FICTION

The Final Descent

Bk. 4. 320p. (The Monstrumologist Series). S & S. 2013. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442451537; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442451551. LC 2013015811.
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Gr 9 Up—After his parents died, William James Henry became the ward of and apprentice to eccentric Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. One of the last of his kind, Warthrop is a practitioner of "aberrant biology," a monstrumologist. During the years of his strange education, Will has been exposed to the monstrosities of both humanity and nature and has come to resent the mutually destructive nature of his relationship with his aging mentor. Unfortunately, his dissatisfaction could not have happened at worse time. There is a mysterious threat to Warthrop's career: an attempt to steal the last living specimen of a rare species with venom that could be used either as a destructive weapon or a powerful drug. This supernatural, noir-like thriller effortlessly builds intrigue as Will contemplates the past mistakes that have lead him to his current situation. The premise of the book is that Yancey is an editor who is trying to decipher Will's journals; he is unsure whether the incredible events he reads about actually occurred or if he is the victim of an elaborate hoax. This device makes the story less narrative and more contemplative, with many of its short chapters devoted to poetry and philosophy. Overall, Yancey's latest installation in the series is strong enough to stand on its own.—Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY
This fourth and final volume of the series (a blend of gothic horror, cryptozoology, and Sherlockiana) features apprentice Will Henry in the throes of adolescent rebellion as he seeks to escape the jealous, domineering monstrumologist Warthrop and wrest the affection of Lilly Bates away from a rival suitor. Yancey has taken some considerable risks here, ones that should thrill his ardent fans.
In the fourth and final volume of the Monstrumologist series (a blend of gothic horror, cryptozoology, and Sherlockiana), Yancey diverges somewhat from his successful formula. In addition to a menacing atmosphere and highly stylized nineteenth-century prose, each previous book (The Monstrumologist; The Curse of the Wendigo, rev. 1/11; The Isle of Blood, rev. 11/11) has featured a plot that pivots on an unspeakably horrible creature and the subtle and nuanced characterization of the monstrumologist and his apprentice, Will Henry. But here the plot recedes into the background (abetted by the disorienting fragmentation of the narrative into three time frames), while the characters take center stage for their last hurrah. To be sure, there is another important monster to be dealt with here, one whose legendary fame ensnares various players in a tangled web that will ultimately decide the fate of monstrumology. But the real monster here is arguably Will Henry in the stormy throes of adolescent rebellion, as he seeks to escape the jealous, inscrutable, and domineering Warthrop and hopefully wrest the affection of Lilly Bates away from a rival suitor. The title and the various epigraphs appropriately reference Dante’s Inferno, reinforcing the book’s darker themes. Yancey has taken some considerable risks here. They will probably confuse casual readers, but they should thrill and horrify—in the best way possible—ardent and loyal fans. jonathan hunt

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