The Isle of Blood (by Rick Yancey)

6 03 2012

With the third installment of his Monstrumologist series, Rick Yancey, continues on the familiar path of gory Victorian horror. The perfect blend of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stephen King’s suspenseful horror, is the way in which the Monstrumologist series is blurbed. And that is exactly what it reads like, but with the added bonus of getting to read the work of a writer who genuinely takes his time for some serious character development.

The Isle of Blood starts when Dr Warthrop receives a mysterious and obviously deadly package from his nemesis and ex-colleague monstrumologist, Jack Kearns. It turns out to be a nidus ex magnificum, a hint at the holy grail of monstrumology, a nest made of human entrails, bounded together by pwdr ser, the rot of the stars. The delivery of this package and the effect it has on its courier and Will Henry  (he ends up losing a finger…) sets the tone for the rest of the book.  The nidus, however, is not the prime reason why Kearns contacted Dr Warthrop in that deadly way of his. It is because of Typhoeus Magnificum, the true monstrosity of the Unseen One, the holy grail of monstrumology. Dr Warthrop would not be the most dedicated monstrumologist in the world if he didn’t attempt at trying to find the Magnificum. The result is a race against time and the first time ever  (since Will’s parents died) also that Dr Warthrop and Will Henry separate. In an attempt at what exactly? Humanity or misguided selflessness or in a way to live up to his hubris? In any case Warthrop sets off without Will Henry.

Even though Dr Warthrop has been his main cause of frustration for the past two years, Will Henry senses that something is wrong, and cannot bear that Dr Warthrop has to face this darkness on his own. With an elaborate scheme also involving a writer called Arthur Conan Doyle, Will manages to track down the doctor after which they set off for the Isle of Blood, in search of the Typhoeus Magnificum.

In the first two books, we saw how Dr Warthrop chased monsters, with Will Henry almost innocently tagging along. This time around, however, we get to see a different side to Will Henry, and the story of The Isle of Blood is as much a race to find das Ungeheuer, as it is a descent into the mind of Will Henry and his realization that he may not be the innocent boy that he (and we) thought he was. The opposition in The Isle of Blood is that of choosing the normal – though constraint – lifestyle of a family like Lily Bates’s (whose mother is very willing to take in Will Henry and to model him into a proper young man) or the wildly uncertain, unchecked and uncontrollable lifestyle of the monstrumologist. Where Will Henry goes, discovering the darkness within him, it is hard to come back from, and both Will and the Doctor seem to be aware of that.

It is this thoroughly developed opposition, as well as the many cleverly chosen details[i] that make of the Isle of Blood probably the most interesting of the three books so far, especially in terms of character development: complex and detailed. Complex and detailed, is also how you could describe the language use in the entire series, and it’s probably no mean feat to get through if it’s only plot you’re interested in.

Nevertheless, even though Yancey will probably not attract an entire new readership with The Isle of Blood, the Monstrumologist series is highly recommended stuff!


[i] I love it how Yancey has a character called Arthur Conan Doyle, references Dr Bell, and has the Doyle character mention that his doctor’s practice isn’t going too well…

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17 08 2013
Stick (by Andrew Smith) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] who are as uncompromising in their attitude towards moral ambiguity as Andrew Smith, Adam Rapp and Rick Yancey, coincidentally also two writers who people (mostly people who hardly read any YA) often almost […]

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