I'm not a big fan of zombie books in general, it's not generally my thing. But I am a big fan of Diana Rowland. She's consistently written books with terrific characters and very real situations, despite the fantasy set-ups of the zombies or demons or whatever she's chosen to use to create drama and excitement in their lives. And she sure didn't fail me with this one!
Angel really got put through the emotional and physical wringer in this book. She was finally setting into a job that she enjoyed and feeling that she was getting her life back on track. And BAM, it all fell apart. Suddenly the trust she thought she'd earned from so many people was gone, even her boyfriend didn't believe anything she was saying, and she was in deadly danger and all on her own again. But our tough girl just moved forward, did what she had to do to protect herself, and saved the day. But what worked so well was that it was all in believable ways, it wasn't in some crazy superhero way. She used her wit, her intelligence and her experience to prevail. And her zombie strength, speed and healing occasional, I'll give her that. But she didn't give up and she didn't give in, she fought back.
I could see so much emotional growth in this book, that was really the best part of the story. She trusted herself. There were some doubts, but mostly she was starting to understand her own worth. She refused to let Marcus or anyone else brush her off, make decisions for her, or belittle her ideas. She was upset when people kept asking her about where she went to school, it did make her feel bad, but it got her thinking about her future too. Seeing her dad and what he was going through with trying to quit drinking really emphasized for Angel what an opportunity she'd been given by being forced to start over by being turned in to a zombie. She knows that so much of her progress is because her "rehab" was forced on her, alcohol and drugs just don't work on her anymore and they make her rot faster and need brains more often, so she just doesn't use them. (Luckily she gets to eat whatever she wants when she'd depressed at least, a girl has to have some outlet!) But she's really trying to make the most of this second chance she's been given, even when it's hard. It's a very believable struggle and I just can't help but root for this chick.
The other thing that's so great about this book, and about Rowland's work in general, is the depth of the world that she creates. Every piece of the puzzle is in place, so the reader never feels for a second like she isn't reading about a completely real place. Because Rowland has been a beat cop, detective, morgue assistant and held many other jobs as well, she makes every detail of her stories come to life. Every supporting character is perfectly in place, every scene is set, but none of it is heavy-handed or wordy, it's just a perfectly painted background so you don't even realize you're absorbing it most of the time. When Angel tore up that floor and crawled into those tunnels, I felt like I was there with her. When she was sitting on the curb holding Marcus at the terribly sad crime scene, I felt like I was there. The details are just so well done. It's like Dan Dos Santos' gorgeous cover, everything pops and comes to life.
And then there's the mystery. There was a lot going on here in the zombie world, a lot that unfolded and added depth to the story beyond what was happening to our beloved heroine. I'm excited to see what happens next. And how Angel gets sucked into it and kicks butt dealing with it.