Synopsis from Goodreads.
While Dr. Warthrop is attempting to disprove that Homo vampiris, the vampire, could exist, his former fiancÉe asks him to rescue her husband, who has been captured by a Wendigo—a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh. Although Dr. Warthrop considers the Wendigo to be fictitious, he relents and performs the rescue—and then sees the man transform into a Wendigo. Can the doctor and Will Henry hunt down the ultimate predator, who, like the legendary vampire, is neither living nor dead, and whose hunger for human flesh is never satisfied? This second book in The Monstrumologist series explores the line between myth and reality, love and hate, genius and madness.
Things I Have Learnt From YA Books #678019 : When the Monstrumologist gets scared… you should too.
Honestly, I didn’t think that Mr Yancey could top The Monstrumologist but he did… and then some.
The plotting is immaculate. The characters are absolutely superb. The setting is one of my favourites. It is both terrifying and heart breaking. Stomach churning and butterfly-inducing. Thought-provoking and all the superlatives I can think of.
“Let us go then, you and I, like Alice down the rabbit hole, to a time when there still were dark places in the world, and there were men who dared to delve into them.”
The thing that struck me most about this book was Mr Yancey’s vivid attention to detail to the dichotomy between the natural world and what dwells in its darkest shadows.
And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write in one of my reviews.
I sound like I’m writing a uni essay on it! But that’s it, I could write an essay on this book. I don’t know whether it’s just because I’ve spent too much time with Dr Warthrop and his thirst for knowledge has rubbed off on me but I almost, kinda, definitely want to write an essay on this book. There are so many layers that I want to strip back and make notes about in margins and highlight with gel pens and write a few paragraphs and then watch a bit of Come Dine With Me and then go back to it and think “What? When did Will Henry make a soufflé and how does that relate to the idea that sometimes it’s us that make the monsters that haunt our dreams?” and then spend all my washing machine change on the photocopier that always eats your change because my library books are due back and that hill to the library is just too.damn.high to crawl up in Welsh weather.
I mean, I already have my last few sentences written. I always liked to end my essays on an epic line that required a pause after you had read it. A pause of reflection. And learning. And italics.
And it would be: “In Yancey’s writing, he explores the relationship between the natural world and the one that lives within its shadows. Both are treated with the utmost respect because unlike us, the stars in the sky, oblivious to fleeting human activity, and the monsters who stalk us are eternal.”
Yeah, I never said I was the best student, did I? Eh?
God knows what Dr Warthrop would think of me seeing as he dislikes poets and writers and dreamers (“The poet’s voices will be drowned out by the gears of progress.”). He is one of the most fascinating characters in any book I have ever read. This would be the bit where I tell you that he’s not always likeable but he has a good heart but I’m just going to make two minor adjustments to that sentence: He’s never likeable but he has a brilliant heart. And I love him fiercely.
And of course we can’t forget Will Henry who is one of my favourite heroes. He’s had to go through so much, he’s seen so much and he’s lost so much. And he’s only twelve. He doesn’t have any friends his own age. The only regular conversation he has is with a cantankerous doctor who cares more about teeth and raspberry scones (although, who can blame him? I always get cravings for raspberry scones after I have finished one of these books) And he gets nibbled on by monsters an awful lot. I adore him.
And of course, the relationship between these two characters was just as fascinating, sad and beautiful as it was in the first book. Perhaps even more so as we got to see a bit more of an insight into each character, especially Dr W. And I lovedlovedloved the slight shift in the relationship between Will and Dr Warthrop and I don’t mind admitting that I read that final paragraph with slightly misted eyes. I can’t wait to see where their story goes in The Isle of Blood.
Just as in The Monstrumologist, this book is vile. And graphic. Oh so beautifully graphic. But what I loved about these descriptions (in addition to being a sick sick sicko) was that you could tell it wasn’t just a way of Mr Yancey channelling his inner Mel Brooks but that it was vital to the story. It set the blood-soaked scene, it created the terrifying atmosphere and, more importantly, it established the characters and the themes that are explored as the story goes on.
It also provided some of my favourite passages of the book:
“Ice crystals glittered like jewels festooning his ribs, lining the walls of his ripped-open stomach; his lungs looked like two enormous multi-faceted diamonds; his frozen viscera shone as brightly as wet marble. It was terrible. And it was beautiful.”
Just one example… there are many writers nowadays that relish in their ability of turning something beautiful into something horrid. There aren’t many who do the opposite so convincingly.
(I can’t tell you how many quotes I wrote down from this book. There were so many I could probably start a Tumblr entitled “Rick Yancey Talks About Life and Stars and, In Doing So, Speaks Directly to My Soul” and I would never run out of material.)
Mr Yancey doesn’t seem to be a fan of happy endings or, actually, even hopeful endings. But they’re realistic… in a way a book about monsters can ever be realistic. These characters survive, they live to tell their tale, whether that’s a happy ending or whether that’s a curse is left to you to decide.
I think the way Mr Yancey has constructed this story (with the added narrative of him finding Will Henry’s diaries) makes everything all the more poignant because we know the beginning and, unfortunately, we know the end.
So what about the middle? Well… I guess Will Henry’s not finished just yet.
Seeing as I’ve already used my fantastic line that would have got me an instant first in my essay and I can’t end my review on an epic and solemn and thought-provoking way, I’m just going to say: If you ever see this book lying around in the shop or the library or wherever, please get yourself a copy. Come on, snap to!
Unless you’re squeamish at the thought of “curdled arterial spray” and “empty oracular cavities”. If so.. um… you should probably give this one a miss.