Death, a half-zombie, a robot, a human and a vampire meet in the apocalypse. Sounds like the start of some humorous turn of phrase, but this debut novel ain’t no joke. Elisa Hansen’s The Company of Death takes a tried-and-true premise about the end of the world and throws the whole thing into overdrive to tell a story of humanity…even when the protagonists aren’t exactly human.
The Company of Death follows Emily Campbell, one of the last surviving humans in a world torn apart by both zombies and vampires. She’s with a paramilitary force known as the Life Preservation Initiative, which is trying to eradicate the zombie threat in the hopes that soon, humans will be able to take back the Earth. However, something goes horribly wrong, and to avoid becoming a zombie, Emily kills herself…or at least she tries to. For as she does, she gets bitten by a zombie, and Death (yes, the embodiment of death itself) is stripped of his powers by Time.
This leaves Emily in a strange position of being undead like a zombie but still able to talk and think. So she does what any of us would do – she follows Death around to get some answers, answers she hopes are in Manhattan. From there, they meet a human and robot duo, Scott and Carol, who are looking headed in the same direction on a mission of their own, and Leif, a vampire who is looking to escape the consequences of his actions.
Emily makes for an interesting protagonist. At first, I struggled with her very adamant need to remain “pure” which is to say that she never wanted to be bitten by a vampire or turned into a zombie. There’s not a strong sense of where this obsession comes from, though it is hinted to being tied to her mother’s abandonment, and her father’s and brother’s death. Still, it’s not something that’s just brought up and then dropped once Emily meets her fate. It is definitely something that comes up in dialogue in regards to Scott, the humans of the group, and I think it’s smart to and how she’s going to deal with it in later books.
Death is pretty par for the course in terms of this kind of character. Stoic, mysterious, proper, but also a bit of a softy when push comes to shove. Even though the book is, in part, about his journey to get back to business, I’m not sure I feel compelled by it particularly. We do get hints that he has a bigger backstory waiting to be explored, so I’m looking forward to that. I like that he has the other horse-people of the apocalypse to play against, with all of them having pretty compelling reasons to throw Death under the bus. We don’t get to see much of Time here but I’m guessing there’s similar chemistry to be found, just later on.
My favorite character was Leif, though he’s the one we spend the least time with. Hansen also goes by The Maven of the Eventide, a YouTuber who dissects vampire media, so I really shouldn’t be surprised that she was able to create such an enthralling vampire character. His penchant for the dramatic, his love of music, and his craft ways of getting out (and then back into) trouble are a lot of fun.
In terms of this being Hansen’s debut novel, I think it’s a really great first step into a long-term writing career. It’s clear that a lot of thought and care went into the story, with the fluidity of the narrative really working to keep readers engaged. I think where she shines most is in the dialogue, with each character have a unique linguistic quirk that sets them apart. This also means that the chemistry between characters is dynamic, which really helps you get invested in the protagonists’ plights. In fact, the best scenes, in my opinion, are between the four horse-people of the apocalypse, and when Emily is trying to convince Scott and Carol to let her come along with them. The narration is also not too-detail heavy, which as someone who is not into that Tolkien-ian style of writing, is very welcome.
I do have to say there were some points that I got a bit turned around. The scene where Emily is watching Death and Time interact was confusing, which could be because she was half dead, but I kept having to go back to that part. As a result, I felt that middle section sag a little. Fortunately, it doesn’t last long and you can jump right back in. I also think Scott and Carol’s introduction was particularly jarring, given that they have no connection at first to any of the rest of the plot, unlike Leif, but their subsequent chapters and exposition help clear that up fast.
Some readers might be annoyed that we don’t get a lot of backstory about how exactly the zombies arose and where all the vampires came from, but to me, less is more. As it is only the first book of a trilogy, I don’t think there’s any reason to rush the exposition, especially when there’s so much of the premise that needs to be worked through before we get all five of our characters together. This first book is some parts Hellsing, some parts Pratchett, with a dash of World War Z, and frankly, it works really well. If you’re looking for an engaging, supernatural monster mash, this is the book for you.
The Company of Death is now available for purchase on Amazon, among several other book retailers.
The Company of Death was provided to us by the author, Elisa Hansen. For more information on how we review books and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy.
Book Title: The Company of Death
Book Author: Elisa Hansen
Date published: 2019-01-17
The Company of Death is the apocalypse novel you’ve been waiting for – with zombies, and vampires, and robots, oh my! From the engaging dialogue and chemistry between characters to the subtle exploration of what makes a someone “a person”, author Elisa Hansen crafts a road trip story at the end of the world that feels like the beginning of something bigger and better.