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Bane of Kings reviews the young adult, zombie horror novel Chasers, written by James Phelan. It’s published by Kensington Publishing Group.
“An interesting tale that impresses, and delivers a fantastic, mind-blowing conclusion that you will not see coming.” ~The Founding Fields
When I started reading Chasers, the second title that I’d read from NetGalley, I had no idea what to expect. I’d never heard of James Phelan before, and the only thing that I knew going into this was that it was a post-apocalyptic zombie tale set in Manhattan, New York. And aimed at Young Adults. However, after the first few chapters, I started to get used to the idea that there were several things that were different about this novel, but also several things that were similar to other zombie novels that I’ve read. For example, there’s no speech marks when the characters are speaking. At first, I thought, as we stick with four characters throughout the novel, it wouldn’t work, and Phelan wouldn’t pull it off, like Alden Bell had achieved in the superb The Reapers Are the Angels. As it turned out, it worked perfectly, especially with the way it ended, which I’ll observe in more detail later in this review.
Four teenagers. One destroyed city. Thousand of infected predators.
Jesse is on a UN Youth Ambassadors camp in New York when his subway carriage is rocked by an explosion. Jesse and his three friends, Dave, Anna and Mini, crawl out from the wreckage to discover a city in chaos. Streets are deserted. Buildings are in ruins. Worse, the only other survivors seem to be infected with a virus that turns them into horrifying predators…
Lets start with the characters. The Dramatis Personae, as you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic novel, is very small with just Jesse, Dave, Anna and Mini. They’re the only characters that aren’t Zombies, or – as they’re labelled here, Chasers, that feature in the whole novel so if you don’t like how they’re portrayed then it’s tough because you’re going to be stuck with them. Whilst they may not have been particularly memorable characters, Jesse, the narrator, is a likable and believable enough character to get behind and root for.
Whilst the ending of the book is great, the rest of it is a slight let down. Despite the subtle hints dropped (try looking for them and you still won’t find them, that’s how subtle they are) as to where the ending is leading over the course of the book, the overall build-up is slow. Although the novel isn’t particularly a long one, once Jesse, Dave, Anna and Mini take residence in a large, tall skyscraper, the novel seems to drag a little bit. They don’t really feel under threat whilst they’re there, and that’s what I didn’t really like about Chasers. I just felt that Phelan should have increased the tension during the middle chunk of the novel, as I felt that nothing was going to happen to the characters whilst they were in the skyscraper. Thankfully though, this changes towards the end of the book, with the last 3/4’s of the ending being worth the read through of the rest of it.
Seriously,the ending is that good. After I’d finished Chasers, I had to go back a couple of pages and double check if it really happened. It’s powerful enough so that it’s fresh in my mind several days after finishing the novel, and I can’t see it going anytime soon. If anything made me want to read the next novel, it is this ending. My mind was blown. Although I think it’ll be difficult to see where Phelan takes the story from here, the teaser provided by NetGalley at the end of the book has got me interested in finding out more.
The action is not as frequent as you’d expect in a post apocalyptic tale. The protagonists are not constantly on the run from one place to another. But what’s interesting is that Jesse’s character undergoes several changes throughout the whole novel, as he struggles to keep himself sane in this horrifying new world. Phelan has nailed the POV of a character of his age, and character development seems to be one of his strongest points, despite the fact that Jesse’s friends aren’t flushed out as much. However, there is a reason for that though – which you’ll find out in the end.
I reckon that there are some people that will love this book, others will find it unbearable. I’m not really sure where I stand on this, as whilst Chasers has some strong parts, it’s let down in places as well. I will be hunting down a copy of the second novel when I can though, as Phelan’s writing shows promise and I’m looking forward to see where it goes in the future.