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REVIEW: Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander

DeadshiftedDear Ms. Alexander:

I am a confirmed fan of your Edie Spence series. I got in on the ground floor and have thoroughly enjoyed watching Edie negotiate the near constant threats of her world, sometimes with exasperation, sometimes with blind terror, but always with a sort of scrappy determination I find uniquely hers. She’s a survivor, which means she’s not above crossing the gray line between what is strictly ethical and what is . . . not. It’s what I like best about her. In a sea of heroically noble (and powerful) urban fantasy heroines, Edie is painfully human. She has no hidden powers. She’s not the long-lost heir of anyone. She’s a night nurse with a messed up family and a serious case of sleep deprivation. Her up close and personal knowledge of the supernatural doesn’t make her special. Rather, it seems to isolate her even further. But she refuses to throw in the towel. And after the fairly catastrophic events of the last book, Shapeshifted, I wondered what in the world could come next.

A cruise isn’t exactly Edie’s idea of a relaxing vacation. But she’s trying to be a good sport and share in her boyfriend Asher’s excitement at this chance to get away from the inner city clinic where they both work, to say nothing of the lingering trauma from the events of six months ago. It seems they’ve been granted a rare period of peace, and she means to enjoy not being alone anymore. So all aboard it is. And things actually seem to go rather swimmingly until Asher spots a face he hoped to never see again. A face from his altogether dodgy past. Edie knows he wasn’t always the fairly straight and competent doctor he pretends to be nowadays. But the fact that he retains the memories of all the people he touched as a shapeshifter does tend to get in the way sometimes. Especially when she has something important she needs to tell him and has no idea at all how he’ll respond. But when the face he spots turns out to belong to a particularly ruthless villain, Asher is determined to find out what he’s doing there. But before they know it, an epidemic breaks out aboard the ship. Passengers are being felled left and right, in inexplicably gruesome ways. Edie finds herself using every nursing skill she has to outrun the disease and keep Asher from being sucked back by the demons of his past.

I was surprised to find this one set several months after the end of the last book. I guess I expected to ease into things along with Edie and Asher. Instead, they have a very comfortable feel to them from page one. And initially I felt as though I was playing a little bit of catch-up as to the status of their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on board with Asher from way back. I couldn’t wait to see how they were as a couple. And on that front, I felt incredibly rewarded with this installment. It felt right. They felt right. The fact that they were for all intents and purposes stowed away on an ocean liner allowed them a level of intimacy and a reprieve from prying eyes that they never would have been afforded at home. I appreciated the trust and space they gave each other. Neither of them are shy violets. And yet they share a history of isolation, of loneliness. In each other, they seem to have found acceptance, if not absolute security. Their interactions are full of care and, if  Asher is a bit reckless by nature, I felt safe in his feelings toward Edie. Of course, all too soon the training wheels are ripped away and the thrill ride begins in earnest.

This series has never shied away from the gruesome, and Deadshifted makes a bid to be the grisliest of the lot. The vacation becomes a living nightmare as the epidemic victims behave in increasingly bizarre ways before succumbing in an alarmingly short period of time. Everything about this book felt chilled. In fact, it felt a bit like I was on the sinking Titanic, with doom hanging directly overhead and an unnamed horror just below the surface of every pool of water. The collective ambiance was effective in the extreme, at once gripping and claustrophobic. As always, Edie is an absolute force. True to her nature, she’s in no way content to stay put while Asher tracks down his man. Determined to do anything she can to save lives, her own and Asher’s included, she tracks down the makeshift infirmary and plunges in. Asher is not the only one being followed. As things creep closer and closer to complete anarchy, fascinating alliances and relationships develop between the few desperate passengers who are still standing. This forthright attention to the way mere humans react against a backdrop of mythic disaster remains one of the most compelling strengths of this series. As is the fact that consequences always play an extensive role. In this case, the consequences are sure to be myriad, as the shuddering, game-changer of an ending opens a whole new can of blood-sucking worms. A-

Cheers,

Angie

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Angie is a bookish sort with a soft spot for urban fantasy, YA, historicals, and mysteries. Ever since she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and made the acquaintance of one Nat Eaton, stories with no romantic subplot need not apply. Her favorite authors include Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Sharon Shinn, Mary Stewart, Megan Whelan Turner, Kristin Cashore, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, and Ellen Emerson White. You can find Angie at her blog www.angie-ville.com or on Twitter @angiebookgirl.

8 Comments

  1. kara-karina
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 14:18:40

    I agree absolutely! I’ve been a fan of this series since the very beginning and I admire that Eddie stayed human throughout all the grisly moments. This was perhaps the scariest spookiest installment of the series, and with the new twist in the end I can’t wait to see what would she do next :) Fab review!

  2. Angie
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 17:41:42

    @kara-karina: I completely agree. Spookiest for sure, so much so because we were in the dark along with Edie for so much of it and the villain was an unknown quantity. Really interested to see where she takes it in the last book. I did not see that ending coming.

  3. Susan
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 18:51:33

    I’ve enjoyed the series so far, but had put off starting this book for reasons I can’t exactly pinpoint. I guess a cruise setting seemed so out of place and kinda reaching, like the author was running out of ideas. It seemed like such a step back from the previous book(s). Glad to hear that’s not the case so I can feel comfortable about dipping my toe in now. Thanks.

  4. Des Livres
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 20:40:00

    Great review. I got a great feel for the book while getting the information I needed re whether I would actually enjoy it or not.

  5. Divya
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 20:51:08

    Do you think I could read this book as a standalone? Or do I need to go back and start at the beginning of the series?

  6. Angie
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 22:01:59

    @Susan: No, I understand. I felt the same way. Like it had the potential to be a throwaway entry. I am not a fan of road trip novels, and a cruise trip seemed like it could be an even more claustrophobic version of the same. Happily, it was not.

    @Des Livres: I’m so happy to hear that.

    @Divya: You could read it as a standalone, but I don’t think I would. The primary relationship benefits from reading each book, and I think your emotional investment in them might hinge on having that backstory. My two cents . . .

  7. Dana S
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 22:56:00

    Thanks so much for this rec, I’ll be picking it up for this weekend. I love urban fantasy as a genre, but hate love triangles which this genre is infested with. So I’m happy whenever I can find a decent UF without those pesky triangles.

    I also like reading about non-powered heroines thrown into the supernatural, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy Laura Resnick’s series so much. (But I do wish things would speed up with Lopez.)

  8. Angie
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 10:05:48

    @Dana S: My pleasure! And I agree. No triangles here. She does have a lot to work through, so it’s not immediate smooth sailing relationship-wise. But I find the journey very satisfying. And yes to non-powered heroines. I haven’t read the Resnick. Will investigate.

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