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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist #1) by Rick Yancey

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: September 22, 2009
Pages: 454
Source: Won from YA Book Shelf (Thanks!)
Rating: 5 Stars - Super Crazy Awesome!

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.
So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown accustomed to his late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was eating her, Will's world is about to change forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagus—a headless monster that feeds through a mouth in its chest—and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume our world before it is too late.

In short: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey is a masterpiece, a thrilling horror with exquisite writing and terrifying monsters.
Monsters are real and some of them come in the form of headless seven foot tall hominoids with thousands of razor-sharp teeth in their stomachs, called Anthropophagi. Oh, how refreshing to read about monsters that want to rip you to shreds rather than the more romantic fare that we are so used to in YA these days! The Monstrumologist is horror at its best: terrifying and thrilling, enthralling and unputdownable, despite the absolutely nightmarish horror of the events.

I don't often comment on the writing in books but I simply must do so for Rick Yancey's writing. The Monstrumologist is definitely the best written book I've read this year. The prose is mesmerizing and rich and portions of it left me in complete awe. With a few well crafted phrases, Rick Yancey can paint a horrifying image that becomes imprinted in your brain and follows you long after you finish reading. There are a few terrifyingly gorgeous images from The Monstrumologist that I will never, ever forget.

I wouldn't say the writing style made The Monstrumologist an easy read, however. Taking place in Victorian New England, there were quite a few words and terms that went over my head. I needed to read The Monstrumologist with a dictionary in my other hand. I don't see this as being a negative point though. I love feeling challenged and I love that Rick Yancey didn't dumb down his writing and in the process, patronize the reader.

I was also very impressed with the attention to detail with regards to the biological aspect of The Monstrumologist. Coming from a science background, I often nitpick instances in books where there are scientific falsities that the author failed to research when writing. I am happy to report that I found nothing of the sort to nitpick in The Monstrumologist. Rick Yancey's knowledge of evolutionary adaptations and anatomy was evident, of which I was very appreciative.

And lastly, the characters in The Monstrumologist were brilliantly written, perfectly developed, and completely intriguing. I loved the dynamic between the monstrumologist, Dr. Warthrop, and his twelve year old assistant, Will Henry. The Monstrumologist is told as if written from Will Henry's journal and follows Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop's monster hunting adventures together. They have two very different personalities that often warred (Dr. Warthrop is egocentric and obsessed with his work and Will Henry is sweet and brave and honourable) but you could tell they care for each other deeply as they are the only person in each other's life.

Overall, The Monstrumologist was absolutely fantastic (and other people must agree because it won a Printz Honour award)! Certain passages left me awed and breathless, they were so well written and horribly horrifying. I highly recommend The Monstrumologist to fans of horror and historical fiction. I can't wait to read more of Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop's monster hunting adventures in the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo!

Other Reviews:
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*Read as part of the YA Series Challenge


  1. I honestly don't know what I'd do with a monster that is actually a monster instead of an Alpha hero. LOL

    Thanks for being nitpicky about the science aspect, something I'll undoubtedly fail to notice. But it's good to know that conceptually, this worked.

    I hope this book isn't too smart for me because it sounds scary good.

  2. I can't promise everyone will enjoy this book. It's very different from the YA fare that we're used to, so it might not be for you. All I know is that it really worked for me! I can't help but admire an author who gets all the science aspects right (to my knowledge anyway) :)

  3. I adore this series! It's like a kick in the pants compared to a lot of the safe, easy YA I've read of late. The Curse of the Wendigo gets darker, but I still loved it. And The Isle of Blood comes out in September! Cannot wait!

  4. After reading the synopsis, I'm slightly afraid...

  5. I just finished this book, like, less than a day ago! and i agree with your assessment of it :P

    man, those monsters were SCARY! i read out loud some particularly frightening passages to my sister...i don't think the wimp'll be reading this one any time soon--ha!

  6. This one sounds like a pretty good read, particularly if you're in the mood for something scary.

    I wonder about what words or terms you mean, I remember when I started to read romance, I had to look up some terms because, you know, the time period, so I might find that fun :D

    Anyway, great review.

  7. I've heard great things about this book, but I have yet to read it. Your review has totally sold me! I'm so glad The Monstrumologist is well-researched, well-written, and thoroughly creepy! Great review. :)

  8. Wow, amazing review Aylee! I've heard really good things about this one, and I'm so glad to read that he didn't dumb it down. I love when I just get wrapped up in a good story and it's not immediately obvious who the target audience is or their age:)

  9. Stephanie: I loved it for the reason that it wasn't safe! It was a challenge and it was dark. I've only just started The Curse of the Wendigo but already I'm looking forward to the third!

    Neurohormone: You should be! I'm pretty sure that's the point :)

    Aleeza: Ha! Your poor sister. The monsters were terrifying. And I fully expect them to be just as scary in the next two books too.

    Alex: Terms that come to mind off the top of my head are "nag" (old horse) and "salt" (sailor). Things like that. And other vocabulary from the time period. I really don't read too much historical fiction (and the ones that I do tend to dumb down the writing) so it was quite a bit of work for me, but I liked that aspect!

    Lauren: I really hope you love it as much as I do! Because I thought it was thoroughly brilliant. I was so impressed with every aspect of the book, and the same goes for the sequel from what I've read!

