Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: YA, Historical fiction, fantasy (do man-eating monsters count as fantasy??)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I think I should mention that I don't handle gore very well. In fact, reading about/imagining/watching gore on tv makes me nauseous and my throat swells up and it's just very unpleasant.
So why in the world did I pick this book up?
I'm actually still asking myself that question. I'm not entirely sure why I picked it up, knowing how queasy I am. I did like it more than I thought I would, but I think the fact that this book isn't what I'd normally pick up definitely hurt its chances of being a 4 or 5 star book. One of the reasons I picked it up was because I'd heard nothing but good things about this series, and people were impressed by Yancey's very literary writing style. Another reason I picked this up was because I'd heard mixed reviews on Yancey's newest book, The 5th Wave, so I thought it would be a safer bet to read The Monstrumologist first.
This book is one installment in a collection of journal entries by a certain Will Henry. In the frame narrative, Will Henry has just died at some improbably high age (I forget what it was, but it was considerably over 100) and his notebooks have been given to Rick Yancey for his perusal. Yancey begins to read, and discovers a story of monsters that he could hardly have imagined (which is ironic, because Yancey did in fact come up with these infernal creatures...)
I thought it was an interesting choice to have the narrator Will Henry be only 12 years old. The horror he is forced to take part in is definitely something that would traumatize people of twice, or even three times, his age. Will Henry's father was assistant to Doctor Warthrop, a monstrumologist. His parents both perished in circumstances indirectly related to Warthrop's studies, and Will Henry is currently shouldering the responsibility of being assistant to the old doctor. He is quick to point out that he has been taken in and not adopted, after all the latter implies being nurtured and cared for. It is Will Henry that does most of the taking care of things - from keeping house to cooking food to running errands to nursing the doctor when he's on one of his mad fevers. At first I was really angry with Warthrop but once you find out his troubled childhood, it's hard not to empathize. I liked seeing how his relationship with Will Henry changed over the course of the novel.
The Anthropophagi (did I spell that correctly?) are man-eating creatures that resemble humans except for being headless, having black eyes on their shoulders, and a mouth of thousands of teeth in the middle of their torso. These creatures are the main "monster" of this story, and let me tell you that the encounters are not pleasant. There is plenty of blood, gore, and screeching to go 'round!
I have neglected to mention Kearns, who is perhaps even more frightening than the above-mentioned monsters. Kearns is also a monstrumologist, but one who has lost all touch with his humanity. He will go to any lengths to study and capture the creatures he hunts, with no thought for the innocents he puts in danger - and even kills - to achieve this. You really start to wonder who the real monster is, which is a concept I liked very much.
Overall, I liked the questions raised and the very profound and literary way this rather gory story was presented. Unfortunately, there was just too much gore for me to say I enjoyed it, and I won't be reading the sequels. Still, I'm glad I gave this a shot.