The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey

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The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey

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Buy The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: It's truly exciting for most of the second half and ingeniously plotted in many parts, and I hope it's read by lots of kids - preferably ones with strong stomachs!
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847385468

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In late 19th century America, young Will Henry has been the apprentice of the stern, forbidding Dr Warthrop since the death of his parents, who were also employed by the doctor. The twelve year old boy has seen many things in his service to the monstrumologist - a specialist in monsters - but nothing can prepare him for the fateful day when an elderly grave robber brings the doctor the twin corpses of a young girl and the headless creature with fangs in his chest who had tried to feast on her.

Warthrop realises that the presence of the beast - an Anthropophagus - means there are more in the area, and along with Will Henry, sets off to save the day by destroying them. But does the doctor know more about the infestation than he admits? Will quickly realises that Warthrop isn't necessarily being particularly heroic, and his combination of pride and poor judgment leaves young Master Henry in danger as they head for the creatures' lair, accompanied by a motley crew of locals and Warthrop's fellow monstrumologist, Dr Kearns.

The best way to describe The Terror Beneath is that it's a fantastic two hundred page book which unfortunately lasts four hundred pages. Things get off to a really good start, as Henry and Warthrop are almost immediately confronted by the pitiable Erasmus Gray, who has found the gruesome tableau of the pair of corpses. The action continues, as Henry, Gray and Warthrop return to the scene of the old man's discovery, where tragedy strikes.

From then on, things screech to a halt. We're given around a hundred and fifty pages of exposition - that's nearly half the book - with peculiarly little action of any type, apart from a particularly lurid scene during a flashback by a man locked in a lunatic asylum, which explains how the creatures came to the shores of the USA. This is satisfyingly well-written, and boys around the age of 13 will undoubtedly love it - even if their parents are less keen - but it's a brief piece of excitement in between reams and reams of writing about the pair preparing to fight off the monsters.

The first half of the book took me about a week and a half to read. I couldn't find any sense of urgency in finishing it, I just picked it up occasionally, read an extra ten pages or so, and put it back down again with the two main characters in a similar position to the one they'd been in when I started reading. Then, once the monstrumologist receives a second morning visitor and the action starts going again, I got completely hooked, finishing the book in about an hour and a half of solid reading. When Yancey's writing action sequences, he's superb, keeping things moving along quickly and getting a great mix of suspense and brutal, gory action.

The introduction of Kearns - described by Will Henry as 'a monster who hunted monsters' - is the final element which really kicks the book into overdrive, and he's an excellent counterpart to Warthrop, with his near-complete lack of any morals making Warthrop, previously a rather unsympathetic character himself, appear much more of a hero himself.

I think The Terror Beneath has a couple of glaring flaws - notably that many parents may be put off by just how gruesome the novel is, while I think many of the target audience will struggle to get past the huge part of the book where nothing much is happening. However, it's truly exciting for most of the second half and ingeniously plotted in many parts, and I hope it's read by lots of kids - preferably ones with strong stomachs! I'd love to read more of Will Henry's adventures, particularly if Yancey keeps the next book a bit shorter and the story flowing a little more quickly.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another really enjoyable fantasy for children, I'd like to recommend the excellent Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy.

Buy The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Monstrumologist: The Terror Beneath by Rick Yancey at Amazon.com.

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