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"The Monstrumologist" is many, many things. A blood-and-guts, gruesome gorefest; a Victorian fright night with superb, colourful characters on both sides of the good/evil dichotomy sketched with a most entertaining, detailed Dickensian completeness; an imaginative adventure story; and a terrifying gothic horror tale with some wonderfully atmospheric narrative description sequences .
Pellinore Warthrop is a monstrumologist - a practitioner of the little known field of arcane scientific endeavour that finds, studies and categorizes monsters but, if necessary, also hunts them down and kills them. His ward and apprentice, 12 year old Will Henry narrates the tale of a marauding band of Anthropophagi, a particularly fierce group of misshapen, bloodthirsty, man-eating hominids that have somehow managed to migrate from their native Africa to a cemetery in late 19th century New England. The story vaults immediately into a suitably horrific mood and begins down, dirty and gruesome when the corpse of the first monster is brought to Warthrop's lab by a resurrectionist who just wasn't quite certain what to make of his night's booty.
Depending on your point of view and love of the horror genre, some readers will label the characters, the plot, the atmosphere and the dialogue as melodramatic and overwritten. Others will appreciate it for its merits and label it as superbly gothic, deeply mysterious and Lovecraftian. The likes of Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe could hardly have done better in the creation of nail-biting suspense.
My only criticism is the labelling of Yancey's offering as "young adult". Consider this excerpt, which is by no means unrepresentative of the writing style in the remainder of the novel. This is supposed to represent the sympathetic thoughts of our twelve year old narrator concerning a fourteen year old friend who had also lost his parents:
"My empathy toward his suffering was acute, for he and I were fellow sojourners in the forbidding kingdom wherein all roads led to that singular nullity of fathomless grief and immeasurable guilt. We were no strangers to that barren clime, that merciless landscape in which no oasis existed to slake our ravening thirst. What meritorious draft, what magical elixir offered by the art of men or gods had the power to relieve our agony?"
Frankly, I can't imagine the 12 year old anywhere on this planet that would think like that. Nor can I imagine the young reader that would enjoy plowing through such thickly embellished Victorian prose.
That said ... didn't hurt my readin' none! If you like your horror and you like it gruesome, you'll enjoy "The Monstrumologist".
Click here to buy The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey on Amazon
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