The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
(The Monstrumologist # 2)
Simon & Schuster, 424 pages
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.
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. ;)
My copy: paperback from Bestsellers
Reviews of other books in The Monstrumologist series:
# 1: The Monstrumologist