Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: The Curse of the Wendigo

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey

My rating:

WARNING: Ridiculously long review ahead.

I've always thought that you don't fully appreciate a book until the second time you read it. This was the main reason why I decided to read again this series. I mean, I wanted to read it because I missed all the characters so much (please, don't roll your eyes), because I am in love so much with this series that being away from it caused my heart to feel sore (again, don't roll your eyes), but I also had this feeling that I left something behind, that I had not fully swallowed Mr. Yancey's intention with writing it. I don't think I left anything behind, but I certainly love more earnestly this series.

In this case, Dr. Warthrop is informed a beloved friend of his had disappeared. This friend –Dr. Chanler– went into the woods to find a lepto lurconis, aka the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges. Dr. Warthrop's decision is to find his friend, but he didn't expect to find what he did in his little trip to Canada.

The atmosphere is just as dark as the one in The Monstrumologist, and I loved that. I have to admit that I love dark books. Gothic books, horror books, existentialist books, etc. –and this one (or the series in general) falls into the three categories.

While this one was not as action-packed as the first installment, I still enjoyed it. In this book, Mr. Yancey takes more time into developing his characters and their relationships with other characters. I mean, The Monstrumologist focused mainly in the hunt for the Anthropophagi while also printing some colorful thoughts about humanity. The characters in that book were scarce –Will and Warthrop were the only that deserved time to give some background– and so, there was no need to give much space to character development.

However, in this book, there are so many new characters introduced that they need development. For example, Abram von Helrung, who is Dr. Warthrop's mentor; or Dr. Chanler, Dr. Warthrop's childhood friend; or Muriel Chanler, the one who gives Warthrop the notice that his friend disappeared and Warthrop's ex-fiancée (I'm not joking, he was engaged once).

Warthrop is no more presented as an automaton. While he and Will were in the woods, we can clearly see he's just as weak as any other human being: He can be afraid, and we know that, for him, fear is our worst enemy. We also see that Warthrop is capable of loving, and that he sometimes feels alone (which is kind of ironic, since he spends most of his time by himself), and that made me love him even more than how I loved him in the first book. He broke my heart.

Here, Warthrop's skills are put at their wits end. As I said, they had to deal with a “Wendigo”. You should not be surprised to know that, even when many mythological creatures exist in the book's world, there are certain specimens that are considered anything but product of superstition –the Wendigo is one of them. And so, when Warthrop is told that his friend “went wendigo”, he, at first, laughs, but then, he panics. It is never clear if his friend was indeed a Wendigo, or if his actions were merely the actions of a mad man overtaken by hatred and depression, but still, Warthrop was desperate, and that is something rarely seen.

And in this book, I think, is where Will Henry's slow corruption starts. After being through so much with the monstrumologist, after being so much time around monsters, surely you become one of those, don't you think? He's still the innocent twelve-year-old we met in the first installment, though a bit different. He feels guilt for what he does, but he is not the same boy. He has changed, for good or bad. I'll leave the rest for you to find out.

Surely there are scary moments –mostly when they are on the hunt for the unproven Wendigo. And there are also moments that make you question moral. It is present, as well as in the previous and next books, the good/evil, monster/human, science/superstition battles, which make the story more interesting. This book, along with the first one, is preparing us for the next one. Yes, I know this is a little redundant, but it's true. They cannot be read as stand-alone books, even when the plots are not connected with each other, because in each book, there are some clues given as to what Will Henry will become and how he got to be what he is now, as an old man writing the things that haunt him everyday.

[Show spoiler]

Have I said something about the writing? I think that in my review about The Monstrumologist, I put clear that I loved it. Are there words for me to say how beautiful and astonishing it was in this book? No, but I'll try. And before I tell you what I thought, please read the following quote:

”His entire chest cavity had been opened up. Ice crystals glittered like jewels festooning his ribs, lining the walls of his ripped-open stomach; his lungs looked like two enormous multifaceted diamonds; his frozen viscera shone as brightly as wet marble. It was terrible. And it was beautiful.”

It's like a poem, don't you think?

