The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (The Monstrumologist #1) / ★★★★★
Summary: Twelve year old Will Henry is the assistant of Dr. Warthrop, a Monstrumologist, or a studier of monsters. It’s the late 19th century and a horrifying discovery is made in their small New England town. Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry must undertake their most deadly case yet- that of the Anthropophagi, who thirst for human flesh and will tear them limb from limb to get it.
If the doctor had known what horrors awaited us not only at the cemetery that night, but in the days to come, would he still have insisted upon my company? Would he still have demanded that a mere child dive so deep into the well of human suffering and sacrifice- a literal sea of blood? And if the answer to that question is yes, then there are more terrifying monstrosities in the world than Anthropophagi.
This book was HORRIFYING. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, because I had seen the reviews that said it was gruesome, but I guess sometimes you just have to read it to believe it. And it was horrifying and gruesome and fantastic.
In short, this book is about a twelve year old boy and his mentor – a scientist who studies monsters, hence “monstrumologist” – hunting down ferocious man-eating monsters in 19th century New England. This is not a synopsis to take lightly. While hunting down these monsters, people get eaten, people get eaten alive, and that’s…the tip of the iceberg, in some ways. In general, I’m not a huge fan of horror, and I’m never a fan of gore, and those are things that take place in this book. If you’re not a fan, it may be smart to stay away from this book.
So why did I even read it, you ask?
The plot! The writing! The characters! These monsters are terrible, but they’re so intriguing. The mystery and backstory surrounding them is fantastic. And the setting, somber 19th century cemeteries and basements and underground tunnels, is perfectly creepy and an atmosphere that I love. This book fascinated me as much as it scared me, and it was so poignant and succinct in it’s exploration of what it meant to be human vs. monster, and where and how those lines blurred- and where they didn’t. This book was a strange and fascinating kind of fun.
THE CHARACTERS. I loved little Will Henry and his strange and terrible and oddly heartwarming – at times – relationship with Doctor Warthrop, who takes him in after his parents die in a fire. I loved Will’s narration of events, his need to prove himself despite the grossness and magnitude of their situations, especially for a child. His terror was palpable through the text, and yet he never says anything but “yes, sir.”
Doctor Warthrop is a fascinating character- intensely obsessed with his work to the point where he neglects literally everything else. He is self-centered and needy, and every time I decided I was done affording him sympathy, a turn of events would gain it back. I particularly loved the juxtaposition between him and “monstrous” Doctor John Kearns, who joins them in their monster hunt. That was brilliant.
And THOSE MONSTERS. Wow.
The events of this book are recounted in diary form, and the narration and voice of Will Henry is perfection. I felt like I could, in fact, have been reading something written in the 19th century; it was just dense just poignant enough. I loved the introspection that surrounded the memory of the events, it was remarkable and beautifully written.
And on the flip side- Yancey really knows how to make your stomach turn. YIKES.
Was I satisfied?
YES. This book horrified me, had an intriguing plot, and most importantly, had extremely flawed, fascinating characters. I loved it, and will definitely be reading the second book in the series.