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Review: Deadtown by Nancy Holzner

January 1, 2010

They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders — but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…

Vicky’s demanding job keeping the city safe from all manner of monsters is one reason her relationship with workaholic lawyer (and werewolf) Alexander Kane is in constant limbo. Throw in a foolhardy zombie apprentice, a mysterious demon-plagued client, and a suspicious research facility that’s taken an unwelcome interest in her family, and Vicky’s love life has as much of a pulse as Deadtown’s citizens.

But now Vicky’s got bigger things to worry about. The Hellion who murdered her father ten years ago has somehow broken through Boston’s magical protections. The Hellion is a ruthless force of destruction with a personal grudge against Vicky, and she’s the only one who can stop the demon before it destroys the city and everyone in it.

Deadtown by Nancy Holzner

Deadtown is an excellent debut novel with definite potential to become a great Urban Fantasy Series. The main character, Victory “Vicky” Vaughn has a very strong voice right from the beginning, which was very refreshing to me because it is something that I found to be an issue in many of the books I have read in the past year. I have often found myself reading two or three chapters before the characters ‘voice’ really takes over, so when Vicky’s voice rang out loud and clear from by the end of the second page I was impressed – to the point that I went to the author’s website to verify it was indeed a debut novel!  It does have some of the issues that are often found in a debut novel.

Vicky is a hereditary, shape-shifter and a professional demon-slayer with a teenage Zombie apprentice. She’s strong female character with her own demons real and imagined that need slaying. It makes her a likable and relatable character. The fact that she didn’t have a cell phone drove me up the wall several times. Beyond that her strength and her weaknesses made her more real. Sometimes a character goes too far one way or the other and neither is good – I can’t stand whiny, wishy-washy female characters – or the I can take on the world all by myself, bitchy female characters.

She inhabits a world where all the Supernatural begins are out in the open and attempting to gain full civil rights. In some places they have some rights in others they are shot on sight or have a many rights as say a stray dog does. In Boston, where Vicky lives, the SuperNats have some rights, but are confined to Deadtown. All except the Zombies can travel between the Human Controlled Boston and Deadtown, but all have identification that states they are non-human. Zombies can leave Deadtown, but only with supervision and a permit. It is an interesting commentary on civil rights in general and on how the world has historically handled ‘otherness’.

The Zombies in Deadtown are not your average horror movie Zombies. They are not mindless monsters, they are still very much the same people they where when they were alive. Boston is the only place with Zombies. There are a few thousand of them and they all died the same day from a bizarre virus. Then they all joined the ranks of the undead three days later. They are stiff with spongy, green skin and can’t go out in the daylight, because they can’t regenerate few things about them beyond that are like the horror movie Zombies.  I absolutely loved Vicky’s apprentice, Tina the teenage Zombie. She is just like every other teenager in America, with an attitude and insecurities. Loved her!

There is a bit of romance in the story, even a love tri-angle of sorts. Vicky has a sorta boyfriend, Kane who is a werewolf and the lead “Paranormal Rights” attorney. He is also one of the least likeable love interests I have ever encountered in any book. I just didn’t like him at all. I tried. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I appreciated his civil rights efforts and his commitment to his cause but didn’t like him personally. Her other potential love interest is Daniel, a homicide cop that is a Norm (human). He is sweet, good-looking and overall incredibly likeable. My only real issue was that there wasn’t enough of him in the book. He could have been a stronger male character, but there was enough Alpha-Male with Kane. I also felt like Daniel needed to not be as strong as Vicky because he is human and he shouldn’t completely be able to keep up with the SuperNats. It would have been less realistic to me if he had not been a bit handicapped.

It starts out with a lot of action which is good, but in the middle of the book the action got a bit too sporadic – if it would have kept a better pace I would have been completely head-over-heels in love. I realized while reading this book that I do have a few pet-peeve  – the ones mentioned above about the female characters (which were not a problem in this book) and the other is too much upfront world-building – explanation. By that I mean, I prefer when a book breaks the world-building down throughout the story so that we learn about it when we need to instead of having it handed to us upfront. In Deadtown, there was more upfront than I like to see, but it is a debut novel and a very unique world so I don’t hold that against either the author or the story – in the same way I would if it were a second or third novel. I was able to figure out who the bad guy was so initially that bothered me but there I two things I must say about that – #1 – it is a far rarer occurence that I don’t figure out who the bad guy is before the end – in fact I used to pride myself on that ability and #2 – I spoke to several other people who also read Deadtown and only one other person beside myself  had figured it out – so it is not an obvious – it was just my ability coming back to bite me in the butt. 😉 Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I am really looking forward to the next one. As I said at the beginning it has the potential to become a really great Urban Fantasy Series. Nancy Holzner did a job that far exceeded my expectations for a debut author. I can’t wait to spend more time in Deadtown. I just hope there is a lot more Daniel there when next I visit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FTC Disclaimer: This book is a mass-market paperback provided to me for the purposes of reviewing. Regardless of how a book was obtained my reviews are my true and honest feelings/impressions of the book.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2010 01:57

    Sounds cool. I’ll look out for it.

  2. January 1, 2010 01:57

    Sounds good to me! I like the world she created. I’m a real sucker for a new view on “old” stereotypes as the Zombies in that one. Can’t wait to get my hands on this book.
    Great review Sweets!

  3. January 3, 2010 01:57

    This sounds FABULOUS!!!! I think I am going to have to have this book now. Your review is great! I am glad you enjoyed it so and shared as much of the story as you did. You really have given me a great insight to the story and now I really want to get it. Thanks!

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