Review: Undeadly (Book #1: The Reaper Diaries) by Michele Vail: Review


Undeadly (Book #1: The Reaper Diaries) by Michele Vail.  Paperback, 272 pages, published November 20, 2012 by Harlequin Teen. ISBN: 0373210469


Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath.
Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another…except, there’s something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly’s got an undeadly knack for finding trouble….

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review: The first book in a series is often the hardest to write (and read!) because the author so much to accomplish in a relatively small amount of time and space.  As a reader, I need the first-in-a-series book to:

  1. introduce me to an interesting cast of characters with backstory and an explanation for how these characters have come to be in the pickle they’re in
  2. establish both a short- and long-term plot line
  3. create enough interest through the characters, plot, and unanswered questions to make me want more

If an author can accomplish all of these things they are virtually assured a successful series and will have readers not only wanting more of their work but begging for more.  Sadly, for myself, Vail’s Undeadly has missed the mark and I likely won’t be coming back for more.  Here’s the trouble:

*The first part of the book is exceedingly slow and filled with what you later find out is a lot of extraneous detail which doesn’t really inform or enhance the overall plot.  To be fair, this part of the book also introduces Undeadly’s primary character, Molly and offers a small bit of insight into her particular talents and skills.

*I fully appreciate Undeadly is a paranormal read and weird situations are going to occur.  However, the situations Molly finds herself in and allows herself to be pulled into are often inexplicable and unbelievable even in a paranormal novel.  While these scenes are unusual, they do offer further insight about Molly and the full range and extent of her powers.

*Molly’s powers are another source of frustration.  It is clear Molly is special and in possession of powers only spoken about in myth and legend.  The problem?  Molly has no idea who she is and what she is capable of because it has all been kept from her for her entire life.  Additionally, no one in Molly’s life seems willing to cough up any information about her powers or her destiny unless forced to do so and even then, the information is limited at best.  The end result of this lack of information is a very powerful and naïve kid fumbling around in dangerous situations.

*The abundance of unanswered questions.  Of course any first-in-a-series book should have unanswered questions but Undeadly has far, far too many.  For example: why hasn’t anyone ever told Molly about her powers or her destiny?  Why is the topic of Molly’s mom completely off limits?  Why has Molly been kept from her grandparents her entire life?  If her Aunt Leila is so super-awesome and well-liked how did she become both a shadow and a minion of Set?  Why does Molly meet with so much resistance from other students and some of the faculty/administration at her new school?

The Bottom Line: There are some good moments and elements in Undeadly including Molly’s suck it up and drive on attitude (she doesn’t do angst!), her ghoul servant, Henry, Rath, the surly reaper with a good heart and good intentions, and the use of Egyptian history, religion, and mythology.  Unfortunately, these good elements are just not enough to balance out the frustrating elements and leave me begging for more.

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