The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey

 

“‘Observe the frontal lobe, Will Henry.  The sulci-these deep crevices you see covering the rest of the brain-have all disappeared.  The thinking part of his brain is as smooth as a billiard ball.’

I asked him what that meant.

‘…We may assume it is a manifestation of the toxin.  This aligns perfectly with the literature, which claims the victim, in the final stages, becomes little more than a beast, incapable of reason but fully capable of a murderous, cannibalistic rage.  Certain indigenous tribes of the Lakshadweep Islands report whole villages wiped out by a single exposure to the pwdre ser, until the last man standing literally eats himself to death.'”

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop is a monstrumologist, a scientist specializing in horrors, a monster-hunter.  He and his apprentice, Will, are current on the trail of the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology”-a beast whose very saliva causes those infected to lose their faculties for reasoning, and become filled with the desire to destroy and eat each other.  The search brings them to the locus of the infection, a remote island where packs of the sick roam, preying on each other.  Together, the pair faces a nightmare beyond anything they’ve experienced.

I am the kind of person who keeps her eyes clamped shut during bloody scenes in movies, and I’ve only read one Stephen King book.  Horror just isn’t really my thing.  That said, I am powerless in the gravitational pull of The Monstrumologist series.  This is the third installment, and it didn’t disappoint.  Rick Yancey crafts a gory, chilling literary world full of original monsters, literary references, and characters so real that you’d know them instantly if you saw them in the street.  The books are narrated by the young Will Henry, the son of Dr. Warthrop’s previous assistant.  Will was orphaned and the doctor took him in and began initiating him into the world of furtive autopsies, international travel in search of things that undoubtedly want to kill them, and scientific research on the stuff comprising nightmares.  It’s not a life for a child, but Dr. Warthrop is all Will has in the world. Where else would he go?

The brilliant part of the series is the setting: the stories take place during the later half of the nineteenth century, during the Industrial Revolution. This is the time of scientific societies, Darwin, and empiricism (only believing in what you can measure with numbers), concepts that form the backbone of Dr. Warthrop’s belief system.  Reason is his deity, and the scientific method is his salvation.  Will and Dr. Warthrop live in a gritty New England, with frequent trips to the dirty, rough London that appears in Sherlock Holmes stories.  Actually, Dr. Warthrop is a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the poet Rimbaud. (They both make appearances in this story!)  The books are saturated with the scientific beliefs of the time; the interweaving of philosophy and moral issues adds another level of appeal.  In short, these are gruesome horror stories told by a master who carefully frames his gore in a meticulously accurate historical setting. Horror fans will want to stay up all night, and the writing is compelling enough to snare poor non-horror lovers like myself, too.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so: the first book in the series is a Printz award winner.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.rickyancey.com

Yancey, Rick. The Isle of Blood. Simon & Shuster: New York, 2011. 558 pp.  Ages 16 and up (a brave and unsqueamish 16).

If this sounds like a good book, you should try the others in the seriesThe Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo.

 

 

 

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock, and like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.  Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.”

When Jacob was young, his grandfather told him many stories: stories of how he was chased by monsters out of Poland, how he took shelter on an island, at a home for children, in a place full of gardens and streams and sheep and safety. The children at the shelter had unusual skills: a levitating girl, an invisible boy, a young woman who could control fire.  Abe even had a box of photographs from those days. Jacob had seen them so many times, that he felt as if he knew them personally. Eventually, he grew too old for his grandfather’s stories,  and stopped believing.
When his grandfather is killed one night, and dies raving about monsters and begging Jacob to carry a cryptic message for him, Jacob is shattered.  Attempting to fulfill his grandfather’s final wishes leads him to a tiny island off the coast of England, where he finally finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And something horrifying, called wights, and their further horrifying counterparts, hollowgasts.  If you know anything about the myth of the wendigo , they will sound familiar to you.  Either way, Jacob grandfather was fully justified in his terror of the creatures.
The best part of this story is the creative format. Ransom Riggs integrates eerie old photographs into this story seamlessly.  You’ll be reading along about a character, and then turn the page, and there it is: a crying boy in a bunny costume, beautifully dressed twin girls who are ominously faced away from the camera,  a young boy with a monocle. The best part is that they are absolutely real photos, which makes them even creepier. They contribute to the melancholy, supernatural tone of the story.
After reading some reviews, I found that some people didn’t necessarily know how to respond to the between-genre feel of this book.  Is it written for adults? Is it YA lit? Is it science fiction? Light horror?  Personally, I think it is a little of all of the above, and I really like that.  The genre-crossing gives it a very unique feeling.  I loved the atmosphere of this book.  It feels like part X-men, part science fiction, part ghost story, part graphic novel (because of the photographs), and part war story.  It made me very happy for 24 hours!
If this one sounds good, you might like these, too:
Happy Reading!
Author’s website: http://www.ransomriggs.com (He says a sequel is coming!)
Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Quirk Books: Philadelphia, 2011. 348 pp.  Ages 14 and up.