ARC Review: Undeadly by Michele Vail

Paperback: 272 Pages

Series: The Reaper Diaries #1

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

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The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird…

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper-and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath. Who seems to hate her guts.

Rath will be watching closely to be sure she completes her first assignment-reaping Rick, the boy who should have died. The boy she still wants to be with. To make matters worse, students at the academy start turning up catatonic, and accusations fly-against Molly. The only way out of this mess? To go through hell. Literally.

Undeadly is a bitter disappointment, even though I was sure it would be after reading the reviews on Goodreads.

Molly is a ka heka necromancer, a person who reanimates dead bodies, bringing them back as zombies, using a part of the soul called ka. She’s one of the five types of necromancer(ka heka, ren heka, seut heka, ba heka, ib heka), her ability being the most common one. The world knows about the existence of necromancers, necromancy magic, zombies, ghosts, ghouls etc.

She’s a typical YA teenager character. She has a crush on the popular cute kid, is tormented by the mean/popular girl in highschool, has a like/dislike relationship with her younger sister, and considers herself plain. Which, of course, she is not.

In every generation there is a chosen one. She is the Slayer Champion. On the eve of her sixteen birthday, Molly dreams of Anubis, the egyptian got of death and the one who granted necromancers their gifts, and accepts to be one of the Chosen.  After an unfortunate incident with her crush, Rick, and some inflammatory secrets being revealed, she’s shipped off to Nekyia Academy to be trained.

Where to start? Let me mention the things I did like. The mythology is really interesting and inventive. An age-old war between Anubis and Set, the gifts the necromancers received, the differences between a necromancer and a reaper. Also, the explanation behind how reanimation works is really cool. 

The idea that people keep loved ones as zombies, care for them, dress them up in weather appropriate clothes, is both twisted and fun, especially since a broken zombie must visit the Zomporium to get fixed.

My list of dislikes is much, much longer, starting with Molly’s voice.  It’s a first person narrative from her POV, so it’s weird she keeps saying things like “sigh”, “duh” and “ugh”. That would’ve worked better if it was a third person, omniscient narrator point of view story. With her being the narrator it makes no sense.

Unfortunately, he’d promised that he would be back tomorrow. For my b-day. Sigh.

Furthermore, the teenspeak, the repetitions ( “hel-looo”), the countless times she uses weird slang, all of it is grating. There is no difference between her voice and the other characters voices, not even Anubis, who is supposed to be an ancient and wise god.

The world-building is seriously lacking. The beginning of the novel has more than one info-dumping, meant to introduce you to this world, quickly followed by the word “anyway”. It goes something like this: “info-dump, info-dump, info-dump. Aaaanyways, let’s get back to the plot now”. And that happens a lot.  It’s a very inefficient, unskilled and annoying way of creating a setting for the novel.

Speaking of the plot, I’m not sure what it was. Was it Molly understanding her powers? That really doesn’t happen. Was it her figuring out who the soul snatcher is? Maybe it was solving the dead kids mystery(closely related to the soul snatcher). Or, maybe, it was Molly going through Hell? I’m not sure but fact of the matter remains all those things happen in the last 40, tops, pages of the book. What’s the rest comprised of? Good question, folks, good question.

And the characters. My, what a hot mess. Molly is shallow, as she herself admits to being, and completely oblivious to anything that happens around her. She meets Rath, instantly dislikes him, but his approval means the world to her. She’s over the top, theatrical and dramatic. She fails to see that enslaving souls is bad. Her boyfriend looses consciousness in front of her, she calls her friends for help and what’s the first thing they all do when the clique arrives in her room? They talk about what a snazzy apartment she has and how they already knew who she was, bla bla. Seriously? Priorities, woman, priorities! Afterwards, her bright solution is to ship Rick back home. Check and see if he’s alright? Nah, just send him home, that’ll do it.

Molly’s completely unlikable. The kind of character that reacts instead of acting. And she’s flat. By the end of the novel I didn’t care for her one bit.

Rath is barely in the novel and when he is around, his character makes just as little sense as some of the scenes do. Who is he, what’s his deal, those are questions never answered. Instead, he hits on Molly a couple of times, totally out of the blue, then disappears on mysterious “business trips”.

The other characters – Rick, Autumn, Ally, Gena, Becks – are just as depthless and two-dimensional, just there to support the MC. Of course, there’s the requisite mean girl, too. Actually, there are two of them, not just one, both of them with gorgeous looks and an irrational hatred toward Molly.

The only one I like is Henry, Molly’s ghoul. Because he’s a master organizer!

Such an excellent premise and a promising blurb, but, in the end, a bad execution.

PS: A cliffhanger is only a cliffhanger if the novel doesn’t come across as unfinished and/or cut during editing. I’m just sayin’.

*I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged.
*This was an uncorrected proof. I will compare the quotes with the finished book.
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