Review for 'Shakespeare Undead,' a novel by Lori Handeland

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Rosalie's Rating: 3.5/5

A brief summary: Shakespeare Undead is about a necromancer vampire who goes by the name Will Shakespeare and has, among other things, penned a good percentage of the world's great literature over his considerably long life. He abstains from drinking from humans and raising zombies, though he has done both in the past. Teamed up with Kate, a zombie-slaying machine, Will works at chopping the undead down to size all the while attempting to identify the necromancer responsible for the zombie invasion. He and Kate are also infatuated with each other, though she is married and he is, well, a vampire.

There were many things to enjoy in Shakespeare Undead. The writing is above par, and while I didn't care for the shifting POVs, it didn't distract me from the story as much as I thought it might. I also really enjoyed Ms. Handeland's characterization of Shakespeare. He is drawn as a brilliant, though aloof character, often fantasizing about various plot ideas that come to him at the most inconvenient moment. The audience is supposed to infer that Shakespeare ultimately pens The Wizard of Oz, The Sixth Sense, Star Wars, and perhaps one or two other works of consideration. This was cute the first time the reference was made, but by the time Shakespeare started envisioning Princess Leia telling a wise old sage that he was her "only hope," the joke had run its course.

Ms. Handeland also did a good job of creating sizzling chemistry between Will and Kate. I truly enjoyed the back-and-forth of their relationship.

I mentioned the shifting POVs, and while they didn't distract me, they didn't seem necessary by the end. Kate's first person narration didn't reveal anything that Will's third person did not. Likewise, if there was any mention as to what Will used as a blood substitution, as he didn't feed from humans, it wasn't made obvious. Yes, vamplore is ever-changing and subject to the author's personal mythology, but when the cornerstones of vamplore are dismissed, we need some explanation as to where the vampires who abstain from blood of any kind get what they need in order to survive. Like I said, this might have been touched upon in the book, but if it was, it was done so in such a way it was easy for the casual reader to overlook it.

I also caught myself thinking of Shakespeare in Love more than I should have. Obviously with any fictionalization of Shakespeare's life, we're going to see some references to his literary works, but from the stolen balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, to the R&J lark/nightingale back and forth as dawn approached, to Kate masquerading as a boy both to hunt zombies and to act on stage, to the Silvia speech from Two Gentleman of Verona, it seemed Ms. Handeland's best knowledge of Shakespeare came from the movie and not history books. I would have liked some hint at other Shakespearan insight than just from the film. Constantly reciting from Shakespeare's plays was also a little jarring when Ms. Handeland returned to normal dialogue. It was likely meant to be an intentional anachronism, but the shift was very obvious.

I will say I thought the last few lines of dialogue were brilliant, and I love where she left this story off.

Overall, this was a very entertaining read, one I gobbled up in less than 36 hours. It kept me interested, made me laugh, and while I did find fault with it upon reflecting, the plot spoke to the Shakespeare enthusiast in me, as well as the lover of a good paranormal romance.