The Monstrumologist series is indescribable. It’s historical, it’s Gothic, it’s horror… it’s even an odd type of ‘coming of age’. It makes me squeamish and it makes me feel uneasy. It’s violent, bloody and cruel. It’s also on the slower side, definitely not what one would call action packed. It sinks it’s nails into you and makes you feel like you just have to keep reading.
I took my time reading this series, completing it over 2 years time, and I thought I would share my thoughts with you guys.
Book #1: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy
This book starts off very roughly. Aptly, as it is the series genre, Rick Yancy writes these books with a very Gothic undertone to them. They are very dry, and the characters are mostly very stuffy. It was rough for me, and when I reached the halfway park I almost quit. Thankfully someone happened to mention that the first 50% of this book is slow, but after that it rolls right along. Hearing that, I decided to give it a bit longer to see if things turned around and I will gladly admit that I was literally about a chapter away from the good stuff!
You see, the second half of this book was so good that I couldn’t put it down. I plowed through the entire second half in about 5 hours.
Also, despite the stuffiness and adjusting to the writing style, from the very beginning it was creepy. This is a horror story, and there was absolutely no holding back when it came to the descriptions. Scary, grotesque, descriptions are pretty much a requirement for any good horror story.
I watched in mute horror, he ran his fingernail over one of the boils clustered on his forearm, breaking open the swollen white center. A squirming, stringy mass of colorless worms gushed from the wound, each no thicker around than a human hair. “Even my tongue,” he moaned. “When I talk, the sores burst open and I swallow them.” My father began to weep, and his tears were flecked with blood and swam with worms.
This book is another prime example of why I am so hesitant to abandon any book.
Book #2: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancy
As a follow up to the first book The Curse of the Wendigo sure did not disappoint. Rarely does a book actually make me gag, but Yancy succeeds, hitting the nail on the head when it comes to writing the creepiness and horror. The gore level certainly matched, though I thought it exceeded, what he set out in The Monstrumologist.
Yancy found ways of advancing the story in book two by offering another side to these characters. Now, without losing the integrity of his characters, he added humor and he began to weave in love. I have to admit, this book made me like Pellinore Warthrop. Watching him navigate past relationship opened him up a bit. It hinted at how deeply he may feel about others, Will Henry in particular. This second installment gave us as the reader a glimpse of the love that he likely had for the boy.
“Henry? Why did you go somewhere you clearly had no business being?”
“Lilly! What- did she bop you over the head with a chair and carry you down to the Monstrumarium?”
“She said she wanted to show me something.”
“A word of advice, Will Henry. When a person of the female gender says she wants to show you something, run the other way. The odds are it is not something you wish to see.”
Overall, the book was great. Great amazing writing, endearing humanistic characters, engaging and scary plot! Book 2 raised the Monstrumologist bar.
“What, don’t you like women?” He ribbed, giving me a wink.
The doctor pursed his lips sourly. “As a man of science, I have often thought that, for the sake of accuracy, they should be classified as a different species altogether- Homo enigma, perhaps.”
Book #3: The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancy
From the start I was drawn to Will Henry. In The Monstrumologist we were introduced to a very scared, sad, young boy. And we’ve watched him grow into a lonely, but terrifyingly practical, young man. I don’t necessarily like the path that Will Henry is on, but at the same time I can completely understand what drives him.
I love him. I want to mother him.
Still, for me, the best part of this series is Pellinore Warthrop. I didn’t feel it nearly as much in the first book. Actually, I pretty much thought he was a jerk. Then in the second book, The Curse of the Wendigo, you started to see those other sides of Pellinore. He’s like an onion with the layers peeling back so slowly, and at the center is a man I have come to care about. And one that I believe truly cares about Will.
Warthrop is torn between his self-hatred, his drive to be the best Monstrumologist he can be, and to make sure to keep his charge/assistant/apprentice safe. Sometimes it’s obvious that he’s right on the edge of lunacy, falling to the darkside, but that only makes the glimpses of tenderness even more profound.
He shoved me toward the stern and turned his back upon me, planting his legs wide for balance and spreading his arms as if inviting the fullness of God’s wrath upon his head. A burst of lightning flashed, thunder shook the planks, and Warthrop laughed. The Monstrumologist laughed, and his laughter overtook the wind and the lashing rain and the thunder itself, trampling the maelstrom under its unconquerable heels. Is it any wonder the power this man held over me-this man who did not run from his demons like most of us do, but embraced them as his own, clutching them to his heart in a choke hold grip. He did not try to escape them by denying them or drugging them or bargaining with them. He met them where they lived, in the secret place most of us keep hidden. Warthrop was Warthrop down to the marrow of his bones, for his demons defined him; they breathed the breath of life into him; and without them, he would go down, as most of us do, into that purgatorial fog of a life unrealized.
You may call him mad. You may judge him vain and selfish and arrogant and bereft of all normal human sentiment. You may dismiss him entirely as a fool blinded by his own ambition and pride. But you cannot say Pellinore Warthrop was not finally, fully, furiously alive.
Book #4: The Final Descent by Rick Yancy
Darkness has always been the theme of the series, but in The Final Descent that darkness is taken who a whole new level.
We are vain and arrogant, evolution’s highest achievement and most dismal failure, prisoners of our self-awareness and the illusion that we stand in the center, that there is us and then there is everything else but us.
But we do not stand apart from or above or in the middle of anything. There is nothing apart, nothing above, and the middle is everywhere-and nowhere. We are no more beautiful or essential or magnificent than an earthworm.
In fact-and dare we go there, you and I?-you could say the worm is more beautiful, because it is innocent and we are not. The worm has no motive but to survive long enough to make baby worms. There is no betrayal, no cruelty, no envy, no lust, and no hatred in the worm’s heart, and so who are the monsters and which species shall we call aberrant?
The fourth and final book in this quartet was quite a change from the first three books. Unfortunately, because this the last book, I can’t say too much about it without giving away the direction the story took. Just note that the book veered off in a direction that I didn’t expect and I can see how some fans may have found it disappointing.
I will say that there was a giant change in the writing style from the first three books to this one. In the story the reason for this change is explained. As the reader though, it took a bit of time to become accustomed to. It jumped around a lot. The jumps weren’t from character to character like other books, but it instead moved rapidly through time. One page would be the past, then you’d get half a page in the future, and the chapter would end in the present. I found myself frequently having to remind myself of when the scene was taking place.
I didn’t like it as much as I had the previous ones, but I also wasn’t as disappointed as I read others were. Things didn’t turn out the way I’d been hoping, but that’s alright. It just mirrored life.
Final Score: 4 Skulls – B
So, in closing, the characters are brilliant. The Monstrumologist story is unique. Some books I liked more than others, but as a whole I’m glad I read it. It is like a horror series the likes of which I’ve never read before.
I can’t just give the series the full 5 skulls. In addition the changes in the writing of the final book, there’s also just a gut feeling. I think that there is a little something that is lacking in the books, and it’s something that I can’t put my finger on. It could be as simple as how I hesitate to recommend this series to people, despite how much I enjoyed it.
I’ll leave it like this: if you like a slow intricate series, one that is beautiful in it’s gruesomeness; if you like books that take thought to read, and that aren’t something that you can fly through mindlessly, you should absolutely add The Monstrumologist to your shelf. I believe there’s a good chance you won’t be disappointed.