“There were no such things as monsters outside the human mind. We are vain and arrogant, evolution’s highest achievement and most dismal failure, prisoners of our self-awareness and the illusion that we stand in the center, that there is us and then there is everything else but us.”
Pellinore Warthrop, an unflinching and intrepid philosopher of natural history in its most aberrant forms, also known as monsters to those uneducated or disinterested in the subject, has been left alone. His faithful assistant-cum-servant, Will Henry, had had enough and went away. He didn’t want to become similar to his mentor. He felt he’d been lied to. He felt betrayed. Still the separation didn’t make any of those two gentlemen happy. After all Will was the only thing that kept Warthrop human and Pellinore was the closest thing to a father Will Henry has ever had. It is not a surprise after some time they meet again – Will an adult in his prime, Pellinore a dying, starving old man, living in a hovel of a house, hiding a dangerous secret.
“But a man must control his passions lest they control him—if he has them. And that is the rub, the central question, the paramount if.”
We are told how it happened, how those two people, so close once, sharing the same life and occupation, had drifted apart. The tale includes a living specimen of T. cerrejonensis, the last of its kind, Lilly Bates, the Sicilian Camorra and a lot of bad blood . Oh, and some murders. It is not a linear story, it jumps forward and backward in time, including scenes from Will’s adulthood, childhood and teenage years but after all, we are circles, our lives aren’t straight.
“It is hard, he told me once, hard to think about those things we do not think about.”
It is difficult to begin a series; it is even more difficult, nay, downright scary, to end it. You might try your best but, sadly, you can also be practically 100% sure there will be some unsatisfied readers, some malcontents, complaining and tearing the final result apart, making you doubt whether or not it was the right decision. How Mr. Yancey managed the last Monstrumologist novel?
From my point of view, not bad, not bad at all. The story is perhaps less surprising and more chaotic than the previous books, narrated as if Will Henry was becoming more and more deranged or was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. If it was the deliberate choice of the author, in my view he succeeded in portraying the slow, painful decline of the relationship between Pellinore Warthrop and his faithful assistant and heir.
The narration spins around the holy Grail of monstrumology called T. cerrejonensis – a unique, snake-like man-eater. It is a very precious monster not only because it is the last of its kind. Its venom in pure form is very toxic, one drop is enough to kill an adult. If diluted ten times, its properties change – it turns into a very potent drug, providing indescribably euphoric experience. Once you take it you are hooked for life and you would give anything, literally anything, to get the next shot or dose. As you can imagine plenty of people would murder and die for it; they would also offer a king’s ransom in money, diamonds or gold, your choice. Curiously enough the impregnated egg, containing the last living T. cerrejonensis on the planet, is delivered to Warthrop’s door for just one million dollars, a surprisingly low price all things considered. Why the mysterious broker chose Warthrop when he could have chosen practically anybody else, demanding a far higher price? It is one of secrets Will Henry will try to reveal.
Still the monsters, although interesting, have never been the real forte of this series for me; in my case it was the dynamics between young Will Henry and his older mentor and guardian, Pellinore Warthrop.
“Can you tell me the difference between a monstrumologist and a ghoul?” I asked. He shook his head soundlessly, wide-eyed, watching me cut away the trousers, exposing the pale leg beneath. “No?” I sighed. “I was hoping one day to find someone who could.”
It’s been known for ages that the scientific research, no matter what field you examine, is hardly an enclave of peaceful and harmonious cooperation. Scientists rarely follow the rules of fair play, especially when the stakes are high. That’s why I was not especially surprised by the rivalry between Warthrop and his teenage assistant; what’s more, I think both gentlemen still behaved in a positively civilized manner, showing that the bond between them was really strong and unique. Mind you the situation they both had to face, the bait and the prize, would tempt a saint, let alone a monstrumologist.
I’d always thought him vain and arrogant and without normal human emotion. I’d never considered, though, that he might be evil.
In the previous books they constituted an unanimous block – two people facing roughly the same adversaries, human or otherwise, and dealing with the same problems. In the last book the situation changed – now they are facing each other. It is hardly pleasant or nice so I am not surprised so many readers have found the behaviour of Will Henry obnoxious and rude.
“To hell with all of you,” I snarl into his ear. “To hell with monsters and to hell with men. There is no difference to me.”
Not wanting to spoil anyone let me just tell you that the ending justified Will a bit. The company you keep…
Overall the book was shorter and also a bit less entertaining than the previous parts, a bit less snappy and logical; its monster a tad less unexpected or scary. However, Will surprised me in more than one way. He started to think and to act on his own, turned from a clever boy into a ruthless, cunning adult. He had to – in order to survive – but he didn’t enjoy it. You can hardly blame him for the bitterness and cynicism. Survival of the fittest, when observed from close quarters, is never pleasant.
Monstrumology was dead, but all of us are, and always will be, monstrumologists.
A good ending of an excellent series I recommend wholeheartedly. Not a brilliant ending, though – the book recycled some ideas and plot twists from the previous parts and was a tad predictable and sketchy. Still I don’t regret buying and reading it. I guess I like monsters. 😀
Previous parts of the series, reviewed by me: