The Monstrumologist, the first in a series of four books.
I will admit, I wasn't thrilled with the choice. The book didn't sound appealing to me at all. But, I barreled on anyway, reading this book so that I could participate in the discussion of it. While it wasn't a book I would have chosen on my own, it wasn't a bad book either. The writing was sound and the characters well-drawn. The horror elements were suitably horrific and the plot, although it didn't move as quickly as I would have liked, moved to an inevitable conclusion.
Framed as a story told in journals by a man who claims to be a hundred and thirty-one years old, The Monstrumologist begins in 1888 when 12 year old Will Henry is working as an assistant to a scientist, a monstrumologist, who studies monsters. The doctor calls for Will to "snap to," because there is a caller at the door delivering a horrific find from the graveyard. Thus begins the adventure to locate and eradicate a species of monster documented by Herodotus, Pliny, and Shakespeare as the "Anthropophagi," a monster without a head, whose eyes are located on his shoulders and whose mouth, complete with an array of sharp teeth, is located in the chest. (For a You Tube promo of the book, click here.)
After being orphaned by a fire, Will Henry, whose father was once the doctor's devoted assistant, stays with the monstrumologist out of loyalty to his father's devotion. The Anthropophagi specimen hanging in the basement choked on the pearl necklace around a young girl's neck. Will Henry is horrified by the image, but bravely fights alongside his master to root out the nest of this dreaded monster. Unfortunately, there is a whole pod of monsters in the very village of the monstrumologist and they strike again before the doctor, his assistant, and the constable can root them out. Thus another young boy is lured into the adventure after losing his whole family to an attack by the Anthropophagi. They must figure out how the monster came to be in the town and how to effectively get rid of them before they feast again.
I admire how the author presented the writing with a Victorian feel. The story wasn't so horrific that I wanted to put it down (not being a fan of horror stories), but it didn't really leave me wanting to turn the pages faster until close to the end. When Will Henry is called (for his small size) to crawl through a tunnel in the underground chamber of the Anthropophagi, I was transfixed. This was truly terrifying. He was trapped in a small place and then fell into the very nest, where he encountered the dominant female's youngest progeny. Although I knew the boy survived to write the tale, it was still quite suspenseful.
I imagine this book would hold great appeal for teenage boys who are looking for a horror story. They would relish the details of the attacks and the plight of the young apprentice. For me, however, I wouldn't say this book left me wanting to search out the rest of the series. I'm just not a fan of horror fiction, I guess. Still, it wasn't too horrific and the author didn't resort to fluffing the book with extraneous violence or foul language, so it would be a suitable title to suggest for a young male reader interested in monsters (like say, my middle son, in a few years).