The Curse of the Wendigo

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick YanceyThe Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist # 2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 424
My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers

While attempting to disprove that Homo vampiris, the vampire, could exist, Dr. Warthrop is asked by his former fiancee to rescue her husband from the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh, which has snatched him in the Canadian wilderness. Although Warthrop also considers the Wendigo to be fictitious, he relents and rescues her husband from death and starvation, and then sees the man transform into a Wendigo. Can the doctor and Will Henry hunt down the ultimate predator, who, like the legendary vampire, is neither living nor dead, whose hunger for human flesh is never satisfied? This second book in The Monstrumologist series explores the line between myth and reality, love and hate, genius and madness.

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I only really read The Monstrumologist last month because I got into this agreement with Aaron and Tricia that I will read the second book with them. What is it with me scaring myself silly all of a sudden, yes? I don’t know, either. If it were up to me, I would probably wait another year to read the next book in this series to give me (more than) enough recovery time. But because I can be such a pushover sometimes, I gave in and read The Curse of the Wendigo soon after I finished the first book, even if my nerves were still slightly wracked from all the Halloween scare and I was busy with NaNoWriMo.

So, The Curse of the Wendigo is the second book in The Monstrumologist series, and it features the older Will Henry’s journals, specifically folios 4-6. Here we find another adventure of Will Henry with his mentor, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. Warthrop receives a letter that his mentor is about to make a statement in the next gathering of all monstrumologists that they were to include “supernatural” creatures in the roster of monsters that they know — creatures such as vampires, werewolves and the like. Warthrop adamantly believes that they do not exist, and was enraged to hear about this. As he was preparing for his rebuttal, a beautiful lady comes knocking at their door — it was Muriel Chanler, Warthrop’s old friend and ex-fiance. She asks for Warthrop’s help: her husband and his old friend John Chanler had gone hunting for the mythical Wendigo and had gone missing. Despite Warthrop’s misgivings about his old friend’s hunt for this creature, he goes out to bring him back, even if only to give him a proper burial if he is really dead. Will Henry, the ever loyal apprentice, tags along, and finds himself in another sort of horrific world that tests his loyalty and his beliefs in things such as love, hate and friendship.

I will come out and say it right now: if I really liked The Monstrumologist, I think I loved The Curse of the Wendigo more. The second book in the series gives us a bigger view the world that Will Henry lived in. The first book was really more on what monstrumology is, and how Will Henry has come to lived in such a world. It focuses more on how humans aren’t really at the top of the food chain and we can just be hunted as any other animal out there. There was a certain distance with the horror that the first book can give: at the end of the book, it never became really personal for Will Henry, much less for the doctor. It was, for them, another day’s work. There were casualties, but it was still work.

The Curse of the Wendigo makes things more personal, especially for the doctor. Rick Yancey excels in making Pellinore Warthrop’s character shine in this book. The first book tells us about his chosen profession, the second book told us all about his life: how he wanted to be a poet (!!!), how he was almost married, how he had a friend, how he lost both the love of his life and his friend when he made a choice. I always thought Warthrop was this old man who was passionate about the odd things, but in the second book, I saw him as an entirely different person. First impressions show Warthrop as a cold and scientific man, but here we see him as a real person capable of caring, loving and loyal even up to the end, to the point of dismissing everything that everyone is telling him.

The horror level in this book is also almost entirely different from its predecessor. I felt that the anthropophagi in the first book were considered as animals, but here, the wendigo is really more of a psycho killer that was out for revenge. The crime scenes were more a notch more brutal, almost downright disgusting. If I did not know that the book was set in the 1880’s, I would have thought it fit a modern murder mystery story. Not that it’s a bad thing — it made getting immersed in the story easier for me (although perhaps it was just because of all the CSI episodes I watched). Yancey writes the entire story of hunting the wendigo (and also, not hunting the wendigo) with excellent pacing that it came to a point that I cannot put the book down.

But the best part of this book for me really is how much we see of Warthrop here. I have to go back to that because that’s really the strength of this book. I don’t think this would count as a fictional crush, but it’s really more of the admiration of how strong and weak and broken a character can be. I also really liked that we see everything through Will Henry’s eyes, and through all that, we see that the doctor is not the cold and purely scientific man from the first impression. The tender moment at the end of the sixth folio was enough to induce tears, and I would have shed them if I did not finish the book while I was commuting. When I finished the book, I had zero doubt that Pellinore Warthrop thought of Will Henry like a son, and it kind of hurts to wonder what will happen to them by the twelfth folio.

