Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Review: The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey (The Monstrumologist Book 3)

When Dr. Warthrop goes hunting the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology” with his eager new assistant, Arkwright, he leaves Will Henry in New York. Finally, Will can enjoy something that always seemed out of reach: a normal life with a real family. But part of Will can’t let go of Dr. Warthrop, and when Arkwright returns claiming that the doctor is dead, Will is devastated–and not convinced.

Determined to discover the truth, Will travels to London, knowing that if he succeeds, he will be plunging into depths of horror worse than anything he has experienced so far. His journey will take him to Socotra, the Isle of Blood, where human beings are used to make nests and blood rains from the sky–and will put Will Henry’s loyalty to the ultimate test.

Like many fans of Rick Yancey's Monstrumologist series I was truly gutted when I read that his publisher had decided not to extend his contract beyond three books. From what I could make out, this decision came quite late, after Mr Yancey had completed the third book, thus not giving him the opportunity to finish telling the story of Will Henry. Of course, this rather low moment was followed several weeks later by a massive high when it was announced that Simon and Schuster had decided to extend the author's contract to a fourth and final book in this most fantastic of horror series. With my objective hat on I can sort of understand why the series has not sold as well as the author and publisher had hoped: it is simply too good. It would appear that there is more money in selling a multitude of Twilight wannabes, rather than truly literate, complex horror stories that have more in common with Shelley's Frankenstein and Stoker's Dracula than most of the mass-market (but top selling) rubbish that has saturated the market in recent years, especially in the US.

The Isle of Blood is nothing short of being a masterpiece of horror literature, and is definitely my favourite in an already outstanding series. It is the kind of book that takes over all of your waking thoughts, and then invades your dreams, turning them into the most horrific of nightmares. And I had thought the first two books in the series were pretty damn scary! I think what makes this book stand out as my favourite is that this now really is Will's story. Despite Will being the narrator, the first two books were very much about his mentor, Pellinore Warthrop. This is a man who is incredibly driven, but also tragically haunted, a man whose personality is so complex it almost puts the likes of Sherlock Holmes in the shade as a literary character. In The Isle of Blood Will is abandoned by his mentor, and with him taken out of Warthrop's sphere of influence for the first time we start to see what makes him tick as a person in his own right. However, when given the opportunity to live a normal life, with an adopted family and a proper education, what will he choose? Has he already spent too long with Warthrop?

Anybody who has read the first two books in this series will already know that Will has been to some pretty dark places so far. However, they are as nothing compared with the darkness that faces him in The Isle of Blood, and the life-changing decisions he is forced to make. The horror in this book is not just about monsters as the events that seem to unfurl like a tsunami, carrying Will along with an unstoppable force, had a huge impact on my emotions and scared me more than some of the more horror-laden scenes. Perhaps this was the teacher part of me, witnessing a first hand the tragic loss of innocence that this eager and bright young man experiences.

Rick Yancey has so far provided us with two incredibly nasty monsters: the anthropophagi of the first book and the wendigo of the second. Both of these pale into insignificance in comparison with the magnificum of this book. Without giving too much away this is an organism that could have devastating consequences on a global scale, simply by the briefest of contact with a tiny amount of fluid known as pwdre ser (even typing that simple phrase is enough to send shivers down my spine now - google it and be even more afraid). To say any more would be to spoil the story as you really need to read this in its entirety to fully experience the impact this creature will have on your thoughts.

Before I sign off I wanted to bring you a moment of humour from this book that made me chuckle out loud. Will Henry's narration is laced with a number of dry, and very dark, bon mots, and this is a perfect example of such. When asked by Warthrop whether he should "cut the torso in half, at the seventh thoracic vertebra", Will Henry narrates:

"I confessed I did not have an opinion; I was only thirteen, and this was my very first dismemberment".

I have no doubt in my mind at all that if the publisher had rebranded this as a series of adult books, with a high profile marketing campaign, then they would have been begging Mr Yancey to write far beyond his contracted first three books. My thanks go to the good people at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy to review. If you love horror, and feel that other books do not challenge you enough, then please give this series a go before you leave YA behind and move on to books aimed at the adult market.


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