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Let’s see what Brian thinks of The Company of Death.
The Company of Death
The Immortal Journey Book 1
Very minor spoilers ahead.
I’d been looking forward to this book for some time. Not only am I a long time fan of the author’s YouTube series, Maven of the Eventide, where she reviews vampire media through a feminist lens (most recent episode as of this writing is about Anne Rice’s 2nd Vampire Chronicles book), but I very much enjoyed Awoken, a stealth parody of Twilight using the Cthulhu mythos to tell a subversive YA paranormal romance story that she co-authored with fellow YouTubers Lindsay Ellis and Antonella Inserra (and five guest co-writers) all under the name Serra Elinsen. I’ve also read some of her Phantom of the Opera fanfiction on FanFiction.net.
So yeah, I ordered this, the first book in the post-apocalyptic Immortal Journey series on launch day. Fortunately, it turned out good. That would’ve been somewhat awkward had it not. The only quibble I have, and this may only apply to the paperback version as that’s the one I have, is not an issue of storytelling or characterization but of formatting. Maybe it’s just me, but the text was more “centered” than I usually see in books, meaning there was noticeably more blank space on the sides and above and below the text than I recall ever seeing in a book before. I got used to it after several chapters, but I could easily imagine something with moderate to severe OCD being put off. For everyone else though, I suggest sticking it out. It’s well worth it.
As for the story, The Company of Death is a road trip story, or at least the first part of one. As befitting a novel published with “Book One” on the cover it does end on a cliffhanger (or maybe I should say cliffHAYger. … I’ll show myself out). Taking place two years after a zombie apocalypse where details are, at least in my opinion, wisely not explained too much, and set in Southern California, we first meet our main character, Emily Campbell. Emily is unique among (canon) characters in fiction in that she is an asexual biromantic (like the author herself; I’m not speaking out of turn here, she has been very open about this on her show and in interviews). As the back of the book says, when a mission to take out some vampires goes sideways, Emily finds herself bitten by a zombie and decides to shoot herself then and there rather than become part of the flesh-eating horde. This would be where most zombie stories end, but something happens and as a result not only is she not fully zombie despite being technically dead (insert Princess Bride joke here), but the Grim Reaper is at her side, stripped of most of his powers (the back of the book says all, but that’s not technically accurate, given some impressive feats he pulls off in the last act) and his horse.
Much of the book is dedicated to Emily’s point of view, coming to terms with the trauma of losing her team and of being undead, something that she most definitely did not want, as her failed suicide attempt mentioned above shows. But along the way we are introduced to the rest of the gang who will be our Five-Man Band for (presumably) the rest of the series, getting to know a little bit about them before they eventually cross paths with Emily and Death.
First, we have Leif, an Italian-shoe loving, music obsessed vampire who is unhappy with the state of affairs of his race and as interested in ending vampire communes as Emily’s team was, albeit for more selfish reasons. He also has what some might consider an unhealthy attachment to his MP3 player, which he calls an iPod despite it not being of that brand.
We also have Scott, our token normie of the group, a man seeking to make it to Manhattan to reunite with and then dump his girlfriend. This is actually less cruel than it sounds. As Ben H. Bagdikian wrote, facts without context are meaningless. 😉
Lastly, we have Carol, an android who I’m fairly confident was not inspired by EDI from Mass Effect 3, but this likelihood did not stop me from hearing Tricia Helfer’s voice whenever she, meaning Carol, spoke. Repaired and customized to an extent by Scott’s sister (who we only see in flashbacks), Carol’s mission is to protect Scott and get him to Manhattan, and she will do so by any means necessary, no matter how much Scott complains.
As for antagonists, for the most part, this book doesn’t have any, per se. Names are dropped of important (in-universe) vampires who will likely be foils for Death and All of His Friends (yes, I just reference a Coldplay song, sue me) in future installments but we only ever actually see one of them, and then only in the first act. Only Leif has any interaction with him, or even knows his name. But this is not to say there is no conflict. Emily and Death butt heads a few times, and Scott and Carol have a contentious relationship to put it simply. The setting itself is our protagonists main enemy, and the author does a solid job of conveying that through the text without outright saying it.
Talking about it much more would run up against spoiler territory, so I’ll just say, even if you are burned out on zombie fiction, and who could blame you given that the Walking Dead is about to enter season 27 or whatever, you will still likely enjoy The Company of Death. Emily aside, who is definitely not your standard zombie, zombies are hardly even in the book apart from three or four chapters. They are certainly a potential threat throughout the story, but by and large, the main cast is able to avoid them. And hopefully, we’re far enough out from the Twilight backlash for vampire novels to become enjoyable again.
And hey, always nice to see a piece of media with an asexual character who isn’t portrayed an amoral sociopath or as someone needing to be “fixed” by meeting “the right person.” So yes, check out The Company of Death, and maybe give Maven of the Eventide and Awoken a look too if you haven’t already.
Rating: 4.5/5, and the half-point I knocked off is most likely due to the publisher, not the author (see my comments about formatting)
About Elisa Hansen
Elisa Hansen is a recovering musical theatre major who enjoys graveyards, haunted mansions, gothic fashion, decorative skulls, black tea, and red wine. Born and raised in Southern California, she lived fifteen years in New York City before settling in Charlotte, NC.
When she’s not reading or writing books, you can find her on YouTube as her alter-ego, The Maven of the Eventide. Her humorously analytical video essay webseries, Vampire Reviews, examines the evolution of vampire tropes as allegories for social issues in media and pop culture through a feminist lens.
Follow Elisa on Twitter: @ElisaInTime