Celaena Sardothien, once a world class assassin, is now spending a life sentence in the salt mines of Endovier. Endovier is a labour camp and Celaena must undertake back-breaking work while being whipped and beaten. Spending the rest of herlife in the salt mines is a harsh reality but one Celaena can see no way out of. That is until Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Royal Guard, arrives along with the Crown Prince of Adarlan, Dorian Havilliard.
The duo offer Celaena a dangerous but potentially lifesaving deal; competing in a competition to become the King’s Champion. If she wins then after four years of servitude she will gain her freedom. If she loses, she must return to the treacherous salt mines.
Celaena must journey back to the city she once ruled as an assassin and face the King who sentenced her to life in Endovier. She must go head to head with thieves, fellow assassins, mercenaries and soldiers in gruelling tests designed to push them to their limits.
Celaena has yet more reason to fear for her life as the competitors are slowly picked off and mutilated by an unknown creature. The bodies are surrounded by strange Wyrdmarks which hint at the reappearance of magic, something which was banished long ago by the King.
I loved Throne of Glass and thought Celaena Sardothien was one of the greatest heroines I’ve ever read about. Her voice was convincing and pulled you in from the very first sentence with her sarcastic jibes, strong willed attitude and bravado. The story is fast paced with lots of plot points to keep you interested whether it be the competition, the murdered competitors or the differing and growing relationships between Celaena and Chaol and Celaena and Dorian.
The characters are all well rounded and believable. Celaena first appears as a brave and merciless killer but she is hiding a secret which makes her vulnerable and which is slowly drawn out throughout the book, while Chaol and Dorian each go through their own transformation to help Celaena in her quest.
The whole book is packed with high action and adrenaline and finishes nicely with a few ends tied up to keep the reader satisfied but with some questions left unanswered ready for the sequel.
Throne of Glass is an amazing book and comes highly recommended. I will be eagerly awaiting the release of the second book so I can dive back into the action.
Slither is prematurely awakened from his winter hibernation by a disturbance in the area of land under his protection. A man with whom Slither has for many years traded with has been badly injured and is soon to die. Upon his untimely death, their long-standing trade is broken. But the dying man uses his last breath to make a new trade with Slither. He must travel with his youngest two daughters to their Aunt and Uncle’s house, where they will be taken care of. In return, Slither may have the man’s eldest daughter, Nessa, to sell at a slave auction; something that all of Slither’s species must do every-so-often to keep up their tough reputation. For Slither, this is an offer he can’t pass up and, after all, how hard would it be to accompany two young children on their travels for a few days? And so the trade is done and the adventure begins…
Joseph Delaney is – without a doubt – one of my favourite authors of children’s fiction, tying in top place with Derek Landy, and that is definitely saying something about my love of Delaney’s writing because I do consider Derek Landy to be a writing genius!
This newest instalment, Slither’s Tale – the eleventh in Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles - is a far cry from Tom’s home in Chipenden and introduces the readers to a whole new country with plenty of new characters. This time our protagonist is not Tom, but a previously unheard of creature known as Slither; so named because of the sound his tail makes. Yes, he has a tail. Initially, the plot of the Wardstone Chronicles revolved around the Spook’s fighting against the dark, but Slither’s Tale marks the second book in the Spooks series which Delaney has dedicated to the viewpoint of a different character, showing the Spook’s world through the eyes of a creature of the dark. The first book Delany tried this with was the ninth book; I am Grimalkin, which was a major success.
Even Alice and the Spook himself, John Gregory, don’t get a mention in Slither’s Tale, but don’t let that put you off! There is a familiar character who has crossed over from the county into Slither’s country: Grimalkin, the witch assassin herself. It is strange at first to see the Spook’s world through the eyes of a typically ‘bad’ character. Both Grimalkin and Slither are evil and violent characters, but with morals and common sense. They are each, equally the strongest of their kind and this is apparent in Slither’s Tale, when their personalities clash. It is easy to see that Delaney enjoys writing scenes which feature Grimalkin just as much as the audience enjoys reading them. Her presence is felt by all the characters in Slither’s Tale; she is a fierce witch assassin with unmatched skill and a powerful reputation. She has become my favourite character and I eagerly look forward to any future books in which she will certainly feature.
