is a young adult historical novel by Rick Yancey. Published in 2009, it’s the first book in the Monstrumologist
series. Written in diary format, it follows what happens to a young boy apprenticed to an eccentric man who studies gruesome monsters for a living. The book received numerous award nominations and critics praise its originality. Yancey writes for both children and adults. He also writes screenplays and nonfiction. He graduated from Roosevelt University, Chicago, with a BA in English. Before writing full time, he served as a field officer for the Inland Revenue Service. His career inspired his nonfiction books.
The protagonist is Will Henry. He is an orphaned teenage boy living in late 19th-century America. He works for a man called Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe. Warthorpe specializes in monstrumology, or the study of monsters. Although Will finds Warthorpe strange, he feels indebted to the doctor for his charity. Warthorpe is the only man who offered Will shelter after his parents died in a mysterious fire.
As a boy, Will kept journals documenting his life under Warthorpe. Many years later, an unnamed narrator finds these journals and studies them. There are three journals in total. Although Will is the protagonist, it’s this anonymous narrator who tells the story. What’s obvious from the journal entries is that Will spent his adolescence fearing for his life and questioning the nature of evil. He concludes that, sometimes, humans are deadlier than monsters.
The book opens with a grave robber storming into Warthorpe’s house after midnight. There’s nothing unusual about this because monsters generally appear at night. The robber, Erasmus, hands Warthorpe a parcel and claims there’s a monster inside. He pays Warthorpe for taking the parcel and disappears into the night.
Warthorpe inspects the parcel and tells Will what he sees. Inside the wrapping is an Anthropophagi. This headless creature possesses unusual strength and power. It partially digested a human girl before someone—or something—killed it. Will digs out the girl’s jewelery from sharp teeth embedded in the creature’s abdomen. Unsurprisingly, Will almost vomits.
Warthorpe knows this creature doesn’t belong in America and he must search for answers. He calls on Erasmus again for help. They all visit the graveyard and look for signs of monster infestation. Warthorpe fears that there’s more than one Anthropophagi on the loose. If they don’t capture these monsters, there’s no telling how many people will die.
Will reflects on his life with Warthorpe so far. He explains that his father worked for Warthorpe, which is why the doctor feels compelled to look after Will. Warthorpe has seemingly endless wealth and it’s unclear where the money comes from. Erasmus thinks it’s strange that Warthorpe lets Will see such horrible things when he’s only a teenager, but Warthorpe reminds Erasmus that he’s a grave robber in no place to judge anyone’s moral code.
Lots of Anthropophagi attack the trio in the graveyard. One of them kills Erasmus. Warthorpe realizes that there’s a monster epidemic in their town of New Jerusalem. There’s one man who can help them. This man, Captain Varner, lives in a local asylum. The authorities planned on jailing Varner for blockade running and murder, but when he claimed that monsters killed his crew, they sent him to a mental hospital instead.
Will and Warthorpe visit Varner. Varner explains how the Anthropophagi arrived in America. He brought them home from Africa, and he planned on selling them to museums for profit. One day, the monsters escaped their cages, and they killed everyone on board. Varner barely managed to escape. He wants to help Will and Warthorpe kill the monsters because he feels responsible for what happened.
Meanwhile, the monsters maim and kill the Reverend and his family. Only Malachi, a teenage boy, survives. He describes how the monsters ripped limbs from sockets, feasted on skin, and turned his family inside out. Will vows to help Malachi because he knows what it’s like to lose family. Malachi doesn’t want Will’s help. He blames the monster hunters for what happened to his family.
Warthorpe hires an Anthropophagi expert, Kearns, to help with the epidemic. Kearns demands $5,000 and total immunity from any harm caused during the hunt. Will thinks this is a terrible idea but Warthorpe feels there’s no choice. With Kearns’s help, they take on the monsters.
The first step is to protect the townsfolk. They gather everyone into the local church and lock the doors. When the anthropophagi descend on the church, the hunters can kill them while still protecting the people inside. Kearns and Warthorpe rig traps around the cemetery, then all they can do is sit back and wait.
It’s not long before the monsters descend. The hunters kill nearly 30 Anthropophagi, but the alpha female and her newest offspring escape to safety. They go after the monster babies, which draws out the alpha female. Will kills the alpha and the other monsters die. Kearns disappears and they never see Varner again.