Here be Dragons

Synopsis:

Angel Crawford’s life has never been nice and easy. In fact, metaphorically speaking, she was born with a big L for a loser emblazoned in the middle of her forehead. Her mother was mentally ill and died in her childhood; her father, after an accident on an oil rig, was rendered crippled, became an alcoholic and started to beat and humiliate his daughter. Angel dropped out of school at 16 and after that she seemed to be on a steep slippery slope to a totally wasted life – drugs, alcohol, a petty criminal boyfriend and finally a jail sentence for fencing. One night everything changes, though – Angel argues with her boyfriend and picks up another guy in a bar to spite him. As usual with her, the choice couldn’t have been worse. After getting drunk and drugged Angel leaves the bar with that guy and almost dies in a car crash. Almost, because somebody decided to give her another chance and turned her into a zombie (no, I don’t consider it a spoiler taking into account the title of the novel. Go sue me ;)).


The book opens with Angel waking up in the hospital after the accident. She was brought in as a suspected overdose and rape victim – policemen found her lying naked on the side of a road. Her scattered memories and the mysterious package left for her at the hospital hint at something entirely different than just a nasty date and an accident, though. Angel is given an anonymous message, telling her that a new job awaits her; she must keep it for a month or she goes back to jail (she is still on a parole). Next to the message there are some containers with strange coffee-flavoured stuff – she is supposed to drink it once a day.

Angel is directed to a local morgue and becomes a van driver and a morgue tech, helping with autopsies and such. I know, a rather grim choice of a job for a young woman but somehow Angel doesn’t mind. After a very short period of time she becomes even fond of her job as it provides her, apart from a decent wage, with a substance necessary for her survival and normal functioning (guess what). Of course the reasons why she has been turned into a zombie and who her mysterious saviour is are revealed only at the end of the book. In fact the majority of the novel is about how being turned into a zombie is one of the best things that has ever happened to her – otherwise she might have never had the strength to change the odds and do something positive with her life. Oh, and don’t forget a bit of mystery – a serial killer starts murdering people around, cutting their heads off. Angel suspects a fellow zombie has gone rogue and finding the perpetrator asap is in her best interest (braaaaiiiiiiiiiinss are becoming scarce).

What I liked:
I must admit it: I am not a fan of zombies (smelly, messy, disgusting, psychologically simplistic creatures they are) so I was a bit skeptical about this premise at first. The title was provocative, though and the Dan Dos Santos’ cover art sold me on giving this one a chance, especially as I’ve read so many enthusiastic reviews on other blogs. I’m glad I did. Here are the reasons why:

· This book is filled with surprisingly complex characters and really decent story lines.

· Reading about Angel’s prior decline and present rise, while stumbling through her revelations on becoming a zombie was a hoot. As a main female lead she is naïve enough to be realistic, prickly enough to make you laugh more than once and sympathetic enough to make you forget about her little zombie problem and root for her. She is a heroine you can connect to easily even though she could be one after your brain.

· I loved the supporting cast (now it is clear Ms Rowland has worked with the police force) and even, surprise, surprise, the little love story at the end. It was very nice indeed.

· The narration was quick and clean, the mystery full of surprising twists – overall it was a very pleasant, entertaining read. Rowland puts new twists on old ideas in a very clever way in this one and she never grosses out her readers.

· Finally, don’t mistake this book for a fluffy pink romance with some local zombie colouring. Although it features a white-trashy redneck heroine with a pill addiction, it has surprisingly deep moments. After all it deals with the problem of finding a better way of life when you are an underdog and nobody provides you with any clues.

What I didn’t like:

· It was too short. I would gladly read a sequel. Even with a pink cover. Pretty please.

Final verdict:

A very nice surprise and a great summer read – Ms Rowland’s zombies definitely exceeded my expectations. I recommend this book even for those who are, like me, not exactly zombie fans. I liked it far better than the previous novel of the same author,Mark of the Demon, reviewed by me not so long ago.

 Books in series
My Life as a White Trash Zombie
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues

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