In writing the Wardstone Chronicles, Joseph Delaney has set up a world that rivals even that of Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant. Without doubt, this is a scary world, filled with witches, ghosts and other dangerous creatures that reside in the dark. But the element of fear only makes reading more exciting, and has the advantage of enticing young children into reading. The only complaint I have ever had with any of the Wardstone Chronicles is the new book covers (I say new, but they have been around for a while now). They were changed half-way through the series and the replacement illustrations on the new jackets not only have no likeness at all to the characters being described in the books, but they resemble every other child’s fiction book currently out on the market. The previous covers are now only released with the paperback version, months after the initial release date, as a collector’s edition – but they were unique and enhanced the story’s old world feel; it was like reading a book straight from the Spook’s Chipenden library and I really miss that!
Although the Spook’s series is marketed at older children (from about 11+), I am, at nineteen, proof that anyone can read and enjoy these books without feeling that they are being directed at a younger audience. Slither’s Tale was released after it was revealed that the Wardstone Chronicles is soon to be adapted for the silver screen, under the name The Seventh Son. I can only hope that the film, to be released in late 2013, will do this excellent series justice! This is your chance to enter the Spooks world now, before the country goes Spook-crazy with the release of the film later this year! But remember, these are not books to be read after dark…
The twelfth instalment of the Wardstone Chronicles, I am Alice, is due for release in June 2013.
Sitting in his Grandpa’s garden, looking up at the stars, Matt begins to tell his Grandpa about Aman. Aman has lived with his mother in England for the past six years but now they are being threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan and the terrifying war going on there.
Matt convinces his Grandpa that they could make a difference and so together with their dog, called Dog, they set off to Yarl’s Wood; a detention centre where Aman is being held.
Aman then takes up the story as he recounts to Grandpa his journey to England. After the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, Aman and his family were forced out of their village and had to set up home in a cave. He lives in constant fear of the Taliban soldiers who have infiltrated just about everything in his town of Bamiyan, whether it is the police, the army or the local market.
He sees his father taken away for helping the American soldiers, his mother arrested and returned beaten and tortured and his grandmother killed as his cave is invaded by the Taliban and ransacked.
Never has Aman needed a friend more than when a Springer Spaniel turns up one day outside his cave. At first Aman is weary, he believes dogs are dirty and shouldn’t be socialised with but gradually he starts to trust the dog and allows her to sleep in the cave, taking care of her as much as she takes care of him. She becomes a constant companion and follows Aman like a shadow, and that’s what he decides to call her.
After his grandmother’s death, Aman and his Mother set out across Afghanistan on their way to England. Shadow leads the way, seemingly knowing exactly where she is going. That’s when they meet British soldiers and Shadow’s unbelievable past is revealed.
I have always loved Michael Morpurgo’s books and Shadow was no different, delivering on everything it promised. Told through the points of view of Grandpa, Matt and mostly Aman, Shadow is a beautiful story which brings to light the hostile environment Afghans are forced to live in now Taliban soldiers have taken control, and illustrates the incredible bravery shown by the British and American soldiers as well as the dogs who work alongside them.
Aman’s story was at times horrifying and heart wrenching but ends happily to become another treasured book by a brilliant author whose stories I will never stop reading and enjoying.
The citizens of Baalboden are confined to a city surrounded by walls of stone and steel. They are protected by the Commander from the Cursed One; a terrible beast straight out of legend, which inhabits the Wasteland surrounding the city and surfaces regularly to feast on the people who live there.
