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Monday, February 3, 2014

The Final Descent (The Monstrumologist #4) by Rick Yancey

Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop have encountered many horrors together—but can Will endure a monstrumological terror without his mentor?

Will Henry has been through more that seems possible for a boy of fourteen. He’s been on the brink of death on more than one occasion, he has gazed into hell—and hell has stared back at him, and known his face. But through it all, Dr. Warthrop has been at his side.

When Dr. Warthrop fears that Will’s loyalties may be shifting, he turns on Will with a fury, determined to reclaim his young apprentice’s devotion. And so Will must face one of the most horrific creatures of his monstrumology career—and he must face it alone.

Over the course of one day, Will’s life—and Pellinor Warthrop’s destiny—will lie in balance. In the terrifying depths of the Monstrumarium, they will face a monster more terrible than any they could have imagined—and their fates will be decided.

Released: September 10th 2013    Pages: 320
Publisher: Simon & Schuster        Source: Library

While the first three books in this series made me so, so happy, despite all the darkness and gore (I explained this more in this review), this book just makes me distraught.  I can't think of a better word to describe how I feel about it.  Don't get me wrong--I liked it, but I'm just...grr.  It's like this book took all my emotions and put them in a washing machine, and now they're all sloshing around together and I can't tell what's what.

One thing that stood out right away was the lack of endearing wide-eyed, heartfelt 13-year-old Will Henry.  This book centers around 16-year-old Will Henry, who has lost many of the qualities I loved about his younger self.  The 16-year-old version is arrogant, reckless, and cynical.  It's like I was reading about a completely different character, and I didn't like the change.  I can't say it was illogical character development, since a few years running around with Pellinore Warthrop would put anyone over the edge and mess them up.  Still, I couldn't embrace this new Will Henry as much as I did the old.

Another thing that differentiates this book from the rest of the series is its odd structure.  It's not told in a straight-through, beginning-to-end narrative.  Instead, it jumps around between the story of 16-year-old Will Henry, 19 years later Will Henry, and even a little bit of Will when he first came into Warthrop's care.  (Can we even call it care?)  This is a little confusing, but I enjoyed seeing the adult Will Henry interact with old Warthrop.  The way their relationship changes and develops throughout their lifetime is complex and fascinating.

I have to talk about the ending.  The ending caught me off guard.  I should've been prepared for something like it, but I wasn't.  Here's what I wrote on Goodreads immediately after finishing:

Things I am after finishing this book:
1. Not okay
2. Confused
3. Mind-blown

Things I am not after finishing this book:
1. Okay
2. Sane
3. Emotionally stable
4. 100% satisfied

I won't say too much about the ending, makes sense, in a weird way.  And yet, it changes things.  It reveals a truth about Will Henry that makes you question things.  It showed a future for the characters that made me want more.  As in, I wanted more for these people, and I'm not completely satisfied.  I suppose it made sense for Will Henry and Warthrop to grow into a relationship where they simply yelled at each other all the time, but it's not the same relationship I grew to love.    

This whole book, actually, changes things for this series.  The Final Descent is not like the others.  It still has the same creepy creatures and gorgeous prose, the same damaged characters.  At the same time, I spent the entire book thinking that something was off about it.  It's a different type of story than I'm used to from this series, and a different Will Henry.  It's over a hundred pages shorter than the shortest book of the series.  It feels almost rushed, like many other reviewers have pointed out.  

Don't get me wrong--The Final Descent is still awesome.  It's still beautifully written, with complex characters and relationships.  It's creepy enough to satisfy fans of the series in that regard.  It's still a fantastic piece of literature.  My problem is just that it wasn't as good as the first three books.  

The true mastery of this entire series is, perhaps, the way that the "true monster" isn't the things Will and Warthrop fight.  It isn't the Wendigo or any of the other physical monsters.  No, the true monster is the thing inside all of us.  The darkness.  The darkness in this series doesn't come from the creatures--it comes from within the characters.  This series isn't afraid to show this side of humanity, which makes it raw, unsettling, and even frightening.  Anyone who has followed my reviews for awhile will know that I'm all for raw, unsettling, and frightening.  I like books that challenge my views, that make me think about things I'd maybe prefer not to think about.  I like books that delve deep into questions about human nature.  Rick Yancey's series has certainly done this, and I'm sorry to see it end.

Similar Books: It has a huge amount in common with Frankenstein--similar characters, setting, ideas, and writing style. It's also reminiscent of This Dark Endeavor and has supernatural creatures in an old-fashioned setting like the Matt Cruse books.

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  1. I wish you lived in NY so we could meet and spend hours talking about this series. I need to convince a friend to read it so we can talk.

    My thoughts match up with yours in your assessment of all four books. So beautiful, sad, compelling, revolting and then beautiful again. Loved it, but I am left adrift after the last book....I think I'm going to read the first one again to get the taste out of my mind.

  2. This review perfectly sums up how I felt. I can't say I wasn't hooked onto the book but this one was too different from its predecessors, and although there was plenty of closure, I feel as if it weren't enough... RICK YANCEY, WHYYYY

  3. Ok I doubt anyone will do this, but can somebody email me what the ending was all about? I don't want type spoilers but questions like, was it? who? etc etc.. my email is, I'll be forever greatful


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