Backlist Discussion Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Friday, October 30, 2015
Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: young adult, horror, historical fiction
Series: The Monstrumologist #1
Pages: 454
Published: 2009
Source: purchased

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty 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, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?

Today, I am talking about this horror novel with Lyn and Pixie from Great Imaginations for their Forgotten Fridays feature. This does veer a tad bit spoilery as we discuss, so be warned if you've not yet read the novel. 

Lyn: Okay I will start yah! What made you pick this book?

Pixie: I wanted something that would get me in the Halloween spirit and I’ve heard good things about it.

Jessie: I really liked Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave and I honestly loved the first cover for this book. It caught my eye and made me curious.

Lyn: Was it the cover with the jar?

Jessie: YES! It looked so creepy and odd and like it was going to be fun in a gruesome way.

Pixie: That’s the cover I wanted, but I have a used copy with the original.

Jessie: Same here. The cover lured me in, but the synopsis sold me. How did you guys feel about the book itself, though? Did it live up to that first cover for you?

Lyn: Fun fact – I bought the Kindle and the hardcover so that I could get that jar cover. Because I am an addict. I was a bit hesitant because The 5th Wave had some issues and I had my doubts, but this novel is far superior to his dystopian series. I told my mom ( who read it with me) that it spooked me. She thought it was because of the monsters. But I told her it was the people who frightened me, because those are the real living monsters.

Pixie: I haven’t read The 5th Wave, but I think I’m really curious about it now. It may have just climbed up my reading list because of this book. Which, btw, I loved because oddly enough, I like creepy weird books like this.

Jessie: I’m am of mixed emotions about The Monstrumologist. I liked it, but not as much as the The 5th Wave. The writing didn’t work as well for me and I had some serious issues with key elements of the plot and characterization for William Henry and Pellinore Warthrop. I don’t do well in general with novels that use the whole “sins of the father rebound on the son” theme. It bores me; it leaves completely uninterested in vast parts of both these two characters and their backgrounds.

Lyn: Pixie, totally read The 5th Wave! As for that plot device of sins passing down, I get it, Jessie. It is a trope I don’t care for. I really started to enjoy myself when Kearns shows up. I love the whole “ who is the monster and who is the man” debate. Because Kearns was a freaking psychopathic madman.

Pixie: I get that. That device was one of the few things I disliked about the book, but I don’t think I’ve really read too many books with that kind of element so it didn’t annoy me too terribly much to pull me away from the story.

Jessie: You brought up the one think about this that I unequivocally loved about the book — Kearns. I loved it for the same reasons you did, Lyn. And I looooved the ongoing joke about his name(s). I was really entertained by the various sides of personality he could ape, and then when he would drop the mask? Ooooh, that definitely counted as one of the novel’s creepy bits.

Lyn: At the end, it was so enthrall in how, after everything he did in the name of science and survival, he did a whole repentance by continuing to chase down monsters. It left me wondering if he tries to even the score or if he just loves the thrill of the hunt. Kearns is a character that I want to see come back. The complexity, the absence of humanity, and then the odd vigilantism in the name of justice still had me wondering about him to the end. Seriously, he better come back in the rest of the books.

Jessie: I have read book two and he is not in that (sadly), but I’ve heard he is in the third! And I am glad for that — he is directly responsible for my favorite parts.

Lyn: Is the second as gory as this one? Warning: not a lunchtime read.

Pixie: I don’t really have too much to add to what you and Lyn have said. I’m definitely going to continue with this series so I can see when Kearns comes back (if) and hopefully enjoy the rest as much as I had with this one. I really liked how the start of it was prefaced with quotes and real history– it made the book feel much more real. Creepy, like I said before, but damn good. It was nice enjoying a book for the fun of it, after such a slump the past couple of months.

Jessie: The gore was a bit more than I had anticipated. I mean, I know I went for the book with the specimen-in-a-jar cover but…. damn, Yancey! He.. um… gets very descriptive? He likes to really bring home all the senses of a scene, you know? It was easy to envision his scenes… and yes, definitely not a lunchtime read. And I 100% agree with you, Pix — loved the introduction, quotes, the whole ~feeeeel of the novel was really well done and creepy.

Lyn: Right? I never thought that I could easily envision a freaking toddler torn to pieces. I agree, I was completely unprepared for the graphic scenery. But it is important to not mollify violence – go big or go home. Get right to the absolute horrors of how gruesome the events were in the novel. It helps tie in some real emotions, which were high in this book.

Jessie: How did you guys like Will Henry or Pellinore? I thought it was interesting that Yancey went in a different direction than a lot of mentor/student relationships. Pellinore is not an easy man, but he is a well-rounded and fully dimensional one. He’s very unlikeable, even though he’s not always a bad person? I know I expected a closer bond between him and Will Henry and it’s interesting to watch them interact in the roles they’ve set up.

Pixie: I think I expected more from the two of them, myself. I did like Will Henry though, and I do agree with Jessie about Pellinore. I can see that Yancey’s intention might’ve been to make Pellinore unlikeable for the reader, but more so on purpose to bring out the curiosity of his character. No, wasn’t always bad though he definitely was not likeable for me. I also agree about having expected a closer bond, perhaps, but they were interesting nonetheless.

Lyn: Oh Pellinore. I felt a lot of pity for him. The complete lack of social skills and the reflection of neglectful parenting really gave his character a lot of depth. This was a man who just had no idea how to be kind, because he was never able to see an example of paternal affection, and it broke my heart to watch him struggle with his demons. He was less loveable than monsters – how can a child have a healthy emotional balance with that upbringing?? Will Henry was surprisingly a bit distant. I never could really pinpoint his personality.


Pixie: I give it a 4!

Jessie: For me it was a 3 out of 5. I liked it but I never fell in love with it (and without Kearns it would be 2 out of 5).

Lyn: 4!

Pixie: Jessie is the odd one. :p

Jessie: when am I not the odd one?! ^___^

Lyn: spoiler: never.

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