WOO HOO! This book kicked butt. It was gruesome and kind of terrible in certain parts to read (it gets bloody and gory) and when you realize some of these characters are just terrible human beings you kind of despair, but it is exactly what you want in a horror book. It took me a minute to realize why this was Young Adult (YA) too (the main character is 12 during the course of the book) since there are so many grown adult things happening in this book. I really would not let a kid under the age of 13 read this though. But this is coming from a woman who snuck read Stephen King novels when she was young and still kept doing it even after having nightmares.
"The Monstrumologist" begins with a prologue and starts in 2007 when the author (Rick Yancey) is provided journals to read from a resident who has died. From there the story is told in the first person by a 12 year old boy named Will Henry. The time is 1888, and Will Henry is an apprentice to Doctor Pellinore Warthrop.
We slowly find out what caused Will Henry to live with and serve the doctor and what has caused Doctor Warthrop to become a monstrumologist.
This book deals with the doctor and Will finding out that a species called the anthropophagi is somehow in New England. The big issue is that the anthropophagi are natural hunters of man and are the stuff of nightmares. The doctor and Will Henry are going to do their best to find them and wipe them out.
I loved Will Henry. I wanted to wrap him up, take him away from the doctor, and home so he can be fed and sleep without be woken up at ungodly hours by the doctor saying "Snap to, Will Henry! Snap to!" He is a smart, brave, and loyal young man. Your heart breaks when you find out his back story and how he is tied to the doctor. A few times in the book we have Will wondering at his loyalty to the doctor, watching his mistakes, and realizing that maybe the doctor does care for him. Will denies in his old age (when he wrote in his journal) that he loved the doctor, but there is enough evidence to suggest that he does.
The doctor in this book honestly reminds me of the absent minded professor who definitely cares, but is trying to show that he does not. At first, I pretty much despised the doctor. He seemed to be heartless and solely fascinated with the anthropopghagi and that was it. But, Will Henry manages to show a different side to him when we find out how the doctor's father abandoned him due to his father being focused on preventing his own death. We also see the doctor becoming defensive when he realizes his reasoning for not doing something causes something tragic to happen. And even though he denies it, we see that he does love and care for Will Henry and does what he can to keep him safe.
Other characters in this book will break your heart or make you wish you had a cross and some holy water with you.
The character of Malachi broke my heart. Man oh man. And it just goes from bad to worse for him. I even felt for the dead girl who Will Henry and the doctor find at the beginning of this book because what happens to her body is disturbing. Even the ill fated captain of the ship that brought back the anthropopghagi I felt for.
The one character that I wholly disliked was Doctor John Kearns. Shudder. I mean the man seems to be without any sort of morals and then I actually liked how he handled some of the people in the book which made me take a hard look at myself too.
Being told in the first person definitely helps the book along. We get to see Will Henry's fright of being toe to toe with a species that caused grown men to run away scared. His recitation of what happened to some of the humans who ran across the anthropopghagi danced all the way towards gruesome though. A few times I felt sick to my stomach because I could picture some of the scenes and the smell.
The flow was great. At first the book starts off slow. But when you get to chapter 6 from there until the end the book just kicks it into high gear.
The setting of the book in the late 1800s in a town called New Jerusalem somewhere in New England made me think of homes far and apart, with tiny towns/villages and fog creeping along the ground. This is definitely a book to read on a cold winter's night with a fire.
The ending was a surprise and we find out something shocking about Kearns. I literally had my mouth hanging open. I then promptly went and put book #2 on hold because I have to see how this ends.