparkling vampire. They are the real deal, and I was significantly impressed by this ghastly, disturbing story that reminded me of what horror should be.

As for the characters, they were as real and tangible as you and me. Warthrop is a wonderfully cynical and impassioned scientist who is literally mad for his craft and is very dissection happy. When he is on the hunt for a new discovery, he is overcome by an all-encompassing fervor until he is satisfied with his studies, and then he collapses into a deep melancholia. He also possesses one of the largest egos known to mankind. As for Will Henry, I would have expected the narrator to fade into the background in comparison to his overzealous teacher, but I loved Will. He constantly surprised me with his dedication to Warthrop and his sudden bursts of courage. My favorite part of The Monstrumologist was witnessing the irrevocable bond between Warthrop and Will. They both deny their strong connection, but the two of them share a sort of father/son relationship which is extremely touching, given their lack of family or friends.

We also meet another character, who is skilled in hunting the Anthropophagi, even if he is not a monstrumologist himself. Despite his psychopathy, I could not help but find Kearn's charm and brutal honesty amusing. Although, he seriously is screwed up in the head and is often indistinguishable from the very monsters he hunts. The Monstrumologist explores the fine line between the hunter and the hunted. When does the monster hunter lose all sense of morality and become the very thing he's hunting? That is a core issue that Yancey delves into in this book and throughout the series.

Even the world building did not disappoint! Yancey introduces The Monstrumologist Society, a secret society comprised of, you guessed it, monstrumologists. This society goes to great lengths to hide the existence of monsters from the general public. They meet in secret for conferences and they are consulted for mysterious cases that cannot be solved by any detective or policeman.

The Monstrumologist is quite gruesome and unsettling at points, and it is definitely a must-read for any horror fans. But at the same time, it was also a poignant tale of a boy seeking solace after his parents' deaths in the company of a man who has allowed his studies to consume him for far too long. After finishing this thrilling, suspenseful masterpiece, I knew, without a doubt, that this was a book I would not forget anytime soon.




19 comments:

  1. Wow, that sounds really good. I love a good horror story. I hadn't heard of this before, but Rick Yancey is certainly getting a lot of love from all of my Goodreads/Blogger friends lately. I'm reading the 5th Wave now and am really enjoying it. I will definitely pick up this book, as well. In fact, as soon as I'm done typing this, I'm heading over to my library site to order it. Great review!!

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    1. yay! I'm glad I persuaded you to check this one out from the library! I can't wait to see what you think of it. And I'm so jealous! I cannot wait to read The 5th Wave. I pre-ordered it and am so ready to have it now! It's great to hear that you're enjoying it, Natalie! Thanks!

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  2. A secret society that hunts monsters? I'm sold. I don't think I have ever heard of this book before but your review grabbed my attention. I have added it to my TBR pile.

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    1. Yay! Great to hear, Kay! I hope you enjoy it! :D

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  3. I'm so glad you reviewed this! I recently read and loved Rick Yancey's latest title, The 5th Wave, so I've been itching to get started on this series for the last couple of weeks. I bought a copy of the first book and really can't wait to get started. I love the sound of the premise, and I'm looking forward to meeting Will and Kearn. :) Awesome review, Courtney!

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    1. I'm so glad you bought the first book since this series needs more recognition! I'm sure you'll love it, Sam! As for The 5th Wave, I am beyond excited to read it when it's released. If I had known about it earlier, I probably would have begged for an ARC. :P Thanks so much!

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  4. OH, this sounds so good! I can't wait to dig into this one and am looking forward to seeing what you think of the next two books! :)

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    1. Thanks Keertana! I'm also eager to hear what you think of this series!

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  5. I've been planning on reading this for so long! I neeeeed to get to it soon, as I have heard that it's brilliant. And your review made me even more excited. I'm happy to hear that it's gruesome and unsettling (I'm weird, I know) because I LOVE those types of books.

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    1. Hey, if you're weird for loving gruesome books, Amber, I'm right there with you. :P Give me a Stephen King book any day! I hope you get to this soon because I'm sure you'll love it! It really is BRILLANT!

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  6. I know people are raving about The 5th Wave but this sounds amazing too! I'm not much of a horror fan but your comparison to Sherlock Holmes made me intrigued.

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    1. Yes, and I find it ironic and AMAZING that Arthur Conan Doyle himself makes an appearance in the third book so I'm thinking that the resemblance was intentional. Definitely check this series out when you get a chance, Elena! :D

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  7. Oh my gosh YESSSSS. I love this review and that The Monstrumologist series made you want to dance a jig, seriously these books do not get nearly as much attention and love as they deserve. Also, I just love Will Henry and Pellinore Warthrop. Basically, this review made me super happy because it's awesome when people LOVE books that I also love. <3

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    1. I know! They should be way more popular than they are because it's a FANTASTIC series! I'm so happy you agree! And I know the feeling. It makes me feel like I'm not just crazy fangirling for no reason or being super weird! It's cool to know that a book I love has a following and other big fans! This series definitely deserves that. :D

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  8. So apparently I really need to start reading Rick Yancey. I am definitely intrigued by this book - but, I'll admit, a little put-off by you labeling this as "a must-read for any horror fans." I don't really like horror. Is this horror more akin to the horror of Anna Dressed in Blood? Because I was okay with that level of horror. Still, this sounds really interesting, the whole concept of a secret group of people who study and hunt monsters. I'm kind of interested in starting with The 5th Wave, but I'm pretty sure I'll try to read this series soon after. :)

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    1. I think this book has a little bit of everything for everyone, but it is definitely more horrific than Anna Dressed in Blood. For me, Anna was eerie and had a few creepy moments. The Monstrumologist was downright terrifying at a couple of points. There are some disturbing scenes, but I think you would enjoy the writing style and the suspense. It is really well-written! Seriously, I was impressed.

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  9. YAYYAYAY! I cannot express how much I love this series, but you did an excellent job for me! I also got a Sherlock Holmes vibe from the characters and I would imagine that was what Rick Yancey was going for... just wait to see what real life person you get to meet in the later books... I never thought I could get into horror and gore this extreme, but despite how unsettling it was, I felt I just couldn't look away! I'm surprised The Anthropophagi weren't a feature of my nightmares for days after reading about them - TERRIFYING!! Anyways, so SO happy you liked this one and loved the characters, too. I can't wait to hear what you think of the other books (and also The 5th Wave!)! This was such a fantastic review!!

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    1. I know! I freaked out when that character made an appearance! I was fangirling over a dead author that popped up in a fictional book. Embarrassing but true. :P I also thought I'd have nightmares, but surprisingly, I slept like a baby after reading this. It was truly terrifying at points but sooooo GOOD! And I can't wait for The 5th Wave! Thanks Aylee!

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  10. Eek this sounds amazing! Sounds like a completely new world that I'd love to read about. Never really read horror books so this should be interesting.. Great review :)

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