Why did I read it: I loved the first book in this series and couldn’t resist moving right along. (The book will also count towards my Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge for 2011.)
How I would rate it: 4 out of 5 stars.
Will Henry, assistant to monstrumologist Pellinore Warthrop, finds a woman at his doorstep who seeks Warthrop’s help in recovering her missing husband. He vanished while in search of a mythical creature known as the Wendigo, a vampire-like monster whose hunger for human flesh is insatiable.
Will Henry and Warthrop travel to Canada to find Jack Fiddler, a Native shaman who was the last person to see Chanler alive. While he puts forward a supernatural scenario for Chanler’s disappearance, Warthrop is convinced that there is a rational scientific explanation for everything, even when faced with seemingly incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.
His stubborn commitment to the rational is challenged by his own mentor, Dr. von Helrung, who is about to propose that the Monstrumology Society accept mythological monsters as real. Refusing to accept what Chanler has become, Warthrop ends up endangering not only himself and Will but also the only woman he has ever loved.
Review: Although the word “shit” was mentioned (and literally used) to a revolting degree, the only significantly crappy aspect of The Curse of the Wendigo was how much it paled in comparison to The Monstrumologist. Once again, a lot was done right. Yancey’s writing was still thoroughly enjoyable. I read this book in no time flat and had a hard time putting it down. When it came to the actual Wendigo storyline, I was completely hooked from start to finish, but I was really underwhelmed by the how the less monster-related events of The Curse of the Wendigo unfolded and ultimately concluded.
The first half of the book really worked for me. I really loved reading about Warthrop dealing with Mounties and Cree Shamans from Will Henry’s point of view. There was a lot of suspense and a lot of creepiness too. The second half of the book was where the mental comparisions between books one and two started for me. I became more and irritated by the minor characters, particularly their roles in this story.
As I’m sure happens to all readers, there comes a time when I don’t want to buy what certain characters are selling. As far as the secondary cast is concerned, that was true of every last one of them outside of John Hawk, John Chanler, and Abram Von Helrung. I didn’t want to meet a ton of new people and I didn’t want the boy and his doctor to spend hardly any time in New Jerusalem. I certainly didn’t want to read about any failed romance that would scar Warthrop for life let alone a romance as tedious, predictable, or needlessly angst-ridden as the one involving the doctor as well as John and Muriel Chanler. I cannot recall the last time I was ever as full of rage on the behalf of a fictional character as I was for Warthrop when the sheer stupidity of Muriel’s decisions became crystal clear and somehow all his fault. And I felt ten times more nauseous when even Will Henry had to have a little obnoxious plucky not-girlfriend to hang out with then when the Wendigo stripped all the flesh off of people’s bodies except for their faces.
Now I realize a lot of what I was irritated by will not bother other readers, and the level of sheer violence here will probably be more of a concern because The Curse of the Wendigo is positively oozing with blood, viscera, and other disgusting things. And it isn’t that I don’t get the point of what Yancey was doing. I understand wanting to make the world of the Monstrumologist a bigger, richer place. It also makes sense to wanting to cleverly create what could be seen as the backdrop for Dracula, but I can only speak to my reading preferences and enjoyment. What I prefer is the claustrophobic, spooky, and isolated atmosphere of The Monstrumologist. And I definitely prefer books where killing cannibals and understanding the power of fear is much more important than deciding whether love is or isn’t the greatest monster of all.
So why 4 stars? Well, what bothered me was still not the book’s main focus nor was it as important as how excellent the characterization was for the primary characters. There is a lot I will put up with for really amazing fictional people, and I love Will Henry and his horrible doctor. Their relationship remained the strength and foundation of the book. I enjoyed Will Henry’s misguided thoughts and interpretations. I love how little he understood Warthrop, and how much he longed to. Similarly, I really liked how much of a mess Warthrop is and his often misguided outlooks on life, science, love, and the supernatural. His inability to articulate how much he cares for his charge is absolutely heart-breaking. While his stubborn inability to allow for the possibility of beings that can’t be explained or rationalized got really old in light of what happened, it still made sense given his personality. So although I found myself missing the Dickens meets Lovecraft vibe of The Monstrumologist, the house on Harrington Lane, and the solitary monster dealings, at least I can be satisfied with Will Henry and Warthrop. And you better believe I need to read the third book ASAP.
In conclusion, while The Curse of the Wendigo was really good, it was no where near as fantastic a read as The Monstrumologist. Going into the next book, I’m hoping for less excrement, no romance, and much more of the awesomeness that is Warthrop and Will Henry.