Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist
By Rick Yancey
Simon & Schuster, 2009. 448 pgs. Young Adult

"Snap to, Will Henry!" cries Dr. Pellinore Warthrop when a strange package arrives at his back door amidst the night, delivered by a decrepit graverobber. And Will Henry--exhausted, exploited, twelve-year-old Will Henry--must rise to assist the doctor of dubious philosophy as the package is opened. . . and terror itself rises from the shadows and ashes of a father's past. Terror that the "good" monstrumologist and his adolescent assistant must track, define, study, and quite horrifically, face and destroy.

Few young adult novels aspire to the beauty and complexity of Yancey's work. On the surface, The Monstrumologist is a harrowing, morbid tale of the Anthropophagi, mythical beasts remembered in the works of Shakespeare and Herotodus, and their stalking of a sleepy nineteenth-century Massachusetts town. But Yancey is a storyteller of remarkable distinction and skill; and as his macabre plot unfolds, twisting its claws into the reader, one begins to realize that Yancey isn't merely weaving a gripping, chilling story, but defining humanity in terms of monstrousness, in the terms of ties that bind, and of those emotions and abilities that truly elevate us beyond the beast.

As a warning: this book is graphically violent, and the Anthropophagi are creatures vaulted beyond the realm of nightmare. Not for the faint of heart, but certainly worth the journey. Five stars.


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