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 begins the journal of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore War throp, 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.
Critically acclaimed author Rick Yancey has written a gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does a man become the very thing he hunts?
I was really excited to read this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has three of my all-time favorite things: 1800s New England, monsters, and creepy/weird doctors. Yancey does a good job setting the scene of “New Jerusalem,” the town where the events of the book take place. The book has a really old-timey feel to it that reflects the era in which it’s supposed to take place.
The book starts with a prologue and ends with an epilogue that take place in the present, but the rest of the book is told in the past through Will Henry’s journal. I much preferred the chapters that took place in the past as opposed to those in the present, but those contemporary parts did a nice job of setting up and summing up the story.
For me, the best part of the book is Will Henry himself. He’s an extremely likeable narrator and just an all-around cool kid. He’s been through some horrible experiences (losing his parents in a really unfortunate way) and he continues to live in a world that is pretty terrifying as the assistant to Dr. Warthrop, but he is a smart and brave kid and a straightforward storyteller. As for the Monstrumologist himself, he’s almost over-the-top cranky but he’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect a mad scientist (of sorts) to be like. Impatient, demanding, and a harsh taskmaster – but not without his affectionate side, as we come to find out through the course of the book. These little moments where the mask slips and he shows that he truly cares for Will Henry make him more of a tragic – and therefore likeable – character than he would have been otherwise. There is also a solid cast of supporting characters. Something was revealed about one of them at the end that actually made me squee. I don’t want to give it away, but as soon as I saw a certain place name mentioned I was all, A-HA!
I would say that this book is not for the super squeamish. I consider myself to have a pretty strong stomach for the macabre and gross and there were a couple of times where I was sort of ready to gag. Yancey is very descriptive, and that can be kind of barfworthy at times. Good in a book like this (IMO, anyway)…but yeah, gross.
I rarely notice a cover enough to mention it one way or another, but the cover of this book (hardback edition) is really, really cool. Also, some of the pages have really cool decorative pictures in the margins. Overall it’s just a really nice looking book.
I’ve already requested the next book in the series, this is one that I definitely want to read more of. Recommended.