Publisher: Snowbooks, 2010
Sub-genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood
Funeral Pallor is the sequel to Shade Fright, so this review may contain some spoilers from book 1 in the series. If you continue reading and encounter something that spills a plot point from the previous book, don't come crying to me.
The cover art continues on the theme from the first book, which I mentioned last time gave me strong "graphic novel" vibes. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It does stand out from all the urban fantasy fare, what with using actual colour and a lack of butt shots. There is, however, a chance readers will assume the book has been misshelved.
Valerie Stevens has her hands full trying to keep control over the supernatural creatures that come in and try to stir up trouble; it is, after all, her job. When her best friend Caroline, a sentient zombie, goes missing, Valerie is more than a little worried and goes hunting for her. In the process, she discovers a huge nest of 30 zombies, which is bad news for more than just the huge number of flesh-eating horrors. Since zombies can only be controlled by a necromancer, there has to be someone very powerful around looking to stir up trouble.
Things continue to grow more complicated, and Val picks up a number of unlikely allies, including a pair of thick-headed metalheads who take glee in hunting down zombies and a former Grim Reaper who was fired from reaping for his... overenthusiastic methods. The deeper they get into investigating the zombies, the worse the whole thing gets. Fresh corpses have been disappearing from funeral homes with alarming regularity, and there are hints of a huge conspiracy behind the whole thing, something big enough Val might not be able to make it through this mystery intact, even with the help she's picked up.
For those who dig the action of urban fantasy but roll their eyes at the obligatory romance, this might be what you've been looking for. In book 1, the romance was very low-key, and barely features at all in book 2. I think you get about 5 pages of romancey type stuff, and none of it is the high-tension "will they or won't they" relationship. While it's a nice change of pace to escape the angst and sexy times of a pair of supernaturals thrown together, I actually kind of wished for more of a buildup to the little that was there, as otherwise it feels like it's coming out of nowhere.
Val's friends and allies from Shade Fright are back: everyone from the Yoda-like DT to "Bill," the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King. In addition, there are some very colourful new arrivals, including my personal favourite, Reaper, who I'm excited to say will be getting his own spinoff novel soon.
There's a lot of action going on in Funeral Pallor. From beginning to end it's a fast-paced ride not unlike a roller coaster; you've only just managed to catch your breath before the next bit swoops in and carries you off, and you can't always tell how quickly those loop-de-loops will go.
This is the kind of sequel you could pick up and read without having knowledge of the first book, and while it does leave one minor loose end dangling, stands alone strongly enough you're not going to go out of your head until the next book arrives. And there is a third Valerie Stevens novel in the works, in which I'll be looking for the resolution of my one loose end.
Funeral Pallor will be available July 1 in trade paperback. My copy was generously provided by the author.