Although it had a strong start, it felt like the story just sort of sloughed off all the quirky elements about halfway through, squandering a lot of its potential in the process. What's left is a decent period-era horror story, but it could have been much more.
Billie is an interesting character, a kick-butt heroine who is completely unnerved by her first zombie encounter, but she's somewhat overshadowed by Callie, the older, more sophisticated woman with more personality and more of a back story. Their romance is sweetly awkward, but a little too convenient to ring true.
The story opens with a lot of steampunk goodness, including Billie's robotic hand, airships, and more, but all of that is forgotten by the end. In fact, the best weapon in the book is a hooked chain, which is about as homespun basic as it gets. The zombies are probably the best part of the book, fast, violent, hungry monsters with a dangerous secret. It was a fun read, something to be breezed through in a single sitting, I just wish the steampunk quirks had been maintained.
The Dead Seekers by Barb & J.C. Hendee
As much as I enjoyed the first few Noble Dead books, this just didn't have the same hook for me. It's well-written, with a story that flows easily across the page, lending itself to a very quick read . . . but that's also the problem. The story was just too light for my tastes, without the kind of character depth, world-building, and atmosphere that I was looking for.
It opened strong, and I liked the characters of Tris and Mari, but I didn't care so much for the telling of the tale. It was very heavy on flashbacks and info dumps, and I found the character interactions a bit stilted.
I suspect I might have enjoyed this more, had I not previously read the Noble Dead Saga.
Wise Phuul by Daniel Stride
A fun story that throws the reader right into the midst of things, with no introduction, info-dumps, or hand-holding offered. It gets right to the story, and lets the characters lead us on our way.
Magic, faith, and politics all play a part in a book that's far more complex than I expected. This is one of those books I wish I could have read in paperback, with the glossary of names and places a bit more readily accessible. The story itself is a bit different from the usual epic fantasy narrative, with Phuul providing an intimate view of a conflict he's neither destined nor equipped to shape.
I liked the characters here, the word-building, and (perhaps most importantly) the necromantic aspects. Not just window dressing, the dead are an integral part of the world and its story. It's a gritty world and a gritty story, with some genuine drama and tension, but there's also ample humor to keep it from getting too bogged down in gloom.
Blood Fiends' Bane by William Stacey
Despite several stabs at it (no pun intended), I'm afraid this just wasn't to my tastes.
If I had to peg it down, I'd say there were two areas where expectations and experience just didn't connect. Firstly, I found the story to be too much Vikings and too little Vampires, and I'm simply not that excited about Viking-era fantasy. Second, I found it to be too focused on conflict and too little on the quest, where I was hoping for the opposite.
Don't get me wrong, it certainly had potential, with some solid writing and some decent character building, and from what I read of it the action was well done, but the story just didn't hold my interest.
Thirteen Hours by Francis Gideon
This one just didn't work for me. It felt disjointed, as if too many story threads were forced together, and the logic of the story fell apart early on when I found myself on the side of the academic bad guys. As much as the country longs for a cure to the ongoing zombie crisis, turning them into immortal cyborgs hardly seems like the best idea.
For a book that was advertised as the story of Hans, his wife, and her lover, it's really the story of Hans, his scientific discovery, his hurt feelings, and his infatuation with a dead man, a stranger whom he inexplicably wants to wake up and love him.
Character motivations didn't feel genuine to me, and the story shifted too often to make sense.