Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

February 22, 2015 Review 26 ★★★★½

Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Purchased
Pages: 448
Release Date: March 4th 2010
Series: The Monstrumologist #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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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?

rachelI think that if someone *looks suspiciously at Rick Yancey* had cut open my brain, analyzed it to find out what I like to read about the most, and then subsequently written a book abut it, he could not have done a better job. The Monstrumologist is set at the end of the nineteenth century in the real world, but there are (as the name suggests) monsters!

I have heard this book described as a “gothic horror”, but I would be more inclined to describe it as historical urban fantasy (which might not even be a thing, but whatever). That said, I am not very good at recognizing when a movie or book is supposed to scare me, so it might be horror and I just didn’t notice. Are horror books supposed to scare you? I just asked Google and it said they are. I didn’t find this book scary, but don’t come and kill me in my sleep if you do.

Alright, now that that’s settled, time for characters. The narrator, Will Henry, is a twelve-year-old orphan (of course, right?) who lives with and works for the eponymous Monstrumologist. Will Henry is more of an observer of character than someone with much of his own distinctive characterization (which is to say, he is a seemingly normal, if not strangely well behaved twelve-year-old boy), though I suspect that might change as he ages throughout the rest of the series.

The Monstrumologist, on the other hand, is almost as weird as they get. He is absolutely terrible with people, which is both entertaining and sad, and he is completely devoted to his work to the point at which he forgets to eat or sleep. Something I really liked about his character arc was how Yancey shows us that he really is a good man despite his idiosyncrasies by juxtaposing him against other, very similar characters that are not good men.

As for the monsters themselves, they are basically headless primates that like to eat humans. And if that doesn’t sound cool to you, then go away.

Another little thing that I really liked was the prologue and epilogue­– they are told from the perspective of a fictitious, modern day Rick Yancey who has found Will Henry’s journals after his death and is investigating them. I thought that it really tied the whole book together and was a nice touch.

One little thing that frustrated me after a while was the sheer amount of vocabulary– I consider myself to have a fairly good one, but I had to look up a word on nearly every page. In a sense that is a good thing, but after a while it gets tiresome to stop reading every other page to look up a word.

Overall though, I loved this book. It is written well, the plot and characters are interesting, and as a bonus there is absolutely no romance (I know some people like their books to have romance, but I am not one of those people).

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Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Overall: 4.6

26 Responses to “Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey”

    • Rachel

      I have his post apocalyptic book sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, and the second Monstrumologist book half read on my kindle (The pacing isn’t very good around the middle, so I got stuck). Yeah, I am totally in the same boat as you as far as love drama goes. I hate buying a book labeled, “teen heroes save the world” and reading it to find that it is really, “Teen hero falls in love with two other teen hero and struggles to choose between them with a side dash of saving the world.”

  1. Gretchen

    I think it’s funny you pointed out the high level of vocabulary in the book after using ‘idiosyncrasies’ and ‘juxtaposing’ in the same sentence. :]

    • Rachel

      Did I? Well, we are all book people here and we all have fairly advanced vocabularies, so my pointing that out should show that people are going to have to look words up even if they consider themselves to have large vocabularies. Plus a lot of the words are 19th century specific terms that nobody uses anymore and no one knows unless they read a lot of gothic novels.

  2. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book and reading your review here is only making me kick myself more for not having read it yet. I like that it didn’t scare you, since I don’t tend to do well with outright horror >.< I also think it's kind of cool that there were so many new/unfamiliar words in this – although it might be annoying to have to look up a word per page…hehe. Anyways that settles it: I must get some Rick Yancey in my life, asap! Awesome review Rachel^^
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Stacking the Shelves *45*

    • Rachel

      From the reviews I have read of it, it scared a few particularly scare-able people, but it is definitely not outright horror. The first twenty pages and a few other little bits just have some very graphic descriptions of guts and the internal organs of dead monsters. A lot of the new words were period specific words, so if you don’t actually care about them you don’t really have to look them up.

  3. Joy // Joyousreads

    I like how original this one sounds! I mean, I’ve been a fan of Rick Yancey from his 5th Wave, but have never really endeavoured to read his other works. I have this book fermenting on my shelves for a long time now, and with your review, I think it’s about time I discover this for myself as well.
    Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…[496]: Hero by Samantha Young

    • Rachel

      Haha, I’m pretty much the opposite of you. I’ve got the 5th wave sitting on my shelf but I read this one first. So I can’t tell you if this one is better that 5th wave, but I can say that it is pretty good!

    • Rachel

      Yeah, I totally agree with you on the romance aspect. If I buy a book advertised as “teens save the world” I want “teens save the world” and not “teens fall in love and have a dramatic love triangle with a side dish of saving the world.”

  4. A Canadian Girl

    One of my friends is a huge fan of this series so I already know I need to give this a try ;) I didn’t know about the vocabulary issue though so I guess I’ll just view it as an opportunity to improve it. I doubt I’ll go to the dictionary though; I’ll probably just rely on the use of context.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

    • Rachel

      I read on my kindle so I can just click on a word to define it, which is nice. It is not like you NEED to look up every word, but I like to just to try to expand my vocabulary. You wouldn’t lose anything by just ignoring them.

    • Rachel

      Yes, it is definitely very unique and cool, which is a refreshing find amidst all of these dystopians.

  5. Kirsty-Marie

    Most horror books don’t scare me either. Haha, they do sound cool, and the whole him investigating through the journals, now that’s pretty original. And yeah, stopping to look up a word every page (or even every other page) would get old real fast. :(
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: No Parking at the End Times

    • Rachel

      Yeah, while the journal thing is cool, it really scared me at first because I thought I would have to deal with some random modern guy as the narrator for the whole book, but luckily is is only a chapter at the beginning and the end. I read on a Kindle, so I can just tap a word to look it up, but if you don’t want to look things up you don’t necessarily have to. It doesn’t change your understanding of the text.

    • Rachel

      It is a series of four I think. They are all out and they were his first books (I think? Don’t quote me?)

  6. Rachel

    Hmm, zombie primates… I like that. That are primates (The book treats the whole thing in a very scientific manner– “they are NOT monsters, they are simply animals” sort of thing) though they are not dead (and therefore not technically zombies.)

    But zombie primates just sounds cool. Zombie primates. Also zombie primate pirates. They are that too.

  7. Romi

    I, on the other end of the scale, scare really easily! I am pretty sure this wouldn’t be a book I would enjoy, and am also quite sure it would creep me out to no end! But I’m glad it was so enjoyable for you- apart from the vocabulary, because that sounds like it would’ve gotten really disruptive and frustrating- and I hope the other books in the series prove to be just as wonderful!
    Romi recently posted…Books I couldn’t get through in my break #2.

  8. Rachel

    Well, it’s definitely not a book for everyone. I suppose that it might be a sign of good mental health that you do not enjoy reading about brutal headless monsters. Conversely, it may be a sign of poor mental health that I do enjoy reading about brutal headless monsters. Oh well.

    Sadly, the other books in the series are not nearly as good.

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