NOT EVEN DEATH CAN KEEP A
VACUOUS AIRHEAD DOWN
Dead And Unwed
(Queen Betsy Series, Book 1)
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
Date: 2nd February 2006 (First Published 2004)
If Betsy thinks her week can’t get any worse after she loses her job, just wait until she loses her life later only to arise from the dead inside a coffin in a funeral home. But things are about to get so much stranger for her once she works out why she has superhuman strength, is inexplicably irresistible to men, and has a thirst for a new liquid diet. Never could she have imagined her mundane life giving way to an extraordinary life after death.
There are certain books that can only be enjoyed when approached as guilty pleasures, not to be taken too seriously (or at all). MaryJanice Davidson’s comedic urban fantasy debut, Undead And Unwed, is one such book that’s so bad it’s good enough to qualify. But in taking the comedy route the author cleverly sidesteps a lot of potential criticism of her story’s lack of literary merit by establishing that this is a book not to be a deep, thought-provoking tale. It is played for laughs from beginning to end, and reads very much like a supernatural incarnation of Ally McBeal.
Any reader well versed in urban fantasy will know it to be a genre that is awash with incredibly irritating female protagonists, so it takes quite some doing to create a main character insipid enough to rise head and shoulders above the crowd. But Davidson succeeds in doing so with aplomb, creating a protagonist who makes Sookie Stackhouse seem like a deep and complex character. When coupled with all the usual overused tropes of the genre, this is a book that could be a dream come true for readers who want a shallow, light-hearted book that is quick to read, and even quicker to forget. Readers with different sensibilities, and gravitate to more serious, deeper fare will (in all likelihood) be aggravated by what Undead And Unwed has to offer.
The book’s heroine, Betsy Taylor, is very much like one of those vapid female participants found in reality TV shows…on steroids. She is an incredibly shallow, materialistic character, with an excessive love of shoes. It might not be an exaggeration to suggest that the author went overboard with this portrayal, as it’s hard to imagine readers not becoming exasperated with Betsy―her personality and behaviour wears thin very quickly. On the other hand, as the target audience for the book are probably people not too dissimilar from Betsy, her annoying quirks may very well be viewed as endearing, and she herself deemed compelling.
The story, such as it is, begins in earnest once the pesky heroine finally accepts that she is a vampire. But she’s no ordinary vampire, of course. Betsy has a prophesied destiny to fulfil and, unsurprisingly, she spends most of the book trying to escape that destiny. In the meantime, a powerful rival vampire wants Betsy eliminated so she can never bring the prophecy to fruition, while the cliché (will they, won’t they) love interest struggles to persuade her to embrace her destiny.
As is to be expected of a run-of-the-mill urban fantasy, Undead And Unwed progresses in a predictable manner, and reaches a predictable conclusion. But to give the author her due, the narrative avoids being boring for almost the entire duration of the story. It’s only really the final 40 odd pages that become a chore to read, though that has a lot to do with how grating the main character has become by this point. Fortunately, this is a short novel, and it’s actually well written―enough to be a surprisingly engaging read that few people will have difficulty breezing through.