    Jenny: You know, I was a bit confused for a while if this was meant for a YA audience. The protag is MG but the material is definitely not MG and the writing would suggest it's for an experienced reader! I just loved that about this book too!

  10. Weird, I've never even heard of this one. I tend to avoid scary books or movies since they (movies especially) end up giving me nightmares or keep me awake at night. This one sounds good but it also seems terrifying from your review. *debating about whether I should add it to my wishlist*

  11. I've never heard of this one, but the way you described the prose was enough to make me crave it! When an author can paint an incredible picture, that's perfection, in my book :)

  12. You know I loved this one, too! (Thanks for linking my review.) I enjoyed all the same things you did: the Victorian Gothic feel, the superb and eerie descriptive writing.

    There is going to be a third book in the series soon: Isle of Blood. But I recently read that the series will be discontinued by Simon & Schuster after that, reportedly because it's not selling well enough. I think that's pretty terrible, considering how fantastic this book is and how many not-so-fantastic books S & S keep publishing. Oh well, what can you do? Anyway, great, in-depth review. :)

  13. Ooo this sounds fantastic! I love the way it has a dark, haunting, creepy sense to it. It reminds me a lot of The Last Apprentice series. Great review Aylee!

  14. Ooh, I hadn't come across this book before, but I'm definitely intrigued. I can't say I'm a huge Victorian-era fan, but the concept of Monstrumologist hooked me. Will be adding this one to my TBR list. Thanks for the rec!


  15. I'm starting to feel really guilty for having let this sit on my shelf unread for so long now. I think I'll have to bump it up my TBR. I love it when authors include science...and actually get it right! I'm also looking forward to monsters that are dangerous and not love interests. :P

    Does this end with a cliffhanger or can it be read as a standalone?

  16. What a detailed and informative review. I don't know if I'd like a horror plot. I've not read anything like what youre describing. I like the science/biology aspect. Maybe I will give this one a chance? Sometimes its good to try something outside of my reading "box".

  17. What a great review! Thinkin' I need to add this one to THE LIST. :0)

    I am hosting my very first giveaway. I hope you can stop by.


  18. Yes! Monsters that are actually monsters! I love that. I get bored with vampires that aren't actually scary and wolves that don't actually tear people to shreds.

  19. Zahida: It might not be for everyone! Not only was it scary, it was exceedingly gory! So if you think you wouldn't be into that, I would skip it. I wouldn't want to get nightmares from a book either.

    Melissa: Like I said, I usually don't comment on writing because I don't really know what I'm talking about, but I couldn't not note the writing in this book. It was flawless.

    Kat: I didn't know that. I assumed it was always only ever going to be a trilogy as there are 9 folios that Will Henry wrote for 3 books, no? It's a shame, because I would love to read more than just 3 Will Henry adventures!

    T.B.: Oh, another series that I've been meaning to read! I got a free audiobook of the first book in The Last Apprentice series so I'll listen to that sometime.

    Lori: I'm not usually a fan of histfic but I loved the concept as well. Strangely, I'm not sure I would've liked the concept as much had it not taken place in the Victorian Era though. It had a perfect gothic feel that complemented the horrible goings-on of the book.

    Small: The science is right as long as you force yourself to think a bit more freely. There are no real monsters like this, of course... and it's perhaps a bit doubtful that they could have evolved such a change in anatomy in the time since the lineage diverged from the common ancestor of humans. But still, I was pretty impressed! It could most definitely be read as a standalone, as each book chronicles a completely different Will Henry adventure, which is nice.

    Gina: You know, I'd never thought I'd be into horror either... but combined with the superb writing and imagery, I really enjoyed it! I often need to remind myself to think outside my reading box because it can get quite narrow sometimes. And then I miss out on some really great reads!

    Tracy: Cool! I'd love to know what you thought of it!

    Logan: Heh, it was refreshing indeed. I like a mix when it comes to my monsters. Too much of one or the other can get boring, for sure.

  20. This book sounds amazing! Thanks for the recommendation. :) Great review, Aylee!

  21. I'm not much of a horror reader and I often don't like reading about blood and gore in books. However, that being said...I am interested in reading this. It's on my TBR shelf. I think it sounds fascinating and I love the Victorian era. Great review!

  22. I love how different this sounds from anything I've read and I'm interested in the science aspect. Makes me glad I have this on my Kobo!

  23. Jessica: No problem and thank you!

    Julie: I really don't feel like I'm a horror reader either and yet for whatever reason, I just loved it! I think it was the combination of Victorian Era plus horror that I liked because I'm not sure I like modern era horror.

    Laura: It was very, very different from anything I've read in quite a long time. I look forward to gearing what you thought of it!

  24. This sounds far to scary for me. But I loved how you described the writing. Maybe I'll look into into something of his that's a little less freaky sounding.

  25. I've been thinking the same thing. I would love to read something else of his... if only I had the time with everything else I have to read! Well, someday I will.

  26. Nice review! I'm definitely going to have to get this one, the writing sounds wonderful...I especially like that it challenged you a bit regarding word choice, :)

  27. I really loved that too. Of course it means it takes a bit longer to read than usual but I felt it was worth it.

  28. This one is on special for kindle, I'm going to pick it up today for $1.99 based on this review and to get an idea of what I can look forward too when I finally get a chance to read A 5th Wave.