Why I Read It:
This was the March selection for Calico Reaction's
Theme Park book club! Even before this was selected it had been on my radar; the book club just gave me an excuse to read it sooner rather than later.
I first off want to apologize for the mess that this review will probably be. I'm ridiculously behind on reviewing books I've read because I've been so busy with school, so it's actually been a couple of weeks since I finished reading this. Therefore, there's a lot that's fuzzy in my mind. But anyway, onward!
As far as general impressions go, I really liked this book. It wasn't without its flaws, but when I recall the reading experience, it was enjoyable. To simplify things a bit, I'm going to list the PROS and CONS.
- This book truly is creepy. And it's not creepy solely because it's gory (because it's really gory). It's creepy because the monsters that are featured in this book, the Anthropophagi, are described in such detail. Dr. Warthrop insane scientific analyses of these monsters really brought them to life and made it seem like these monsters could be REAL. You'd think that describing the monsters in such cold detail would dampen the creep factor since it takes out all the imagination, but Yancey somehow pulled it off.
- Will Henry really is a likable protagonist. The kid's had a ROUGH time to say the least, and it doesn't look like it's getting any better while he's under Warthrop's care. It made it easy to sympathize with him.
- Jack Kearns! No, he is by no means a likable character (dude is sooo evil and messed up), but he brought some welcome humour -- albeit very dark and largely inappropriate humour -- and the little tease given about his character (which I won't reveal due to spoilers) was absolutely genius and I loved it.
- The writing really was fantastic (even if I had some issues with, which I'll get into in a bit.) The style of the prose, while long-winded at times, felt perfect for the time, setting, and mood of this novel.
- This novel felt unnecessarily long at times. Like, really long. A particular example that comes to mind is when Warthrop and William went to visit that guy in the insane asylum and he told them about bringing the Anthropophagi over from Europe on a ship and how pretty everyone gotten eaten. That scene was just kept going onnnn and oonnn to the point where I began doing some major skimming, and I almost NEVER skim.
- The journal conceit rang as inauthentic to me. How the hell does someone recall events in such detail? Or conversations? I love me an unreliable narrator, but not a whole lot about Will Henry's narration felt unreliable. It made sense to have the story told from Will's point of view, and it made sense to have it told from a much older Will Henry so that the verboseness of his prose didn't ring false, but I'm still not sure about the journal format.
- The one thing I'm kind of on the fence about is Will Henry's relationship to Dr. Warthrop. At the beginning of the novel, Warthrop's treatment of Will Henry is borderline abuse, and while it made sense with Warthrop's character, it made me really mad (which I imagine was the point.) Near the end of the novel however, Warthrop reveals his softer side and becomes more verbal in acknowledging how much Will Henry really means to him. Will Henry in turn demonstrates a fierce loyalty to his guardian, despite the ill-treatment he's received. A part of me loved the development of their relationship, but another part of me felt angry that Will Henry could so readily forgive and vouch for a man who's treated him so poorly. I am anxious to see how it develops in the next novel though (which I already own and plan on reading.)Final Verdict:
Despite my misgivings, I really did enjoy this book. The creep-factor was there, and it wasn't just because of the copious amounts of gore (warning: if you have a weak stomach you should probably stay away from this book). The main character was easy to sympathize with, even if I had some uneasiness about his relationship with his mentor and guardian. I'm still skeptical about the journal format of the novel, but I can't discount that this is a very well-written novel despite that (even though it felt unnecessarily long at times); the style was perfect for the setting and mood. A definite recommend from me.