Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey; Simon & Schuster, 2010.

In this sequel to Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist, Dr. Pellinore Worthrop and his young apprentice, Will Henry, travel to snowy Canada to search for fellow scientist and former best friend, John Chanler. Chanler had gone off to hunt for the Wendigo, known by the Indians as outiko, aka Lepto lurconis, a type of cannibalistic monster which is perpetually starving, even after gorging, and can travel on the wind! While in Canada, Dr. Worthrop and Will Henry are “deserted” by their guide, who has gone insane, and must travel back to civilization, carrying the ill John Chanler through freezing temperatures and many feet of snow. Once back in New York, Chanler seems to be getting worse, and Dr. Worthrop, who is in town for the annual congress of the Society for the Advancement of the Science of Monstrumology, orders him to be taken to the hospital. Much to Worthrop’s dismay, his teacher, Abram von Helrung, has decided to present a proposal to the society about the Wendigo, which Worthrop believes to be a myth! Will Henry is introduced to von Helrung’s thirteen-year-old niece, Lilly, who tries to lead Will astray, while Chanler escapes from the hospital and begins leaving a trail of blood and gore in his wake! He leads a band of monstrumologists on a chase to capture and kill him before he can kill, eat, and mutilate the poor immigrant residents of the New York City tenement neighborhoods.

Rick Yancey has produced another fantastic gory thriller! Many of the new characters in this book are extremely funny and likable! Muriel Chanler, John Chanler’s wife and Pellinore Worthrop’s former fiancé’, is elegant, and presumptuous. Chanler, on the other hand, is portrayed as cynical and mean-spirited, and then, of course, as a monster! I find it interesting that Chanler’s monster speech patterns are reminiscent of Gollum’s in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lilly, the teenage niece of von Helrung is a talkative “know-it-all”, and the scenes with Will and her are quite amusing! There are a number of cameo appearances by well-known historical figures, the most famous being Thomas Edison. The inclusion of Abram von Helrung is a veiled reference to Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing vampire hunter. The descriptions of 1888 New York City and, especially, its manure blocks, “crossing sweepers” and slums are dark and depressing, contrasting with those of the more prominent and wealthy parts of the city.

Readers will again have to get out their dictionaries, for there are many unusual words in the novel. There is plenty of blood and guts to keep the pages turning until the end! Even though this book is a sequel, readers will not necessarily need to read the previous volume. However, I do prefer The Monstrumologist over Rick Yancey’s most recent work. I highly recommend it for high school and public libraries!