Pellinore Warthrop is sent from England a very strange object, called a ‘nidus’ or nest. Allegedly it is made by one of the most unique monsters on earth, a kind of a dragon called Typhoeus Magnificum, aka the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology”, a creature so elusive nobody has seen it dead or alive yet. Its nest is also very toxic to humans – a mere touch and you are infected. Small wonder the unwilling courier who brought it to the doctor falls ill and has to be killed. As you can guess it was not a normal illness and it is highly contagious. Before he dies he attacks poor Will and the boy loses his index finger – well, better that than lose your sanity and life, right?
Doctor Warthrop, definitely shaken by the fact that he had to chop off his faithful apprentice’s finger with a butcher’s knife to save him, this time decides to go to London with somebody else. It happens a perfect companion presents itself as if conjured out of thin air – his name is Thomas Arkwright, he reveres Warthrop as the biggest monstrumologist alive, he knows pretty much about monsters, he is young, fit and eager. Frantic Will is left behind with von Helrung’s niece and her family. It seems he has finally a chance to enjoy a normal life but the situation is unacceptable to him from the very start. Will looks for a way to join his doctor because he clearly thinks he doesn’t belong anywhere but by his side.
Soon enough, unable to rest and fueled by the logical reasoning Warthrop has thaught him, Will finds out that Arkwright is most probably not the man he claimed to be. Then a message comes from England, announcing Warthrop’s death…and Arkwright returns alone, with a clearly made-up story of Pellinore’s demise. After an interrogation session no real agent would be ashamed of, Von Helrung, Will and another monstrumologist, called Torrance form a rescue team and go to London to investigate. What will they find? Monsters, as usual, but what monsters? Will’s journey will take him even further, to Socotra, the Isle of Blood, where human beings are used to make nests and blood rains from the sky. Will his loyalty, bravery and humanity pass the ultimate test?
What I liked:
Forget the “Young Adult” categorization as in this case it is very misleading. I am an adult female reader who doesn’t like most of YA fiction and I loved these books, finding them definitely more suited for older audience. Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series is one of the masterpieces but, like such books, it defies pigeonholing. Let me only tell you that it should appeal to anyone who loves great storytelling and is not too squeamish when it comes to gory details. I loved the monsters populating these books and I couldn’t avert my eyes even when bits and pieces of human bodies flied around in the form of a blood rain.
There is one more thing. Reading the third part of this series I had a very strange feeling because every wish I expressed after previous parts came true. After the second part I wanted to see Jack/John Kearns/Cory again and here you go, Kearns is back in a peripheral but vital role as a prankster and hunter extraordinaire. I wanted to have more female characters and we get the intrepid Mrs Bates, who dares to sing Will lullabies, and her daughter Lilly, who dares to kiss him and gives him her photo. I enjoyed the philosophical undercurrents and here we get more of it as well. It was as if the author communicated with me beforehand. Weird, to say the least of it. I’ve never enjoyed such a phenomenon before.
The character of Will is in the main focus of the third part. The relations between him and his master have never been more complex. Will finally understands why his services are so “indispensable” to Warthrop; their mutual bond is one of the most compelling dynamics I’ve found in contemporary books.
The boy has grown up and I don’t mean only physical development. He thinks and plans on his own. He can stand up to the doctor and anyone else, taking independent, sometimes very difficult decisions. Of course at some levels he still remains a child – a child feeling very lonely and bereft to add – but he can overcome his weaknesses. The writer uses different adults in the story to give us impressions of what Will Henry might become, depending on his choices. Will he be like Mr. Bates, a successful financier and a proper gentleman with his little, happy family? Will he be one of the cold, calculating monster hunters who delight in the game of killing more than anything else? Will he be one of the scholars working behind the scenes and hoarding over the treasures of the monstrumologist secret society? Finally, will he become a ruthless monster like Kearns or a more humane monster like Warthrop?
The Isle of Blood, just like the other Monstrumologist novels, begins with the frame of Yancey editing a collection of folios written by the real Will Henry about his adventures. But this time, the investigation becomes more personal than ever – our tenacious narrator digs deeper into Will Henry’s life and tries to figure out exactly who and what he was. There are scenes that will shock the reader that are made even more powerful as they are seen through Will’s ever observant but so youthful eyes.
Let me also say how much I appreciated the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle and especially Arthur Rimbaud were among the secondary characters of this book!
What I didn’t like:
There is not a dull sentence to be found in any one of the three novels but if you prefer maudlin teen romance novels, stay away; this series is not for you. Where is the fourth part btw? I know the author has planned it and I will preorder it asap. Can a reader pay a bigger compliment than begging for more?
“We are hunters all. We are, all of us, monstrumologists”. I quite agree – I’ve just bagged some great books…
Some quotes to share the joy:
““Miss Marks, you see, makes her living by… entertaining young, and not so young, sailors…or any other members of the armed forces, or civilians, who enjoy…being entertained by ladies who…entertain.” He cleared his throat.” (isn’t Warthrop, discussing the oldest profession with his young apprentice, a sweetie?)
“”What did I learn, sir?” The breeze was delicious upon my face. I could smell the sea. “I learned a poet doesn’t stop being a poet simply because he stops writing poetry.””
“I don’t know if you are a spiritual man but – “
“Not often,” said the monstrumologist, urging Conan Doyle toward the lobby doors. “Hardly ever. No – just once. I was three or four and my mother caught me deep in a conversation with God.” He shrugged. “I have no memory of it. God might.”
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