Author: Rick Yancey
Published: September 22, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Series: The Monstrumologist #1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Horror
Rating: 5 stars
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“Yes, my dear child, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.”My Thoughts
― Rick Yancey, The Monstrumologist
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)
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:
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.And of the Cannibals that each other eat,The Anthropophagi, and men whose headsDo grow beneath their shoulders.— Othello, Act 1. Scene III
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.