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Not Flesh Nor Feathers – Cherie Priest

Auther: Cherie Priest
Publisher: Titan Books
Price: £7.99 available now
Review by: David Stonehouse

Cherie Priest’s third and, so far final, adventure for Eden Moore is out this month. This time it’s a zombie story with a twist set against the backdrop of Chattanooga being flooded by the rising Tennessee river.

Eden Moore is as appealing as ever, a wisecracking reluctant heroine dragged into supernatural mysteries by her unwelcome ability to see and communicate with the dead. The long term effects of her battle with her black magic ancestor Avery in the first book are starting to take their toll. On the up side she has a handy ability to heal physical injuries very quickly but this is offset by the psychological and emotional damage caused every time she has contact with the dead.

The book opens with a sinister prologue set when Eden’s Aunt Lu was a little girl. The river had risen and two little girls were trapped in a room above the rising water and beneath them something grim was scrabbling at the floorboards. Back in the present Eden returns in a spectacular sequence at the town’s Read House Hotel where an angry ghost has been causing trouble and driving away the guests. When Eden tries to make contact this ghost, The White lady, turns out to be a lot more powerful and substantial than most and Eden ends up cut to ribbons by shattered glass and struggling to make sense of the ghost’s garbled ranting.

Meanwhile the river is rising again. Homeless folk who live down by the waterside are disappearing and there are rumours of nasty dark things that come out of the river to prey on the living. Once again Eden is dragged in to investigate. More ghosts help point her in the right direction and there are clues that hint at the KKK, the racial tensions of the past, a long abandoned church and a mysterious angry little girl. Somehow it’s all connected and with the river bursting its banks the zombies in the water are roaming the flooded town at will.

This is a slightly longer novel than its predecessors. The set-up is more complex and this is more of a slow-burning story which has resulted in a sort of trade off of atmosphere over tension. While the previous books held a vice-like grip over the reader this one doesn’t have the same addictive rollercoaster quality. However, what it does have instead is a deep, oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere as the creeping water closes in and the zombies finally lurch out to prey on the panicked citizens.

Priest’s take on zombies is a nice variation on the theme that keeps the creeping threat but avoids all the worst clichés of the genre. In fact Cherie Priest’s strengths as a writer are all in evidence here. Action set-pieces are always handled confidently with pace, tension and a real sense of threat. Characters are strong and believable, the plotting is clever and satisfyingly complex and there is always the wry dark humour that undercuts the whole series. Also present is Priest’s affection for the history and geography of Chattanooga to the extent that the town itself becomes a distinct brooding personality in the drama. A number of characters from the earlier stories make welcome returns and even Eden’s comedy car, the Death Nugget, goes into battle one more time.

Although not officially billed as the last part of a trilogy, Not Flesh Nor Feathers does feel like a satisfactory end to the Eden Moore story. There’s a certain amount of closure here with long running plot threads brought to an end and an optimistic note of change at the novel’s conclusion. There’s more than enough potential for the character to return but if this to be Eden Moore’s last adventure then she finishes on a high and has given fantasy fans a lot to enjoy.

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