Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 22, 2009
Series: Monstrumologist #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Monsters are real.
Will Henry is the orphan apprentice of a doctor with an unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. When a midnight visitor brings them the body of a young girl entwined with the corpse of an Anthropophagus, it is the start of the most mysterious case of Will Henry's life. Anthropophagi are headless monsters whose razor-sharp teeth are in their stomachs - and they are supposed to be extinct in this part of the world. Now Will and the monstrumologist are in a race against time to put a stop to the plague of monsters before they kill again.
Will Henry is a great protagonist. He's part young and naive and part hardened and experienced. I love that he retains his innocence even though he's become desensitized to Dr. Warthrop's work as a monstrumologist. He's seen horrible things but he remains ever hopeful, and his character is very easily likable. Dr. Warthrop is a fascinating character, both to the reader and to Will Henry. He is aloof. He is a work in contradictions. At times he seems wholly indifferent and preoccupied, and in others he exhibits an obvious care for Will. And Will speaks and acts in contradicting ways regarding the doctor as well. I find their relationship to be intriguing and very symbiotic. The secondary characters are well-written as well. Even briefly encountered characters have a distinct identity and none of them fall flat. Some of them are pretty vile and detestable in the best way.
The setting is absolutely perfect for this story. It's set in the late 1800s, which I love because it allows for a certain superstition to exist where today that sort of thing does not. I think that the old fashioned setting also aids in creating a classically horrific mood to the story. Insane asylums are scarier. Tools are less advanced. The world is wilder, less civilized, not as small as today's technologies make it. All of these things make the story feel a lot more believable, like just maybe it is possible, and I love that.
The plot is presented as a framed narrative. Will Henry tells his story through a series of notebooks, or folios. I like this approach, because it reinforces the mood created by the setting of the story to have these events related to the reader in the form of what is essentially a journal. It gives it an historic vibe that I enjoy. The pacing is quick. Once the Anthropophagi are discovered it's basically one task after another until BLAM there's a huge anthropophagi vs human epic battle to the death. And, by the way, there's a lot of death. And a great deal of gore as well. You're not going to get through this story without having to read about somebody's brain matter being splattered onto a wall or onto someone else. But, unless you're really sure that you can't deal with that, don't let that deter you from picking up this book. In addition to the horror, it's got a literary aspect to it as well. There are insights into humanity and monstrosities in the story. At the end of The Monstrumologist, there is a feeling of resolution. You can read it and be satisfied to stop there or continue with the next adventure as you see fit.
I admit that initially I wasn't sure if this book would be my sort of thing, but I picked it up after repeated recommendations from a friend who adored it, and I can honestly say that I absolutely love it. The characters are amazing, the writing is great, the plot is awesome and is very different from pretty much everything else that is being written for YA today. And it's the perfect book for Halloween. Try it, if you haven't. Get a sample of the e-book and see if it doesn't suck you in. I'd highly recommend this book to fans of horror, monsters, great characters, and YA books that are fast-paced and action-packed while maintaining a literary quality.