Rip a human being apart, shred him into pieces no larger that the length of your thumb, and see how mush of him you can recognize… That blob of purplish substance there – a piece of his heart or perhaps a chunk of his liver?…Imagine an enormous robin’s nest fashioned not from twigs and leaves, but from human remains.
On a quest to find the monster known as the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology” with his eager new assistant, Arkwright, Dr. Warthrop leaves Will Henry in New York. There the boy finds himself living with a real family; not facing midnight vivisections, narrow escapes, or confrontations with monstrosities, human and inhuman. After months go by with no word from Warthrop, Arkwright returns with the devastating news that the doctor is dead.
Will doesn’t trust Awkwright, and he can’t believe – wont accept – this information. Determined to find Warthrop, he journeys to London in hopes of finding the doctor still alive, knowing that if he succeeds, he will face something worse that all the monstrosities he has seen in his young life. They will go to Socotra, the Isle of Blood, where human beings are used to make nests, where those who are consumed are the lucky ones, whose blood rains from the sky.
In the deadliest adventure yet in the series that began with the Printz Honor – winning The Monstrumologist, which VOYA called “gothic horror at its finest and most disturbing,” Will Henry must decide whether his loyalty to Dr. Warthrop is enough for him to make the ultimate sacrifice.
“But hope is no less realistic than despair. It is still our choice whether to live in light or lie down in darkness.”
If you are squeamish then this is not the right series for you. These books are horrific and gory – so if you cannot handle stories of this nature, then do not read these books.
The Monstrumologist series is definitely classified as horror, and the first book was on the verge of being literary fiction. The prose was definitely there, but the topic matter was not. The second book was almost there, but The Isle of Blood is, without a doubt, literary horror. It is beautifully written and deals with subject matter that is more existential than concrete. It discusses human nature and the greatest monster of them all, which is not what you think it is.
The writing is once again perfection. Will Henry continues to be the most perfect narrator ever and the autobiographical style is to die for. It sucks you into the book and holds you captivated beyond the last words and leaves you desperately wanting more.
With each book there has been a progression of setting. While The Monstrumologist was limited to New Jerusalem, The Curse of the Wendigo takes place in North-Western Ontario and New York. Isle of Blood takes you everywhere. From London to New York, from Venice to Egypt and the finally Socotra. If not for the monster, Socotra would be a fantasy land. Breathtaking mountains, forests and inlets, thousands of local species – flora and fauna alike. Both a vacationer’s and a scientist’s paradise.
Will Henry has not been unaffected by all that he has seen and done. He is much darker in this book, almost on the verge of being psychopathic. He does terrible things without an ounce of remorse and is no longer scared by things that drive normal people to insanity. On top of that, he lies about what he does. But I know that he is still good, can see it in his actions and by the fact that everything he does, he does to help someone else (mainly Warthrop). He is just taking the easy way out, for it is far easier to be bad than good especially for someone in his position. He will come to his senses eventually because he does not want to be bad and has Dr. Warthrop to save him. No longer is he the innocent boy who is scared for his life, filled with self pity but is a man who is not afraid to do what needs to be done. He is much smarter now too, catching onto things before the adults, and using logic that is almost Warthropian in nature. He is so far from the innocent boy I first met and is so close to the edge of something that he can never return from. A thing that Will calls das Ungeheuer .
Das Ungeheuer is something that is impossible to explain but is something that everyone has, at some point, experienced. It is the feeling that you get after doing something that is the opposite of what you’d normally do, when you feel like that was ‘not you’. It is the feeling that there are almost two people inside of you the ‘you’ and the ‘not you’. There are times when you’ll do something and you feel deep down that what you are doing is right and that you are doing what you are meant to do. It is a slippery slope that exists inside of you between the best version of you and the worst. Sometimes that slope unwinds and you feel yourself being pulled farther and farther away from you who are. It is, in essence the duality of the soul. It is a monster too, only one that exists inside of us. At least that’s how I understood it.
The hunt for the monster is no longer just a hunt for the monster, but something much more. It is about being human and not letting the bad parts of us take over. It is about finding who we are and about understanding that there are some lines we can never cross. The Isle of Blood is about second chances and about love. For that is the bond between Will and Warthrop how ever much they deny it. No matter how much Will says he hates the monstrumologist and how ever much he says he wants to leave him he cannot stomach the though of Warthrop dying alone and that tells you something. Regardless of how many times he says it’s because he’s tied to Warthrop and that he’s seen to much to leave the world of monsters behind, I don’t – and will never – believe him because they do care for one another.
The plot is much more complex and covers government conspiracies, double-crossing agents, serial killers and the infamous Sir Arthur Connan Doyle. The story is woven from lies and deceit and the hunger to find more. There is death, and violence, love and mystery. It was also laugh-out-loud funny, and coming from me, that’s saying a lot because it’s rare for books to even make me smile.
I am finally beginning to appreciate the prologues and epilogue and understand why they are there – to provide a logical reason for the unbelievable tale.
I’ve already practically written an essay, but there is so much more I can say about this book. However, I think I will stop myself here and tell you that you need to read this series. Now.
“What of men? I can’t think of anything more banal. I have no doubt — no doubt whatsoever — that once it has obtained the means to do so, the species will wipe itself off the face of the earth. There is no mystery to it; it is our nature. Oh, one might delve into the particulars, but really, what can we say about the species that invented murder? What can we say?”
Other books in the series:
The Monstrumolgist – Book 1
The Curse of the Wendigo – Book 2