Zombie Island: A Shakespeare Undead Novel

Written by Lori Handeland
Review by Nanette Donohue

Imagine that Shakespeare is a vampire, and that the Dark Lady he wrote about in his sonnets is a zombie-hunter named Kate, and that they were both involved in the storm central to The Tempest, and you have the basic premise of Handeland’s alternative-history fantasy.

The muddled plot finds Shakespeare and Kate faking Kate’s death, a la Romeo and Juliet, only Kate’s “corpse” winds up on a ship bound for America. Shakespeare pursues, a storm ensues, and our hero and heroine are trapped on a zombie-filled island, forced to fight their way free. There are three done-to-death trends at play here — vampires, zombies, and mash-ups — and that may intrigue readers, but it won’t make them enjoy it. The battle scenes aren’t particularly exciting, the Shakespearean retellings come off as forced, and there’s not enough character or world development — two essential elements in fantasy novels — to make any of the featured players interesting. I don’t have a problem with authors playing with history, but this didn’t work.