Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Monstrumologist

Will Henry is an orphan. His parents died in service of Pellinore Warthrop, a monstrumologist who studies the monstrous and seeks to kill them. While Pellinore is certainly competent and passionate about the subject, he's rather self absorbed and cold, too wrapped up in himself and his subject of choice to recognize what a growing 12 year old boy needs. One day, a creature is brought to them by a grave robber that is alarming in it's implications of others. The anthropophagi hunts in packs and are never alone. Pellinore and Will take it upon themselves to hunt these creatures down before they destroy New Salem and overtake the world.

The Monstrumologist has been on my reading list for a while. I had heard it's good horror, but YA horror tends to be watered down and underwhelming. This one is the exact opposite of my expectations: grisly, gory, nauseating, suspenseful, and terrifying. The anthropophagi are the start of it. They are headless, sharklike creatures with no heads, their faces on their chests, and a maw full of thousands of razor sharp teeth. Humans are their prey and they hunger. They can grow up to 7 feet tall and are faster and stronger than any human. We are knocked off the top of the food chain by these creatures. These creatures are not only physically superior, but fairly intelligent as well. Everything about them is frightening and the descriptions make them seem all the more real. The action scenes with them are unforgettable and savage. These are a creature I have not yet seen in updated in literature. I remember reading accounts of them in The Adventures of John Mandeville, The Travels of Marco Polo, and Shakespeare's plays The Tempest and Othello. I like that images of them appear in a variety of texts during different time periods because with this concept, it's easy to imagine stories within each one.

The other thing that brings in the creep factor is regular people. The first instance is in an insane asylum. The level of neglect and downright torture is shocking and unfortunately based in reality. The conditions a patient was left in is sickening and one of the most disgusting things I've ever read. The other instance is Dr. Kearns, an associate of Pellinore's. Kearns is a monster hunter and will do absolutely anything to achieve his goal. He has no regard for human life and will gladly sacrifice anyone (save himself) to kill the monsters. His view of the world is explored and is predictably insane. He doesn't believe in morality, merely in what is necessary for the situation. On his off time, he is a particularly infamous figure in British history.

The characters are wonderful in their flawed natures, particularly Pellinore Winthrop and Will Henry. Pellinore has major daddy issues and laser focuses on his work. Even necessities like eating and sleeping go by the wayside when he's in full swing. He's a selfish man who views emotion as weakness, but he has good intentions underneath it all. He cares for Will Henry in his own way (and rarely shows it), but when the situation is dire, he does all he can to protect Will. Will is only 12 and has enormous responsibilities thrust upon him. He feels loyalty to Pellinore because his parents believed in him and worked with him. He is intelligent and has no illusions about Pellinore's true feelings about him. His weakness is curiosity and staying with this incompetent guardian despite all evidence pointing to how dangerous it is to live with him.

The prose of the novel is reminiscent of the late 1800's, but is slightly simplified to make it easier to read. The descriptions are quite vivid and lush, which can be off-putting for some weaker stomached readers. (I personally loved it.) The dark gothic atmosphere is maintained throughout and calls to mind other works of such literature. When I imagine the book, I see it in black and white with splashes of red. I rarely get such vivid images from a book, but it plays out like a film. Even though the writing is descriptive, the plots moves very well. Not at a rapid pace, but a slow and steady one. I couldn't put it down. I read the whole first half in one sitting and was hungry for more. I will definitely be picking up the rest of the series.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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