Monday, August 5, 2013

Book review: Death of a Saint

The butt-kicking, zombie-killing Mall Rats brat pack are back in the fantastic follow-up to the popular South African youth novel, Deadlands.

Disclaimer: A slightly expanded version of this review also  appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Death of a Saint by Lily Herne (Publislhed by Penguin Books SA)
Warning: Please note that this review may contains spoilers, considering that this is the second book in the series.

You can check out my review of the first book here.

We last left off when Lele, Ash, Ginger and Saint made a break from the Mall after being pursued by both the Rotters (the zombies) and Guardians.

Now hiding and camping outside of the no-longer (if it ever was) safe enclave, the four of them are in more danger than ever, being forced to fend for themselves with little to almost no supplies (not that these teens don't know how to take care of themselves. They are zombie-killers after all).

Things within the enclave have progressively become much worse and with the Resurrectionists (Guardian worshippers) exercising more control, targeting and recruiting youth to be initiated as Guardians,  the Rats do their best to keep a low profile - especially considering they're currently on the most wanted list of "criminals" for crimes committed against the state.

Of course, with their luck, and their penchant for finding trouble, things don't exactly go as planned. After narrowly escaping from a fate worse than death, the troop opts to leave Cape Town in search of more supplies and potential survivors outside of the enclave.

Along the way they adopt a hyena, meet people who join them on the road, encounter a whole new set of challenges and get more insight into why the reanimated leave them unscathed. 

The road is bumpy, the journey unsafe, but perhaps the most dangerous aspect that comes into play is that, for all the team's united front, the secrets being kept from one another may be the biggest threat of all.

If you haven't picked up Deadlands or Death of a Saint yet, that you should go out and get it now, because this is a book series that's definitely not one to be missed out on.

Any reader, young or old, who knows our country's history, will be able to appreciate the biting, satirical and humorous tone that Lily Herne has conveyed in and throughout the first book.

With Death of a Saint, Herne (which by the way is the pen name for writing duo, Sarah Lotz and her daughter Savannah), picks up from where we left off; only this time mother and daughter have managed to up the stakes and then some more in this explosive follow-up.

This time around, there's an added dynamic in the sense that, although the action is less and more spread out throughout the novel, we see a lot more character growth and development. In addition to this, we're given the opportunity to get to know Saint more, as the novel is alternately narrated by her and Lele.

 It's clear that life inside and outside of the enclave has taken its toll on our young heroes and heroines and that, even though the team get along fabulously, unspoken tensions are on the rise.  When newbies Ember and Lucien enter the scene things really become interesting.

For one, the budding romance blossoming between Lele and Ash (I love Ash by the way - even though he can be jerk at times) is hampered by the arrival of the gorgeous Ember, who fits in quickly and with the exception of Lele, seems to be getting along fabulously with everyone; Ash in particular. 

Ha.

One would think there'd be no time for some romance, teenage angst and jealousy issues, but there's plenty of that here. And Lele makes it clear that she is does not welcome the new stranger in the midst.

Mind you, I'm totally rooting for Lele and Ash; they'd make an awesome couple (Lily? That was a none-too-subtle hint by the way). 

Aside from the angsty issues, we're thrown another interesting twist with Lucien's arrival, which brings about the exposure of one of the team's secrets. More than that I can't reveal, but trust me when I say, that not long after that, the team walk into a trap that perhaps only one person saw coming (made you curious, didn't I?).

Lily Herne has written a sequel that by far, surpasses that of its predecessor. One thing is certain, Mother and daughter duo really know how to tell a good story and create characters that will engage, infuriate, but mostly, make you root for them as they traverse through a landscape seemingly devoid of any life (besides those of the rotters).

And with that cliffhanger the book concludes with, the duo not only end off on a note that leave us hanging, but one that will definitely have us picking up the next book in the series, The Army of Left (Death of a Saint will give you a clue about the title behind the book).

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