Rachel has been raised alone by her father and Protector, Jared. While every other girl in Baalboden was learning to sew and host the perfect dinner party, Rachel was learning how to wield a sword and kill a man twice her size. When her father disappears on a courier mission and the Commander discovers that he received a secret package from a neighbouring city before he went missing, Rachel is thrust under the Commander’s cruel and domineering eye as her life and those she loves most come under threat.
Baalboden law states that every female must have a male Protector and, with her father gone, Rachel must be appointed a new one. Just to make matters worse, Rachel’s new Protector turns out to be her father’s apprentice Logan. Rachel hasn’t spoken to Logan in two years after she declared her love for him and he failed to reciprocate.
Together, Rachel and Logan must work together as they venture into the Wasteland to brave the Cursed One, find the secret package and discover what happened to Jared, all whilst starting a rebellion which could set the citizens of Baalboden free from the Commander’s iron grasp.
Told from the point of view of Rachel and Logan, Defiance is an exciting debut novel which brings to life some good main characters in Rachel and Logan. Rachel is strong willed and unafraid to rush into situations head first and think about the consequences later. Logan is protective and clever, preferring to plan out his actions meticulously down to the very last detail. The Commander is a good old fashioned baddie, sending shivers of fright down your spine with his menacing and malevolent actions.
Although we get thrown into the action at the beginning of the book, I felt that as the story went on the action and adventure got watered down to make room for the relationship between Rachel and Logan. I wanted their relationship to be drawn out a little more with it maybe still in question at the end of the book. If Defiance had packed the same punch at the end of the novel as it did in the beginning, this book would be an all round winner for me. Defiance is the first in a trilogy and ends in a good place to get you back for the next instalment.
B had a hard life and death certainly isn’t proving any easier. Raised by a violent racist father, plagued by moral uncertainties and in serious danger of failing to gain any GCSEs, a zombie apocalypse could perhaps have brought a little life relief to B’s life but that’s unfortunately not how things turned out.
Following the events of last year’s Zom-B, B is well and truly dead (and has a gaping hole in the chest instead of a beating heart to illustrate the point) but is far from resting in peace. Indeed, in Zom-B Underground poor B has to adjust to life as a member of the rampaging undead. Well, maybe not rampaging exactly since being killed by having your still beating heart ripped from your chest would put a dampener on anyone’s mood, but B is certainly still a walking, talking member of society despite an absence of life per se.
However, while the majority of zombies that are trundling the streets of London are concerned with nothing more than killing folk and munching on brains, B seems to have retained her original personality and powers of reason. This puzzles both B and the team of military scientists that have imprisoned B in a hi-tech underground bunker. It turns out that B is not the only teen to escape full conversion into a mindless zombie and so the scientists have rounded up a group of these “revitaliseds” in order to see if they can be of any use against the more common or garden variety zombies. In Zom-B Underground B therefore has to adapt to a new lifeless status while figuring out how to get along with the other zom-heads (that’s what the cool kids are calling the revitalised) and what the scientists might ultimately want from them.
Zom-B Underground is a grisly, brutally realistic account of life as a conflicted zombie. B is arguably far nicer as a zombie than as a person but is still far from being a saint. B does now seem have a lot more difficulty picking on zombies than when picking on school nerds and racial minorities in Zom-B but ultimately still has a serious temper and some major killing skills. Perhaps losing a heart caused B to gain some humanity? It’s a weighty question that doesn’t really get discussed but may crop up again later in the series.
One thing is for certain though, even in undead society, B is still an outsider. While B and the other zom-heads have retained their mental faculties in a way that the regular zombies have not, B seems to be the only one able to control her bloodlust. The rest of the gang that B is matched up with positively revel in torturing and killing regular zombies and so Zom-B Underground is often a real splatterfest. Despite taking place entirely in a supposedly secure, controlled bunker, in Zom-B Underground the high body count from Zom-B is maintained. It’s not wise to get to attached to any of Darren Shan’s characters.
There is a lot of action, fighting and extreme eating involved in Zom-B Underground but ultimately not a great deal happens. B gets to grow as a zombie character, there is a tiny bit of insight into the government’s response to the zombie crisis, and a Machiavellian potential Big Bad is introduced. All of these elements could have been developed much more but, perhaps unsurprisingly as it is only book two in a planned twelve book series, Zom-B Underground doesn’t get stuck into the details of anything. Hopefully future Zom-B books will have more depth to them since it has the potential to be an excellent, gory series.
B’s story will continue in Zom-B City in March 2013.
C.J. Harper’s The Disappeared throws its readers right into the action. We begin with a boy, part of an elite group at a special school, part of the generation destined to rule the society that has labelled him as one of the clever and special children, one of the few, destined to rule the many left behind.
Jackson’s life is predictable and clearly defined. He’s top of his class; he is destined to be a leader; he knows what to expect and the kind of respect he deserves. And then, one day, all of it changes. He loses a friend; he loses his future; he nearly loses his life.
The day where everything changed was the day where Jackson lost his friend and the future he had always depended on, the day where he ended up in an academy. Academies are not places for the clever future leaders of Jackson’s world. They are not places of learning, full of hope for the future and promises of a successful life. Academies are places where teachers separate themselves from the students with metal cages, where students learn to obey, not read and write, where danger, threats and
Hours later a buzzer sounds. The compartment doors click open. Enforcer Tong must control the locks from her computer. The other students are already scrambling out of their seats. They swarm past my compartment, pushing and shoving. I look up at the enforcer. She’s staring down at me.
Brenna Yovanoff writes tightly plotted and thrilling young adult books. They are also sprinkled with some of the most eccentric (and interesting) characters anywhere. Paper Valentine is no different, and her third novel is the best one yet, a brilliant combination of humour, suspense and quick-witted insight into the reality of being a teen-aged girl (who can, it must be mentioned, see the ghost of her recently dead best friend). There is an emotional honesty here, twined in with the suspense of a murderer on the loose, that extends the impact of Paper Valentine far beyond the last page and should make anyone who missed out on Yovanoff’s earlier books rush out to buy them.
Hannah is a mostly-typical teenage girl. She has friends, a sense of style, and a determination to make everyone believe that she’s okay. She isn’t. Not-at-all. Six months ago, her best friend Lillian died of complications from her struggle with anorexia and, within the last few weeks, girls in her suburban nearly picture perfect neighbourhood have been killed–killed and left surrounded by toys and a single paper valentine. Hannah has been busy pretending to everyone around her that she is okay, that she is healing, that she doesn’t still speak to Lillian, but she quickly finds herself drawn to the terrifying mystery that surrounds the deaths of these girls. Hannah is not merely looking for a killer; she is looking for answers to the sorts of questions that change lives, that honour lost friends, and that haunt those left behind–the sorts of questions that are as much about conversations that can never happen as events that already have. Read more
Jonathan L. Howard has already created the fascinating (and hilarious) Johannes Cabal, but his foray into young adult literature, with Katya’s World, introduces his readers to a whole host of memorable characters and a setting that sparks the imagination. Katya’s world is cold, and dark, and dangerous. Dangerous not merely because it is a harsh and desolate world to eke out a living on, but also because an old enemy has reappeared and reignited the conflict that defined it.
Russalka is a world filled with strife and conflict. Raging seas and storms dictate the lives of the colonists who have started over again on the planet and a war with the Terrans still rages in living memory. The colonists have all come from Russia, from Terra, but they are no longer colonists. Instead, they are Russalkins, inhabitants of a frightening and thrilling world.
All of this history influences, but does not dictate, the life of Katya Kuriakova, a young girl just starting out into the sea-faring life that the Russalkins expect of their citizens. Katya has just finished training as a submarine navigator and will be helping her uncle make a routine trading trip in his sub, the Pushkin’s Baby. What should be a simple and successful run quickly becomes complicated by a bossy and overbearing (and far too young for his job) officer from the Federal Maritime Authority, who commandeers the submarine as an escort for his prisoner, a man accused of being Russalka’s most notorious pirate, Havilland Kane. Read more
Back before he had even an inkling of the Series of Unfortunate Events that he would become embroiled in, Lemony Snicket was a keen young graduate of a nameless, mysterious academy who was anxious to get on with his apprenticeship. Well, that might be stretching things a bit since he had, after all, only chosen to become apprentice to S. Theodora Markson since she was statistically the worst mentor available and thus allying with her gave him the best chance of sneaking off to conduct his own investigations. Unfortunately for Snicket though, his craftily constructed plan did not go as smoothly as he anticipated.
Instead of working on the kind of cushy case in the city that would allow him to escape and rendezvous at the appointed time with his associate, S. Theodora Markson whisks poor Lemony Snicket off to the decrepit former seaside town [it was the sea that moved, not the town] of Stain’d-by-the-Sea to investigate the theft of a statue. Except that the statue might not have actually been stolen. And its owners might not actually care who has it. And their client may not actually be a legitimate person. It’s all terribly inconvenient but Lemony Snicket does his best to get to the bottom of things.
Who Could That Be at This Hour? is the first of Lemony Snicket’s four authorised autobiographical volumes and is a delightfully downbeat introduction to what promises to be a pretty peculiar new series. Snicket himself is an entertaining and engaging narrator and always makes sure to drop plenty of enticing hints about how the All the Wrong Questions series will play out in its entirety. As someone who is only just beginning his career, Snicket is a pretty savvy investigator even if he does have a troubling tendency to always ask the wrong questions.
Of course, it’s not only Lemony Snicket who has difficulty seeing the truth in Who Could That Be at This Hour? as his mentor has her own ideas about how the case should progress. Despite S. Theodora Markson’s self-confident and undeniably ‘unique’ approach to the mystery of the missing statue, she does prove to be almost the ideal mentor since her ineptitude means that Lemony Snicket is forced to rely on his own deductive reasoning. The apparently straightforward investigation in Stain’d-by-the-Sea soon turns into something far bigger than Snicket was expecting and seems likely to have a huge influence on the way his life will progress in the future.
S. Theodora Markson isn’t the only new acquaintance who proves to be important in Snicket’s life either. For an almost deserted town, Stain’d-by-the-Sea seems to be chock-a-block with crazy characters: from sinister hoteliers to incompetent police officers, teen bullies to eccentric librarians, Snicket has a difficult job in store when it comes to picking allies. And that’s before you consider the two girls that he meets during the course of his investigations. Lemony Snicket will quickly learn the danger of trusting a pretty face.
Who Could That Be at This Hour? is a very welcome return to the topsy-turvy world of Lemony Snicket. There are mysteries upon mysteries for the young investigator to solve and this first book promises that there’s plenty more intrigue to come in the future volumes of All the Wrong Questions. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is an exciting story made even better by the wonderful noir illustrations by “Seth” that accompany Snicket’s text. Hopefully the wait until the next volume won’t be too long!
The Assassin’s Curse, the first in a series by Cassandra Rose Clarke and one of the first books from the new imprint Strange Chemistry, has it all: pirates, magic, humour, adventure, and just the right amount of possibly starry eyed romance. All of this (plus a gorgeous cover) makes it just the sort of book to spend an evening reading. It tells the story of Ananna of Tanaru, a girl who abandons ship (literally, basically) when her parents try to force her into marriage with the son of another pirate clan. Of course, if her parents had listened to her request, the story would have ended quickly, but Ananna isn’t so lucky, and her bid for freedom sees her running not only from her disappointed family but also from a series of assassins set on her trail by the boy she has rejected.
“Then Tarrin joined in, screaming at me to come back, hollering that he hadn’t been joking about the assassins. I squeezed my eyes shut and tugged hard on the camel’s rein and listened to the gusts of air shoving out of his nostrils. He smelled awful, like dung and the too-hot-sun, but I didn’t care: We were wound up together, me and that camel. I slapped his reins against his neck like he was a horse and willed him to take me away, away from my marriage and my double-crossing parents. And he did.”
Clarke has created a vibrant world for her characters, filled with exotic markets, swarthy sailors, and assassins that never, ever, ever miss their mark. Until Ananna that is. Fleeing from an assassin, with help from an unlikely (and possibly suspicious) source, Ananna manages to survive what no one else has, and get a protector in the bargain.
That protector is Naji, a man sent to kill her who now owes Ananna his life. He is complex, and broody, and extremely mysterious, which of course make Ananna extremely curious. As their lives become more entwined, it becomes clear that protecting Ananna and the debt Naji owes her for his life will tangle their lives together for a long time. Read more
One minute young Sherlock Holmes is sitting down for a quiet read in his uncle’s study in Farnham, the next he’s waking up aboard the Gloria Scott and is partway through a voyage to China. Fortunately seafaring is just one of the many walks of life where being a good violinist will stand you in good stead and so Sherlock, despite being a [reluctant] stowaway, is allowed to join the crew. Life aboard ship is difficult even when not under attack from Chinese pirates but Sherlock manages well and is slowly accepted by the crew, becoming particularly close to Wu Chung, the ship’s Chinese cook.
Soon though, the long voyage to China and back is the least of Sherlock’s worries. During a stopover in Sabang, a suspicious ashen-skinned fellow named Jacobus Arrhenius comes aboard the Gloria Scott. Sailors being a suspicious lot, they’re instantly sceptical about the nature of this new passenger and even the rationally-minded Sherlock has to admit that there’s something strange about Arrhenius. Even the ship’s arrival in China offers no respite from danger as Sherlock stumbles upon the improbable fact that three men have died in different parts of Shanghai after being bitten by the same poisonous snake. Fortunately for all concerned, in Snake Bite young Sherlock Holmes is on the case and he’s in top form.
Snake Bite is the fifth of Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes series and it’s another cracking read. Lane is great at coming up with mysteries that would challenge even the greatest detectives and that consequently give even Sherlock Holmes cause for concern. Young Sherlock is now no stranger to dead bodies and, keeping in mind the advice of his mentor Amyus Crowe, he is always on the lookout for anything out of place and it’s his observational skills that lead to his suspecting murder when others saw nothing but a tragic accident.
Of course, the mature Sherlock’s strictly analytical approach to death and tragedy often caused Doctor Watson to despair of his friend’s heartlessness but in Snake Bite Andrew Lane still allows the human side of Holmes to show through. Although quick to spot foul play and begin to search for clues, young Sherlock does at least recognise the devastation that murder brings to families and does do his best to sympathise and commiserate. However, Sherlock is getting older and the character of the boy is developing into that of the man. With this in mind, Lane skilfully uses the action and events of Snake Bite to demonstrate how circumstance can alter character. There are a number of indicators here as to why and how Sherlock Holmes will ultimately decide to live an orderly, solitary life.
However, that’s still a ways in the future and in Snake Bite Sherlock is far from friendless. While Amyus Crowe and Mycroft Holmes are rather casual about Sherlock being kidnapped and so being gone for at least a year [the time it would take to sail to China and back], he does have people looking out for him. The crew of the Gloria Scott teach Sherlock a great deal about hard work and independence, while Wu Chung demonstrates the importance of a quiet mind and instructs Sherlock in martial arts. Although Matty Arnett is missed, Sherlock gets two able sidekicks in the shape of Cameron Mackenzie and Wu Fung-Yi. The three of them work together very well as a crime-busting team.
Snake Bite has an intriguing mystery at its heart but, while Sherlock still has to do plenty of cerebral work, it’s very much an action adventure. Danger seems to be waiting for Sherlock and his friends at every turn and it soon becomes clear that they are facing truly nefarious villains. The journey aboard the Gloria Scott is action-packed, with the encounter with pirates being particularly exciting, while the pace doesn’t slow down after Sherlock reaches China. Snake Bite is another brilliant Young Sherlock Holmes adventure; hopefully there will be more to come.
When seventeen-year-old Rosa swaps her unhappy life in New York to live with her estranged family in Sicily, she unknowingly finds herself in the middle of a sinister Mafia underworld, where murder, conflict, secrets and a generations-old rivalry are always on the agenda.
Rosa meets handsome Alessandro on the plane from New York to Sicily, he tells her he’s flying home on ‘family business’. It’s not long after Rosa arrives in Sicily that it becomes apparent what this family business is, but how is Alessandro involved in the new world that Rosa has stumbled into? And can he be trusted? Read more
Nastasya, also known as Nasty, has lived the last few centuries of her immortal life as an uncaring, unattached, spoilt party-girl. But then everything changes overnight… Nasty witnesses her best friend, also an Immortal, torture an innocent man and realises she can’t be as carefree as she likes to think, and something has to change.
She packs a bag and flees to the only safe place she knows; with a strange woman she met eighty-years ago. It is here, at River’s Edge in the US, she meets a group of similarly troubled Immortals, including the mysterious Reyn, who seems familiar to Nasty, and is somehow linked to her dark past. But her new safe-haven turns out to be quite the opposite, and it soon becomes clear that someone nearby wants to see her dead. Read more
It was the darkest, most wretched hour of the night when the dead began to walk in the tiny Irish village of Pallaskenry. While the luckiest locals were killed in their sleep, many were not so fortunate and met with agonising, torturous deaths at the hands of demented zombie hordes. In a matter of hours the village was a bloody, horrific mess but the inevitable camera phone footage of the incident at least provided some laughs and ghoulish entertainment for the rest of the world.
Speculation about the potential zombie threat and/or the causes of the Pallaskenry incident even reaches as far as B’s London comprehensive and an otherwise boring biology lesson. While pondering on conspiracy theories is momentarily engrossing, B actually has far more to worry about. With a violent, racist father and a suspicion that bigotry stretches much further than might be expected, B is struggling to maintain a tough facade and keep the peace at home while also questioning personal attitudes to race. B has plenty of anger and rage bubbling away behind a steely exterior but that’s just as well really since the zombie menace is spreading and, pretty soon, no schoolhouse, church house or outhouse is going to be safe.
Darren Shan really is a master of horror and there’s enough scares, danger and gore in Zom-B to more than satisfy fans of his other books. The zombie threat is very real and very deadly with the undead creatures themselves being part classic movie menace and part Darren Shan original. The zombies do love to chow down on brains and take a quick much of friends and co-workers but they have the added advantage of turning remarkably quickly and having sharp bone spurs protruding from their fingertips which can slice nicely through any nearby craniums. The moments when B and friends are fleeing from the zombies are very exciting and Shan keeps the tension high as they try to find means of escape while being thwarted at almost every turn.
Of course, the zombies aren’t the only threat that B and the world faces. B’s father Todd is a truly vile man who constantly spouts racist barbs and thinks nothing of knocking his wife and child about. Some of the other adults in B’s life aren’t much better either. It’s these real life dangers rather than the zombie grossness that make Zom-B a gritty teenage read rather than a fun horror for younger readers. It might not always be terribly shocking but B’s life is very dark and depressing even before the undead arrive.
Zom-B is so action packed that it’s a really quick read. B seems to lurch from one danger to another, even a school trip to a museum isn’t a straightforward matter, and seems to be facing several conspiracies at once. As well as shocks and scares, Darren Shan has worked quite a few twists into Zom-B with one at least likely to causes readers to re-evaluate everything that they have read so far. Zom-B is quite a change from Darren Shan’s demon-filled previous books but it features all of his signature horror, danger and realistic characters doing their best in dangerous situations. It’s a great gory read that’s sure to entertain and chill.