Jonathan J. Drake strikes again with Zombie Mage, a tale of the undead gone wrong. Perspectives change and worlds get turned upside down in this humoristic horror novel, where Drake captures a perfect balance between plot and character development. At the same time, he maintains a good pace and ultimately delivers a ride with some very exciting twists. If you like zombies in a vulnerable position, this is the book for you.
Olligh is the poor soul that wakes up in a pit full of rotting corpses, only to discover his mouth has been sewn shut, and he has no memory of what happened. Nothing makes sense, and it does not get any easier when two guys try to put him out of his supposed misery. Little does Olligh know, he is a zombie with thoughts and feelings.
After mysteriously being transported from the pit into a room full of coffins and a half rotting old lady, begging him to take her with him if he escapes, Olligh makes his way into town, still unaware of his new undead status and trying to figure out what is going on. It is not until he comes across a blind barber, where he finally cuts the stitches from his mouth, and sees what he has become. Naturally, his new reflection opens up a whole lot of questions.
This is the second book I have reviewed by Drake, and I have to say, it is brilliant. While I enjoyed Barrow of the Damned, Zombie Mage is the book that really showcases what he can do. The pacing is a little slower and a bit more relaxed, the characters are more developed and provide more dimension, and the theme is not as targeted and complex. Even the humor, which was great with Barrow of the Damned, was taken up a notch with Zombie Mage.
Given the humoristic nature of the book, it is difficult to take the horrific side seriously. I am not saying that Drake does not write intriguing gore scenes, but his talent for making the reader smile tends to overshadow everything else. From start to finish, the book is fundamentally hilarious. But instead of waiting for laughing-out-loud-moments, you will be chuckling every few minutes or so. Although, there are some laugh-out-loud moments too.
In my personal opinion, this is the type of story I can see on the big screen, directed by somebody like Tim Burton. The strange and dark atmosphere is present from the first page, and the clichés perfectly twist into very unpredictable moments. And after reading the last page, I could not believe how captivating this eerie and humorous book turned out to be.
Ultimately, Drake has a great sense of humor, which is accompanied by a very active imagination. This combination has led to a story I will probably read two or three more times. If this book keeps you up at night, it will not be because you are scared. It will be because you are very entertained.
Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.
Also by xyxyxy: