Reviewed by Elaine Lamkin
Written by Rick Yancey
When I first received my advance copy of Rick Yancey’s amazing Young Adult novel The Monstrumologist, I was a little leery as horror and kids’ books usually don’t mix well. I was wrong when it came to this one, though. And I am also wondering at it even being labeled a book for Young Adults (ages 14+) – not that I would ever censor a child from reading just about anything, but The Monstrumologist reads like a gory, gruesome adult novel as well. I suppose it’s because the main character, Will Henry, is twelve when the story opens that it landed in the YA department.
Set in the fictional New England city of New Jerusalem in 1888, The Monstrumologist opens with a bang. Young Will Henry, whose parents died in a fire, is the “assistant” to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a doctor whose specialty is the weird and unexplainable; what today might be called a cryptozoologist. Actually, Will’s parents had worked for Dr. Warthrop prior to their deaths; Mrs. Henry was housekeeper and Mr. Henry was Dr. Warthrop’s assistant, the position young Will has inherited. One foggy night Will is abruptly awakened by the doctor and told to prepare the examining room. An elderly graverobber, Erasmus, has brought “a crime of nature, an abomination” to the good doctor. And upon examination of what Erasmus has brought, the reader can’t do much more than cringe.
A young woman’s body has another body wrapped around it and, apparently, the second body, which turns out to be male, has not only EATEN parts of the girl but impregnated her with … an abomination (where is John Hurt when we need him?). The doctor sets about separating the two and also sets about explaining to the nauseous Will, who thought he had seen everything, that what Erasmus has brought them is a very rare species of what is called an “anthropophagi” (literally man-eating). Just describing the physiology and anatomy of this … thing was horrific. And Dr. Warthrop is concerned because the anthropophagi are not native to the Americas, and where there is one, there are more. And it is up to Will and Dr. Warthrop to find the source of the monsters before they have an epidemic on their hands.
Part action tale (the search for the “hive” of the anthropophagi) and part horror story (gruesome setpieces and horrific discoveries), The Monstrumologist kept me up late on more than one night, wanting to know what happens next. The book is actually the journals of William James Henry, and there are bookends where a 21st Century author is given access to the journals by the director of facilities of a retirement home (where we learn Will Henry recently died at the purported age of 131 years) in order to verify their accuracy.
I LOVE this book and really hope more journals from Will Henry are discovered as the ones the anonymous author are given deal primarily with the anthropophagi. Working with Dr. Warthrop, you just KNOW there had to be many more disturbing and gruesome adventures for our young Will.
Don’t let the Young Adult label make you hesitate to buy this book. I’ve read real adult horror that wasn’t this nightmarish … and icky.
5 out of 5
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