Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Where'd I get it: sent from author.
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 begins the journal of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, 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 me find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.
Critically acclaimed author Rick Yancey has written a gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does a man become the very thing he hunts?
Will Henry, orphaned by a fire and left to the hands of Dr. Warthrop, Monstrumologist, awakens one night to find an old graverobber at the door, with a strange and mysterious package for the doctor.
I feel like there should be more to this little summary, but that's all I'm writing. Why? Because there is far too much I want to say about this book to waste time with summaries. That's why.
The first thought I had about the Monstrumologist is how in God's name am I supposed to pronounce that? The second was author insertion! author insertion! The third was snap to! WTF??? But only the fourth one is actually relevant to this post:
And that's exactly what it is: Gothic. From the scenery to the dark subject matter to the time period, and even to the characters. Everything screams of a young America, taking place in the (fictional?) town of New Jerusalem, in the dark basement of a man who studies monsters. I want to say this is told in the first person, but not until the last fifty or so pages does Will Henry--our protagonist--come in to play as an actual character. The rest, he seems to be just a fly on the wall to the ramblings and manic fits of his master. I suppose this is appropriate--it is, after all, named the Monstrumologist--but I'm kind of a character-driven gal, and there was a lot of info-dumping. Not to say this is a bad thing, but anyone looking for an Emotional Novel should best take their business elsewhere.
Now, for the rest of you:
This book reads like one written in the time period it's told, which is Yancey's biggest accomplishment by-far; a very refined, old-time voice that somehow stays readable for teens is no easy task. While, for those who have never read a Gothic novel, it may be slow-goings, it is definitely entertaining. In fact, I'm going to venture off and say that it is perhaps one of the most technically well-written, modern day novel I've read in quite some time.
Yancey definitely has a world-building quality about his writing that makes you feel like your actually there. His descriptions are so Dracula-style Gothic that it's not hard to believe these are the memoirs of a delusional old man recounting events that are real entirely in his mind (or are they...?).
Again, this is, first and foremost, a plot-driven novel. While there are some honest attempts at character depth thrown in, I was much more interested in the beasts then Will Henry. I guess the doctor is supposed to bridge the gap between monster and human, with his "holyshitimONTOSOMETHING!!" crazes and borderline-neglectful treatment of twelve-year-old Will Henry (who, by the way, your unlikely to forget his name--seriously, it's said about three times a page). It's kind of a co dependant relationship between Will and the doctor. Clearly neither enjoy their company, and it isn't until the last few pages is it evident that they even care for each other, but they both need each other. You know? No? Fine. Moving on.
There are certain times when a character is flash-backing, that's so long (albeit, entertaining) that it could warrant it's own novel. I think these parts are the most interesting, especially one involving a ship and some bored crew members. It perfectly demonstrates the idea that monsters are only monsters because we make them monsters...or that we are, in fact, the monsters.
Getting back to the characters for a moment (making this my most scatter-brained review to date), it's really only Will and Warthrop that stand out. They're co dependence is all at once heartbreaking and amusing. Both, in a way, need one another, but they also despise what the other means to them--to Warthrop, it's a vision of himself and to Will, it's a vision of what he owes. I'll leave it at that, because, goddamnit, I can't get my thoughts straight. Consider this a good thing.
Honestly, when I started the Monstrumologist, I had an entire list of things wrong with it. No emotional depth, no character building, no this, no that. But now that I'm finished with it, looking at it's kickass cover stare up at me beside the keyboard, I can't think of a single thing I would have changed.
Rating: 9 out of 10--close to perfection.
Also: You can check out Yancey's website for some character profiles, as well as some info about his other novels (including the bestselling Alfred Kropp series)