I thought The Curse of the Wendigo is even better than The Monstrumologist, and it is one of the best books I’ve read in 2011. Once again I am very glad I allowed myself to be “bullied” into reading this. I promise, though, that I don’t have to be bullied to read the third book. Once the paperback is released (because all my series books must match), I will definitely read it without waiting for someone to push me into starting it. ;)

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine

Reviews of other books in The Monstrumologist series:
# 1: The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist by Rick YanceyThe Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 454
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety 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, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown accustomed to his late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was eating her, Will’s world is about to change forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagus—a headless monster that feeds through a mouth in its chest—and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume our world before it is too late.

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The main reason I bought The Monstrumologist last year was because of the cover. I thought it had a very good and creepy design, and the title’s font made it seem like someone was whispering it to you — “The Monstrumologist“. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I relied on the Printz medallion on the cover and believed it was good. Every time I see this on my shelf I felt like someone was whispering to me, but I never got around to reading it for so many reasons. When Aaron read it and said it was “…the type of book that should come with a warning: Caution: Not for the faint heart or weak stomach – that sort of thing”, I put it down further my TBR, thinking I’ll read it when I’m ready because I am so not the one who goes for gore. But alas, I’m pretty easy to bully when it comes to reading, so when my October Required Reading came around, I had no choice but to put this on my reading list.

You’d think The Monstrumologist is a pretty easy-peasy not-so-scary YA novel about monsters. You’d think. Twelve-year-old Will Henry is left orphaned after his parents died in a fire, and he was taken in by his dad’s employer, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. Warthrop is not an ordinary doctor —  he is a monstrumologist. Warthrop is self-absorbed, often buried in his work and has young Will Henry at his beck and call. One night, a grave digger arrives at their doorstep bringing the most curious package: the cold remains of a young girl that is being devoured by a very terrifying and a very dead monster. It was an Anthropophagus: a monster shaped like a human but with no head, mouth on its stomach and black eyes on its shoulders. Anthropophagi feed on human flesh, but that is not the most curious thing that got the doctor wondering. Anthropophagi are native in Africa, so finding one in New Jerusalem was the singular curiosity — never mind that finding scary man-eating monsters was already the strangest thing for young Will Henry. Now it is up to the doctor and Will Henry (and some “friends” — and I use the term loosely) to figure out how these man-eating monsters got there, and to stop them before they go on an eating spree.

Aaron‘s review got me preparing for the worst for this book. Seeing that I’m such a big chicken, I was all set to read this in broad daylight. As luck would had it, I ended up reading this while I was on the Alabat Island trip with my Goodreads friends. Not that it’s bad, but because the part of Quezon province we visited wasn’t exactly an urban area. While it wasn’t completely rural (we did sleep on foam mattresses after all), it was still a quiet place with lots of trees, especially when we were on our way to and back from the beach. And it was dark, very dark at night. Somewhere during those trips there, I realize that it may be a bit of a bad decision to read this book while I was there. The Monstrumologist isn’t scary in the way ghost books are scary. It doesn’t really give that spine tingling feeling, or the type that makes me want to sleep with the lights on. Instead, The Monstrumologist gave me that creepy look-over-your-shoulder feeling after. While it did not make my spine tingle like how Paranormal Activity 3 did after I watched it, it did make me look over my shoulder a few times. I knew in my heart that this is all fiction, but a little voice at the back of my head was asking, “What if it is real?”

The Monstrumologist is a very vivid and well-written gothic horror novel and I have never been more captivated by a book like this. It was creepy scary all right, but it was so good that I could not stop reading it even if it was in a dark and moving jeep (while everyone was telling scary stories). Despite my misgivings and initial hesitation, I actually ended up loving this book. To say it was well-written is an understatement. It was extremely well written. The story was basically being told in from the point of view of the older Will Henry recalling memories of those scary nights, there was excellent foreshadowing and it made me fear for what could happen to the story. I remember having to stop a couple of times to take a breather or to shudder and squirm at how gory some parts were. But it wasn’t just pointless gore — the story was quite engaging as well.  The characters were very fleshed out, and I especially loved the relationship between Will Henry and the doctor. It was strained, but also I think they were just having a hard time showing how important they were to one another. I especially liked the last scene in the book, and if you’ve read it, I think you will also find it a bit heartwarming.

I think The Monstrumologist would fare very well not just a book but also as a movie. I could clearly imagine the final chase scenes of the book as a motion picture. Like I said, I’m not a fan of anything horror, but The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey may just have made my best of 2011 list. :) And it’s so good that I am actually reading the next book in the series (but this is because I got semi-bullied into reading it :P).

One final anecdote: soon after I finished reading this book, the electricity at home went out. I found myself straining to hear the hiss of the Anthropophagus in the silence and total darkness of the night. If that is not an effect of a great novel, than I do not know what is. If you haven’t read The Monstrumologist, well, snap to!

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – October

Other reviews:
Guy Gone Geek
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine
Forever Young Adult