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The Final Descent (The Monstrumologist) Hardcover – September 10, 2013
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Gr 9 Up—After his parents died, William James Henry became the ward of and apprentice to eccentric Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. One of the last of his kind, Warthrop is a practitioner of "aberrant biology," a monstrumologist. During the years of his strange education, Will has been exposed to the monstrosities of both humanity and nature and has come to resent the mutually destructive nature of his relationship with his aging mentor. Unfortunately, his dissatisfaction could not have happened at worse time. There is a mysterious threat to Warthrop's career: an attempt to steal the last living specimen of a rare species with venom that could be used either as a destructive weapon or a powerful drug. This supernatural, noir-like thriller effortlessly builds intrigue as Will contemplates the past mistakes that have lead him to his current situation. The premise of the book is that Yancey is an editor who is trying to decipher Will's journals; he is unsure whether the incredible events he reads about actually occurred or if he is the victim of an elaborate hoax. This device makes the story less narrative and more contemplative, with many of its short chapters devoted to poetry and philosophy. Overall, Yancey's latest installation in the series is strong enough to stand on its own.—Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY
*Starred Review* It can now be said with assurance that The Monstrumologist series is a landmark of modern YA fiction. Even given the remarkable Printz Honor–winning first book, who could have predicted the haunting, profound developments of the subsequent titles, none more so than this penetrating, devastating coda. Yes, there is a monster: the T. cerrejonensis, a dangerous reptilian creature thought to be extinct for 100 years. But the true monster is Will Henry himself, now 16 and becoming “the most aberrant of aberrant life forms.” Though his upsetting maturation is logical, even inevitable, fans will be shocked to see their beloved Will surpass the cruelty of his master, Warthrop, as he fights, in gruesome manner, a crime organization for possession of the monster. Will goes too far; some readers might wonder if the author goes too far as well. This, however, is Yancey’s finest hour, as he juggles—no, melds—three time frames and stares unblinking into humankind’s darkest heart. It is a work of tremendous courage; both Yancey and Will are forced to consider the void: “The innocent perish. The stupid, the banal, the wicked—they go on and on.” Beyond a simple finale, this is a brave statement about the duplexity of good and evil, and the deadly trap in which all of us are snared. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Yanceys a big best-seller now, thanks to the The 5th Wave (2013), and all that new attention should rub off on this final volume in a critically adored series. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus
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I wouldn't exactly classify this as a new Monstrumologist book in the same vein as the other three, but I think if you go about reading this book expecting an ending to a magnificent series, you'll enjoy it. Really, it's a capstone to three marvelous, masterful works, more than it is a story in an of itself--hence the shorter length is fitting. The Final Descent is more of a character study, where we get the inevitable conclusion to the story of these characters as they face their own monsters, more than any external one as in the three pervious books. Mr. Yancey has created such vivid characters in the series, characters that have faced every darkness and horror, that now that I'm finished reading this final book, I can't imagine a different way to wrap it all up. It all goes down in a very haunting, stunning and memorable way.
This series is astounding--by far my favorite that I've read. The prose is really unmatched, and that continues in this fourth book. I'm sad to see the series end, but the ending was appropriate, and I know Will Henry will remain with me for a very long time.
What happens in The Final Descent is that everything gets subverted. Gone is the childishly naive narrative of a likeable brave orphan, gone is the traditional structure of the novels. Who wouldn't like subverting things, you ask? That's what we do, in our post post postmodern times after all. We use unreliable narrators, we skip from one place to another, we are all chronology? what chronology?, we repeat phrases and move in circles, we incorporate other literary texts and just plain go crazy with the narrative.
Since Will Henry is the supposed author of the majority of the text, I guess congratulations are in order, Will, you finally woke up to the literary devices of the 20th century. Since he's also the main character, where better to start the subversion process than from himself? So he goes all ambiguity on us and makes it seem as if he was lying all the time and he is in fact somebody else. But how does that work? If he's still writing in the 1950's about the 1880's and forward, he was already past his radical change of character into a ruthless monster (or puberty, as it is known today) when he started writing the books. In other words, he had done his burning out due to the fact that no child could realistically withstand what he was subjected to a long time before he sat down to write the first Monstrumologist folio. So why weren't the first three books messed up, I wonder?
The Final Descent doesn't fit the series - the form, the tone, the characters, everything is different. I can understand that this was probably the author's point - to discuss and deconstruct his own creation, to look at the characters from a new and more realistic point of view. However, I think that to challenge his own narrator and completely devalue said narrator's credibility doesn't do much service to what is now a tetralogy. The first three books depended on us trusting Will Henry to be telling the truth - why else would we care about any of the characters or what happened to them? I know, unreliable narrator - how artsy, but to me, the main attraction of the books lay in the fact that they were well-written adventure stories with interesting characters. Will Henry's unrealiabity was fine when it was natural due to the fact the he was a child when he lived through the events. Now when it turns out he could've made up anything at any time ... it really does a disservice to all the character development of the first three books.
People are supposed to be disappointed but still fascinated by Will Henry and to perceive the fourth book as a logical continuation of the trilogy - well, I don't. Firstly, I don't appreciate being told how to feel about a character or how to read a book. Secondly, I can't honestly perceive the fourth book as a continuation since it's so incongruous to the rest of the series. Of course the result changes if you change the conditions, but that's called cheating - or in this case, a writing exercise rather than an actual next installment.
Will Henry ends up being really f****d up --- which is understandable when you apply real world contemporary standards to him, but why should we? The books were never real, they were always fiction with its own set of rules about what's realistic and what isn't. Not freezing to death when you should by all real world accounts freeze to death is considered realistic. Being incredibly brave as a matter of fact is considered realistic. Realistically, instead of raising a happy Weasley family, Harry Potter should spend his life doing therapy and jumping three feet high at every flash of green light. But he doesn't and it seems fine because it was never implied in the books that we should actually deconstruct them and read between the lines according to real world standards.
Will Henry was destined to end badly from the first novel, but ending badly does not necessarily equal changing the whole tone, form and structure of the book and suddenly transporting him into a world where he is governed by much stricter laws of realism and child psychology. All in all, The Final Descent reads like a writing exercise, a character study, a what-if new perspective rather than another Monstrumologist book.
I guess that's what happens when a series gets canceled and the author scrambles to reach some sort of all-encompassing closure.
In trying to wrap this up with as much sense of finality as possible, the author overreached himself. I neither loved nor hated this book, it was an interesting read, but even as I was reading, I was already finding things to criticize about it (which isn't always the case I swear). After finishing the book (I read the whole series in the past two weeks), I did not despair about the unfairness of Will's fictional fate, I despaired about the unfairness of a promising series getting canceled just after three books.
The first three books rely on human duality and the experiences of an unreliable narrator (Will Henry) to bring the reader to question whether the humans or the creatures in the book are the true monsters. The final descent seems to abandon this narrative, plunging deeply and immediately into insanity. The monster centered in the book is revealed unambiguously to be real and evil, throwing aside the previous books subtleties.
I can't help but feel that Mr. Yancey was pressured by his publisher to create something more widely digestible to the YA crowd (the 5th wave), preventing him from finishing out the Monstrumologist series the way it deserves. I also feel like much of the Final Descent was somewhere lost in translation.
However, Mr. Yancey's writing is brilliant as always and I still immensely enjoyed the read.
Most recent customer reviews
And all endings are the same.
Time is a line.
But we are circles” (excerpt from The Final Descent)
The haunting and tragic...Read more
And all endings are the same.
Time is a line.
But we are circles” (excerpt from The Final Descent).Read more