Stars: 4 out of 5.
Did I mention that I love discovering new exciting series to read? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, because I know that I still have several more books to spend exploring this new world. The Secret Dead is one of those books. It’s the first one in the London Bones series and it’s a very strong beginning of what promises to be an excellent series.
SW Fairbrother has created a very complex world where the supernatural has coexisted with the “natural” for centuries (or maybe even from the beginning, it’s not quite clear). So everybody considers this as a natural order of things, even though conflicts still arise between different factions. There are laws and regulations in place to facilitate interactions between normal people and supernatural people, though some are better enforced then others.
And of course, there is the small matter of the necroambulation virus that turns people into flesh-hungry zombies after they die. 98% of those who contract it (either via a bite from a zombie or via sexual contact, like an STD) die within 24 hours, then they reanimate and unless they keep consuming human flesh, they slowly lose their mind and become nothing but rotting shambling corpses. The other 2% survive and become carriers and live the rest of their lives knowing that they will turn zombie as soon as they die. There is no cure.
What I like about this new take on zombies is that in this world this virus has existed for generations, and society has tried (and often discarded) several different ways of dealing with it, including burning their newly zombified neighbors in their homes along with all their families. This option was later discarded for being too barbaric. Now the zombies are just thrown into a huge underground pit to rot in the dark, which isn’t a much better solution, one might argue…
Anyway, this whole situation creates a wonderfully complex world that I absolutely loved exploring. And I also loved the protagonist because she is so not the typical female heroine that we so often see in this genre. Vivia Brisk is a hag, a death witch who can travel the world of the dead at will. Problem is, her body dies every time she does that, so she comes back to a more or less advanced state of decomposition, depending on how much time she spent in the Underworld. And even without that unfortunate side effect of her abilities, she is no beauty even in the best of days.
But despite of that, she is a very engaging character that I enjoyed following. Despite a rather gloomy family situation and not particularly sunny future prospects, she never feels sorry for herself, never whines or moans or wallows in self-pity. She goes on with her life, trying to do her best with the cards she’s been dealt, and I can’t help but respect her for that…
My only complaint, and the reason this book got 4 stars instead of 5, is that the ending feels rushed. After a slow and steady build-up of the rest of the book, everything is sort of jammed in the last 20 pages or so. And it ends in a huge cliffhanger. But I didn’t even mind the cliffhanger that much because I am getting the next book in the series anyway.
So in case you haven’t yet noticed from the glowing review above, yes, I definitely recommend this book. Buy it, read it, enjoy it!