by Suzan Harden, fantasy (2011)
Angry Sheep Publishing, $2.99, ISBN 978-1-938745-02-7
Zombie Love is the second book in Suzan Harden's urban fantasy (with some romance) series Bloodlines. This one can be read just fine as a standalone story, but I still suggest that folks new to the series to read the previous entry Blood Magick first, as there are many familiar faces and some references to events in the previous book here.
This one may be called Zombie Love, but the zombie in question isn't actually a zombie. Well, at least not the decomposing brain-eating mindless shambling type. Samantha Ridgeway is a determined tabloid reporter who wants to get to the bottom of the mystery of a recently kidnapped actress, but she has no idea until too late that she's stumbled too deep into a nefarious plot involving some crazy wealthy goons with an army of spooks at his disposal and a dungeon full of spook prisoners for his sinister experiments.
Sam is, needless to say, at the wrong place at the wrong time, and before she knows it, she's up for a gig as an involuntary guinea pig in those dungeons. She wakes up soon after with superhuman strength, a humongous appetite for food, super-fast healing abilities, and who knows what else. What has happened to her? It seems like she was supposed to have died during the experiment, but she clearly isn't dead now, so does that make her a... zombie? Good thing that Sam manages to find some vampire allies while she tries to figure out the mess she has stumbled into, and one of them happens to be the hot Duncan St James.
This one is a definite improvement over Blood Magick, mostly because this one feels nowhere as derivative as that one. Sam is also a far more interesting heroine here, although I have to admit that she feels like another one of the many sarcastic precious-cute heroines that populate the urban fantasy landscape. Duncan St James comes off as even more of a stereotype - the poor dear remains pretty much a one-dimensional stereotype of the Capable Enforcer Spook Hero.
Despite the rather tepid main characters running the show, the story manages to retain my interest thanks to break-neck pacing and brisk narrative. Sam's a bit of a typical urban fantasy heroine, but she has an interesting voice that keeps the whole thing going to the finish line. There are some interesting plot developments to ensure that the party doesn't become too predictable.
I feel that the story would have been stronger without the romance, or, at least, with an even more subtle romance. Sam and Duncan on their own aren't the most memorable characters around, and as a couple, they generate all the electricity of a broken tooth brush. The romance doesn't go beyond forced instant lust at first sight, and the rushed declaration of love doesn't make things better at all.
All things considered, Zombie Lust may not have actual zombies in it, more the pity, but it manages to provide a few hours of decent entertainment despite its flaws. It could have been better if the romance had been developed a bit more and the characters weren't so generic, but who knows, maybe the next book is better? I guess I'd have to find out for myself.
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