Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Title: The Monstrumologist

Author: Rick Yancey

Pages: 434

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)


Sara said...

I've been looking at this novel for awhile and it is great to hear that it was so good!

StephanieD said...

This book is sitting in my TBR pile very invitingly. I wish I had more hours in the day to read! Thanks for the great review.

Rhiannon Hart said...

Can't wait to get to this one! Just skimmed your review, but I can see you liked it. Gothic stuff is everywhere right now! Wish I had this cover though :(

Rick Yancey said...

Well. Hmmm. Ahem. Yes. While reading your review, I was, like you while reading my book, ready to object, argue, dislike, etc., until, after reading it a third time through, I decided I would not change a word of it. I've read very few so-called professional reviews that come even close to this entertaining piece on my little piece of entertainment. Bravo and well done. Whenever I get down about sales (and as far as I can tell, I should get down about them - not going very swimmingly, I'll confess) I shall re-read your review and be gladdened that readers like you are out there for writers like me. My very best regards. Rick Yancey

Dannie said...

Why thank you :) I do try. Hope your book does well!

Pixie said...

Great Review. I loved this book. Yancey's writing is amazing.


bandwagonmelodies said...

To use a well worn cliche, I rather "stumbled" upon this book.

the first thing which struck me was the writing. It is great. As pointed out in the review, it suits the novel's Gothic ambitions without becoming dry or boring.

Second, this is a very violent book. The descriptions are gory and pull no punches. But again, the elegant writing does not make you feel repulsed but appropriately 'creeped out'.

The plot is exciting and moves along at a fast-pace. My only quibble is the monsters themselves. They resemble right to the last detail the monsters from the game "Serious Sam". All through the book I kept on getting reminded of those cartoonish 'thingies'. The way these monsters populate is ingenious, though.

On the whole a very entertaining and scary read. Plus, that's a great review.

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