Welcome to Rick Yancey’s Gothic horror novel, The Monstrumologist. Will Henry is the young apprentice of Pellinore Warthrop, a New England scientist with a gruesome area of expertise: monstrumolology. Warthrop studies the creatures that science denies exist.
When a horrifying creature crawls into the grave of a freshly-buried young woman, Warthrop suspects the worst: an infestation of Anthropophagi, a species of headless monsters whose mouths are situated inside their midsection and filled with razor-sharp teeth. They can leap 40 feet in one bound, and evolved specifically to hunt their preferred prey: humans. When they attack a local family in the middle of the night, his suspicions are confirmed, and they must prepare for battle.
It’s not just a simple monster story. Set in the time of seething new ideas, including Darwinism and Nietzschean philosophy, the plot involves conflicts of morality and religion, as well as personal strife. Warthrop, the monstrumologist, must reckon with his own father’s dark legacy, and face his worst fears, just as Will, the apprentice, must grapple with the loss of his own family and fear of the unknown. Complicated with chillingly realistic and gory descriptions of the carnage wreaked by the Anthropophagi, this novel is sure to keep you sleeping with the lights on.
The text is interspersed with scientific, but creepy illustrations like the one to the right, and divided into three sections, called Folios. What I liked best about the book was the fact that Yancey didn’t fall back on stock horror-story tactics. The plot is complicated, but believable, and very original-as well as being terrifying. However, it’s not all shock and horror, because the relationship between Will and his master is awkwardly tender and I really enjoyed those parts. So, grab a flashlight and a snack, and be prepared for this gruesome read, which won the YALSA Best Book nomination as well as the Michael L. Printz honor. It’s a long, creepy story that you won’t want to put down. And look for the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, published last November.
Author’s website: http://www.rickyancey.com
Yancey, Rick. The Monstrumologist. Simon &Schuster: New York, 2009. 448 pp. ISBN: 978-1416984481. Ages 16 and up. (Graphic descriptions of violence and gore, horror).
Just a note: The publishers recommend this book for anyone aged 14 and up, but I wouldn’t agree. The story gets pretty intense, and the descriptions are graphic. I’d reserve this for the older, braver teens and adults.
If you liked this book, you might want to check out The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney or The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.