Friday 12 November 2010

Review: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey (The Monstrumologist)

The monstrumologist Dr Wartrhrop and his assistant Will Henry are in pursuit ofthe ultimte predator, a creature that is neither alive nor dead, which starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh...the Wendigo.The doctor is convinced that no such beast exists, until someone from his past convinces him a Wendigo has captured her husband, and he and Will travel to the Canadian wildeness to discover the truth. They finally track down the man only to see him transform into a Wendigo and Dr Warthrop can no longer deny the truth behind the legend. But with the monster now on the loose, it's up to the monstrumologist and his assistant to catch the beast before it's too late...

This time last year I reviewed Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, a dark and twisted gore-fest of a book for older teens, perfect for horror-loving readers weaned on books by the likes of Darren Shan. It took me a little while to get into that book, as it was unlike many of the teen horror stories I had read previously: the book is narrated as if it is the journal of a recently deceased elderly man and as such the voice and language is far more mature than you would find in many books for readers of this age. It was most definitely a book worth persevering with though as it now definitely ranks amongst some of my favourite horror books, and I have been waiting impatiently ever since for the sequel.

The Curse of the Wendigo finds young Will Henry still living with the moody and unpredictable Dr Warthrop. Warthrop's world is thrown into disarray very early on in the story when he discovers that Abram von Helrung, one of the world's most eminent monstrumologists, intends drop something of a bomb-shell in an address he plans to make to the gathered experts at the Annual Congress. Despite being a monster hunter, Warthrop does not believe in the likes of vampires and werewolves, creatures he firmly believes a nothing more than myths, and a statement of belief by von Helrung would undoubtedly threaten the legitimacy of the profession. Shortly after receiving news of this he is visited by his ex-fiance, Muriel Chanler, who informs him that her husband, one of Warthrops oldest friends, has taken himself off to Canada in search of the Wendigo, one of these so-called mythical beasts that von Helrung claims dies exist. The wendigo, or lepto lurconis, is believed by some to be a spirit that can possess humans and create in them an insatiable cannibalistic appetite, made all the worse by the way that the more it eats the more is starves.

Despite his estrangement from his long-term friend Warthrop is compelled to make the journey with Will, deep into the Canadian wilderness, and what they eventually find there is not a pretty sight at all. It is not creating a spoiler to say that they find the missing John Chanler, but his physical and mental condition nothing short of terrifying. The journey back to civilization is a long and harrowing one, fraught with danger, and the monstrumologist and his assistant barely make it back alive. However, a safe arrival home is not the end of the story, as when Chanler is taken to New York to recuperate, conveniently at the same time as the Annual Congress of Monstrumologists, the horrors really begin.

This is a very different story from its predecessor: the pace is much more exciting for a start. In the first book in this series there were many scenes where the plot tended to drag a little, even though these scenes helped build the tension that later explodes towards the latter third of the book. Many less confident readers would not get this far though, as I am sure they would not have had the patience that I did. The Curse of the Wendigo however gives a much greater adrenalin rush throughout, as the action scenes are more frequent. This is not at the cost of the build-up of tension though, as the story still has you sitting on the edge of your seat, fearing for the characters and what may happen to them net, especially as it seems that no-one can be considered safe in one of these stories.

Another welcome 'improvement' on The Monstrumologist is in the character-building. We saw a great deal of Will and Warthrop's characters in that first book, but we now see them develop even further. We are also treated to a greater entourage of characters than we saw previously, especially when the story reaches New York and we get to 'meet' a host of colourful creations in the form of the various monstrumologists who have gathered in that great city. Mr Yancey displays great skill in showing the tensions and/or respect that exists between this group of men, many of whom are both friends and rivals. The author uses the characters, their dialogue and their surroundings to create a wonderful sense of place - as a reader I found it very easy to picture in my mind the New York of November 1888.

The Monstrumologist was a particularly gory book, and this book is no different in this respect, although this time the horror hit me on a much deeper level than before. Again, I feel that less confident readers will definitely struggle with this book, book more mature horror lovers with strong stomachs will absolutely love it. The Curse of the Wendigo was published at the beginning of October, and my thanks go to the generous people at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy to review.


  1. I listened to The Monstrumologist as an audiobook (I, unavoidably, have a 1 hour commute to work 4 days a week). On my late night drive home, this spooky story was a delightful companion. One thing I noticed, style-wise: very heavy on the modifiers. So much of the writing advice I hear is to rid yourself of them, but Yancey effectively flouts that trend. Thanks for the preview here. I look forward to reading (or maybe listening?) to The Wendigo.

  2. Agreed, and somehow his work is all the better for them. Given that modifiers can be so easily misplaced Yancey is a very talented writer, or has a gifted editor, or both.