The writing in this book is similar to the one in the first installment in what it concerns to the dark atmosphere and the gore. The scenes are described with full-detail of what happened (just look again at that quote), without skipping blood and gore, and everything seems very gothic and dark. But it is also given a poetic touch, which, again makes me question, how can something be so terrible yet so beautiful? I don't know how Mr. Yancey does, but instead of making me want to vomit, I stare fascinated at the lines I read, even (or specially) if they are like the ones I transcribed. And now, look at this one:

"In the outer room their shadows meet and become one. The starving man eats; he drinks his fill from the pure waters overflowing. Her sweet breath. Her skin golden in the firelight. For a moment, at least, he tastes what his enigmatic mistress, the one for whom he rejected this love, cannot provide. In the abundance of her emerald eyes, Pellinore Warthrop found himself in another human being at last."

That one is so beautiful I almost cried at how stunningly marvelous it was. Maybe I am not making sense, but that is how I feel about this book. I know I have said this like a thousand times, but I absolutely love Rick Yancey's writing. In all the books I've read by him, the writing is by far what he does better. Oh, God, I'm fangirling again over him. If I ever meet him, I don't know what I would do. Perhaps I will faint, but I know I would be very happy if I ever meet Mr. Yancey. He's a genius, plain and simple (and I'm perfectly aware I'm fangirling, again).

In my review about The Monstrumologist I also said that one of the things I loved the most was the Will/Warthrop relationship. They are like father and son. Warthrop's ego might be too big to show feelings, but when he's at critical situations, he gets off that mask. Practically the entire book has him in a critical situation, so we can see his human side. We can see how he cares for Will, how he's worried that something bad can happen to him. He is still insulting to him sometimes, but the surprising thing is that he apologizes. Oh, how I love them!

And, as in the previous and next books, there are present many historical figures. Did you know Bram Stoker (the one and only) was the main cause why Dr. Chanler ran off to the woods to see if he could find a Wendigo (because finding one must lead to the existence of “the Irishman's pet project”, that is, the vampire)? Jack Fiddler is another important figure that appears; and there is an implication that Dr. Warthrop helped Thomas A. Edison design the phonograph. Algernon Blackwood also makes an appearance. My point is that you have to have some background concerning history and literature up to that date, because there are not only these references I've said about people, but there were also references to classical books (The Divine Comedy, Oedipus Rex, etc.). So, I'll give you a piece of advice: Every time there is a name mentioned (whether it be a person's name or a book title), look for it, because odds say it is a historical reference.

The battles between human vs. monster and science vs. superstition are more present in this book that in the previous installment. The first one is ever-present in the series. I think that is the rope that attaches all the series as one (“The line between what we are and what we pursue is razor thin. We will remember our humanity.”). As for the latter one, it is this book's connecting thread. I said they have to battle against a supposedly superstitious creature, and that here is where Warthrop is at his most critical moment –because he, as a man of science, cannot allow such thoughts.

After finishing this book, I feel a terrible loneliness inside me. Not because I already know how everything ends (this is a re-read) but because evrything was very depressing. The entire book has a sad tone, and this sad tone will remain for the rest of the series. And what Mr. Yancey, as the editor, said in the epilogue only worsened my emptiness. I wish I could make you read this, so I could discuss ot with someone.

Okay then. It has happened again. I've written a Bible-lenght review about this book. But I had so many things to say –so many things I loved and needed to be discussed– that I went on and on, writing without stopping, which should surprise you, if you knew me. I think I have said that my greatest struggle is with writing. Most of the time, while trying to write a review or an essay, I am blocked. Most of the time, I had no idea what to write and I can spend hours without writing a single thing. This review took me hours to write, but I never stopped writing. I was continuously typing something, and my words seemed to have no end, but I'll work on that now that I've finished.

Read this book. Even when almost everyone knows about Rick Yancey's books, I am still surprised about the fact that barely no one has heard about this series, but I'm here to try to solve that problem. I'm here to recommend you this book (and therefore series) and to tell you it is the best I've read so far in my life (only my love for Demian can be compared with that of this one). Read it, please. Now I'm not only persuading you; now I'm begging you to read this series. If you know what it feels like when you have no one to fangirl with over a book (or author), then you understand me. I feel alone when I think about this series. So please, read it. It is completely wonderful and perfect. All I can ask from a book.

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