Deadtown, Book #1
Nancy Holzner

Review brought to you by OBS staff member Verushka

This novel is set in an area of Boston, Deadtown, where paranormals – demi-humans, shapeshifters, zombies, werewolves etc – live separately from the normals, ie the normal human beings. This came about when a plague turned a certain percentage of the population into zombies, ie, they have all their faculties and the zombies are for all intents and purposes, normal, in every way, except, well they’re zombies.

On first glance, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book because of the zombie angle, but in truth, that particular part of this series gives it a unique, interesting element that Holzner is more than capable of using to wave a good book out of. Our protagonist, is Victory Vaughn; aka Vicky. She is a unique shapeshifter, a Cerddorion ( a Welsh descendent of Ceridwen) who can only shapeshift 3 times in a month. When we meet Vicky we see her fighting Drudes, demons that have invaded a client’s dreams and along with a remarkably annoying teenage-zombie sidekick called Tina, just about succeed in defeating these demons – that what Vicky does – if there’s a demon needing vanquishing, she is the one to call. And, as the the book progresses, it is her next client that lands her in trouble, as she tries to defeat the sorcerer who has been trying to harness the power of a Hellion, Difethwer the Destroyer. Vicky’s fight with this demon is personal, for he is the reason for her father’s death, and her part in that is what drives Vicky for revenge. The last is the avenue through which Vicky’s history and family are brought into the book the both of which prove to be a valuable strength in the author’s writing.

This is a book that has a slow start; it is an information dump in essence, establishing Vicky, her history and her current relationships. This makes for a frustrating couple of chapters before I felt the book really took off and the strengths of the writer became apparent. There are some other what-the-hell moments in the book regarding Vicky’s behavior especially her logic in regards to her current boyfriend’s Kane’s actions. It struck me as out of left field and not very well set-up at all. Tina, the teenage zombie sidekick is mercifully not in the book too much, but just enough for her to be established as the sort of character that I would be glad to see the back of from Vicky’s life because she drags the story, and more importantly Vicky down.

There are two romantic entanglements for Vicky in this book; Kane, a werewolf lawyer and Daniel, a normal cop. Kane is not very well drawn out in this, beyond his political leanings, which I’ll get to more later, and after reading the book, I suspect that was to contrast Daniel with him more, but it just left me wanting to know more about who Kane was. The beginning of Vicky’s interest in Daniel is another lumbering element of the book, short thankfully, but it does not flow smoothly into the rest of the book. Why does she reveal her innermost secrets to him in a room with an audience? For a cautious demon-slayer, I couldn’t figure out why she would do that, or why immediately after, he has such a profound effect on her – these sorts of elements of the book gave me pause and I confess, I was so infinitely glad that they were small parts of the book and more importantly spread out. It let another aspect of the book shine instead – the world Holzner has created.

Deadtown provides a world where Paranormal Americans are a part of normal society, and with their presence comes a whole heap of societal problems, and a desire for rights, that Holzner is quite good at weaving into her tale. It’s far more political than I thought it would be, but I can appreciate the time and care which Holzner takes with this book enough to have it be the reason for getting her next book. Kane provides a valuable voice in establishing the problems with the society in the book. I am not expecting Vicky to be leading protest marches through Boston in the next book, but taking a more active interest in what is going on around her seems appropriate, otherwise I don’t understand the need for the political detail in the book, or Kane, for that matter. Her own work is what drags her into the political arena in this title, but I want to see her own interest in the politics of the world Holzner is building to take shape. I’m willing to see where that goes, but I do hope it goes somewhere, with her interest in the world at large growing with each book.

Another strength of the book, is the weaving of Vicky’s own history and family into the tale. We see how she was trained to be a demonslayer, but her father and her Aunt Mab’s, an aunt in Wales’ role in shaping her into the woman she is. Best of all though, and I hope to see her presence continue in the book is Gwen, Vicky’s sister. She is the complete opposite to Vicky, a demi-human who went to extraordinary lengths to become human and to leave her history with her family behind. Unfortunately, she is waiting to see if her daughter Maria will inherit her Cerddorian heritage and that is something Gwen is terrified off, while Vicky is urging caution and understanding on her part. I would much rather Maria be the sidekick, if Vicky has to have one, as her presence will mean something to Vicky and me as a reader, other than being a character like Tina, who is annoying and provides no comic relief except irritation. The familial relationships between Vicky, Gwen and Maria have so much wonderful potential, I sincerely hope they are taken advantage of in future books.

So, that’s Deadtown; suffering a little from being the first book in a series and establishing everyone and everything, but on the whole worth persevering with for some brilliant worldbuilding, that will keep a reader riveted as to what’s coming next.