In the second book of the Monstrumologist series, Will Henry answers a knock on the door one day not to a person carrying some bundle of horror, but to the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. His master has given orders he is not to be disturbed, but the woman sweeps in the door and makes herself at home. Astonishingly, she knew and respected Will’s father, which causes Will to hold her in even more awe. The Monstrumologist, hearing the noise in his hall when he has demanded not to be disturbed bursts out and is flummoxed to see his old friend and lover.
She has come to beg him to find her husband, who is also Pellinore’s old estranged friend. Her husband is a member of the Monstrumologists Society, and he has traveled to Canada to find the legendary Wendigo.
The leader of the Society has become friends with novelist Bram Stoker and his friendship has caused him to wish to widen the philosophy of the society to include creatures of legend which he proposes may have a basis in reality. He wishes to have the Society investigate creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and wendigos. Many in the Society, including Pellinore, are horrified by this watering down of the important work they do. Pellinore has been writing a counter argument to Helmut’s proposal.
The arrival of Muriel Chanler, with her wild tale of John’s disappearance in the hunt for the Wendigo presents Pellinore with an opportunity to squelch the legend and show that the monsters of myth are indeed only myth. It also gives him an opportunity to help the woman he won’t admit he once loved, and to find his former best friend whom he also once loved.
Will Henry, used to the cold, heartless, scientific Pellinore is shocked to the core to think that his Monstrumologist could have ever loved anyone. It threatens to make the Monstrumologist somewhat human, when Will Henry always sees him as something of a god.
He was a solitary man, a dweller in silences, a genius enslaved to his own despotic thought, meticulous in his work, careless in his appearance, given to bouts of debilitating melancholia and driven by demons as formidable as the physical monstrosities he pursued.
Traveling north, Will Henry and Pellinore find a guide who will lead them into the wilderness to try to find out what happened to John. There can be little doubt that he is dead by now, but they must find his corpse. They also expect to investigate and expose the lie of the Wendigo.
Their guide, Jonathan Hawke, knows all about Pellinore’s famous father and Monstrumologists from tales his mother told. He is rather like an eager fan and wants to be told more stories and to be highly entertained as they travel.
The trip into the Canadian forests reminded me very much of The Secret Journeys of Jack London: the Wild. Soon after leaving the small town of Rat Portage the group is immersed in vestiginal forest. They may as well be in this land a million years ago.
Their journey to find John Chanler, who is miraculously alive yet horribly changed by his wilderness experience is frightening and intense.
Bringing John home to New York and reuniting him with his wife and collegues should have been a happy ending but the Curse of the Wendigo has followed them all to the city. The Wendigo calls, John hunts, and Pellinore must overcome his love for John and decide if he will kill his friend to save others.
Will Henry’s life is in danger here more than in the previous book, and as The Monstrumologist loses his friends he sees that he might also lose Will Henry, whom he has come to love in his own way. He considers sending him away, to Will Henry’s vehement protests. Will Henry’s silent declaration that, as cold and aloof as the Monstrumologist might be, he needs him and can no longer live without him carries us to the next story: The Isle of Blood.