Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: Horror, Young Adult, Speculative Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (US & UK)
Publication Date: October 2010
Hardcover: 448 Pages
While attempting to disprove that Homo vampiris, the vampire, could exist, Dr. Warthrop is asked by his former fiance 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.
Stand alone or series: Book two in the ongoing Monstrumologist series
How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book: I absolutely adored The Monstrumologist, which I read and reviewed last Halloween. I loved the book so much, in fact, that The Curse of the Wendigo became one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2010. Could Will Henry and the curmudgeonly Monstrumologist win me over once more? I could not wait to find out.
Mr. Yancey’s investigation of the mysterious journals of William James Henry continue in The Curse of the Wendigo (or, more accurately, folios iv-vi). In these recollections, written by a much older incarnation of our intrepid young hero, twelve-year old Will and his guardian, the Monstrumologist Doctor Pellinore Warthrop, face a terror that is much more personal in nature than the anthropophagi of earlier adventures. The fourth of Will’s journals begins with alarming news about the current state of the profession of Monstrumology: the current society president plans on giving a speech validating the existence of vampires, lycanthropes, wendigos, and other ridiculous fantastical creatures which have no basis in the realm of science – ergo, no place in monstrumology. Things take a turn for the worse when Dr. Warthrop and Will are visited by the beautiful Muriel Chanler – Pellinore’s former fiance – who implores the Monstrumologist to help her find her erstwhile husband (who happens to be Pellinore’s former best friend). Muriel claims that her husband John disappeared into the heart of the wilderness chasing the Outiko – the Yellow Eyed One, the Old One. The Wendigo.
Naturally, Warthrop dismisses this as superstitious nonsense, and, when he learns Chanler has been missing for three months, the Monstrumologist believes any search will be futile. But, search he and young Will Henry do – for John Chanler is the closest thing Pellinore has to a friend, and bringing back his remains to a grieving widow is the closest thing to comfort the Monstrumologist can offer. When the doctor and Will leave for the woods to seek out the missing Chanler, what they find is nothing short of terrifying. Bringing the wasted, sickly form of John Chanler back to New York city, Will Henry and the Monstrumologist must come face to face – or eye to eye – with the truth of the monster in their midst. For though the Monstrumologist may not believe in the Outiko, it still hungers and hunts, and spares none in its path of ravenous carnage.
As with The Monstrumologist, Mr. Yancey is back in top form with The Curse of the Wendigo; once again the writing is flawless, the plotting impeccable, and the characterizations superb. Effectively conveying both an authentic time period with turn of the 20th century east coast America through beautifully convincing dialect and description, The Curse of the Wendigo continues with the story of the coldly enigmatic Monstrumologist and his quiet young protege. Written in the narrative voice of a much older Will Henry reminiscing of his past adventures, there is a thread of unreliability running throughout this series. Is Will Henry an imaginative old man with a knack for fantastic tall tales? Or is he actually telling readers the facts of a long-dead and discredited profession, and his strained paternalistic relationship with a man he both loved and loathed?
Though the story is excellently paced, alternating a harrowing adventure through the woods with the Outiko on the hunt with a Van Helsing-esque stand against a monster in New York, it is in the characterizations that The Curse of the Wendigo truly shines. Not only is the tangled, co-dependent relationship between Will and Pellinore Warthrop given another dimension of tension and complexity in this volume, but readers are also given a new insight to both protagonists. As much as Will is narrating these journals, however, The Curse of the Wendigo is very much Pellinore Warthrop’s book. Not only do we learn that the isolated, unforgiving Monstrumologist has a tragic love-lost past, but we also learn possibly how he has become so impossibly taciturn and demanding. We also are introduced to a host of new characters in this second book, including a contemporary for young Will Henry (a vivacious – if spoiled and somewhat malicious – girl named Lilly), Pellinore’s lost love, Muriel, as well as the Monstrumologist’s mentor, Von Helrung (a Van Helsing if I ever saw one). Absolutely bloody brilliant.
Once again, Mr. Yancey has quite completely won me over: The Curse of the Wendigo is every bit as disturbing and haunting as its predecessor – if not better. The Monstrumologist books have firmly established themselves and the series is now among my current favorites – for any age group. I cannot wait for the next book. Snap to, Mr. Yancey! Snap to!
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
“What Am I, Will Henry?”
I do not wish to remember these things.
I wish to be rid of them, to be rid of him. I set down the pen nearly a year ago, swearing I would never pick it up again. Let it die with me, I thought. I am an old man. I owe the future nothing.
Soon I will fall asleep and I will wake from this terrible dream. The endless night will fall, and I will rise.
I long for that night. I do not fear it.
I have had my fill of fear. I have stared too long into the abyss, and now the abyss stares back at me.
Between the sleeping and the waking, it is there.
Between the rising and the resting, it is there.
It is always there.
It gnaws my heart. It chews my soul.
I turn aside and see it. I stop my ears and hear it. I cover myself and feel it.
There are no human words for what I mean.
It is the language of the bare bough and the cold stone, pronounced in the fell wind’s sullen whisper and the metronomic drip-drip of the rain. It is the song the falling snow sings and the discordant clamor of sunlight ripped apart by the canopy and miserly filtered down.
It is what the unseeing eye sees. It is what the deaf ear hears.
It is the romantic ballad of death’s embrace; the solemn hymn of offal dripping from bloody teeth; the lamentation of the bloated corpse rotting in the sun; and the graceful ballet of maggots twisting in the ruins of God’s temple.
Here in this gray land, we have no name. We are the carcasses reflected in the yellow eye.
Our bones are bleached within our skin; our empty sockets regard the hungry crow.
Here in this shadow country, our tinny voices scratch like a fly’s wing against unmoving air.
Ours is the language of imbeciles, the gibberish of idiots. The root and the vine have more to say than us.
I want to show you something. There is no name for it; it has no human symbol. It is old and its memory is long. It knew the world before we named it.
It knows everything. It knows me and it knows you.
And I will show it to you.
I will show you.
Let us go then, you and I, like Alice down the rabbit hole, to a time when there still were dark places in the world, and there were men who dared to delve into them.
An old man, I am a boy again.
And dead, the monstrumologist lives.
He was a solitary man, a dweller in silences, a genius enslaved to his own despotic thought, meticulous in his work, careless in his appearance, given to bouts of debilitating melancholia and driven by demons as formidable as the physical monstrosities he pursued.
He was a hard man, obstinate, cold to the point of cruelty, with impenetrable motives and rigid expectations, a strict taskmaster and an exacting teacher when he didn’t ignore me altogether. Days would pass with but a word or two between us. I might have been another stick of dusty furniture in a forgotten room of his ancestral home. If I had fled, I do not doubt weeks would have passed before he would have noticed. Then, without warning, I would find myself the sole focus of his attention, a singularly unpleasant phenomenon that produced an effect not unlike the sensation of drowning or being crushed by a thousand-pound rock. Those dark, strangely backlit eyes would turn upon me, the brow would furrow, the lips tighten and grow white, the same expression of intense concentration I had seen a hundred times at the necropsy table as he flayed open some nameless thing to explore its innards. A look from him could lay me bare. I spent many a useless hour debating with myself which was worse, being ignored by him or being acknowledged.
But I remained. He was all I had, and I do not flatter myself when I say I was all that he had. The fact is, to his death, I was his sole companion.
That had not always been the case.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Make sure you stick around as author Rick Yancey joins us later today with a guest post about his Inspirations and Influences for writing The Monstrumologist books!
Rating: 8 – Excellent leaning heavily towards a 9.
Reading Next: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge