Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Zombie Island, by Lori Handeland

Following War and Peace, there was nothing I wanted more than to dive into a less complicated, faster paced, and more light-hearted read.  I did this by following up on the sequel to Shakespeare UndeadZombie Island, by Lori Handeland.  Of course, I couldn’t read the sequel without reading the fist book also, so I immersed myself in Handeland’s tale of the Bard and his long, un-dead career.

 Zombie Island picks up almost exactly where Shakespeare Undead ends off.  In order to get away from her husband, Kate and Will agree to fake Kate’s death using a potion that will make it look like she’s dead, when in fact she’s only asleep.  Kate’s husband will bury her in the family plot, and Will will be there when she wakes up after the potion wears off in 42 hours.  In Kate’s words, “What could possibly go wrong?”  Sound familiar?  That’s one of the charms of Handeland’s work – she uses Shakespeare’s plays as inspirations to advance her own plots.  But of course, it’s Handeland’s plot that provides the inspiration to Will.  

Of course, with famous last words like ‘what could possibly go wrong,’ everything does.  Through a bit of trickery, Will and Kate (again, I love the name choice) end up stranded on an island following a tempest (of course) which is infested with zombies (again, of course).  The zombies are there at the summoning of a wizard, who claims to have been robbed of a throne, and were collected with the help of a sprite.  The wizard, who is kind of a douche, manipulates the sprite and Will into doing is bidding which, in the end, is the creation of a monstrous zombie army that he can use to reclaim his throne.  

Now, this is going to sound ludicrous, but bear with me: I didn’t like ZI nearly as much as SU because it wasn’t believable.  I know, I know – how can I accept that the Bard is a vampire and the love of his un-life is a zombie hunter, but I have problems with wizards and sprites?  I don’t know, okay, but I do.  Handeland takes the story from the familiar streets of London, with all the laws of Elizabethan society and culture, and focuses her tale on a remote and magical island with creatures that are equally magical and remote from the reality that was London.  It’s a hard dichotomy to explain, but the fact it, I don’t buy the extra trimmings that Handeland is selling in this one.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to read her next book when (if?) she releases it.  Handeland has a great devise at the end of both books – they end as if they could be stand alones without another book to follow (ZI less so, but there is some resolution).  I do have a feeling though that she will continue on with these characters and the larger plot that ZI introduces.

So, final verdict?  I would definitely recommend you read these books.  Handeland has a wonderful sense of history and humour, and has created wonderfully engaging characters.  Considering her main character is someone we all know at least a little bit about, her ability to craft a relatable and new persona to go with the name is commendable.  Handeland is definitely an author whose works I’m going to be on the look out for in the future.  

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