Chaos Undead (The Shifter Chronicles #1)
Published: Oct. 28, 2013 (Carina Press)
Review source: copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review
Reviewed by: Jo
Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
When Marcus Shifter, a freelancer combat warlock for the Delwinn Council, chops the head off a shotgun brandishing zombie, he takes his earnings and walks away on a job well done; something felt off though. Seeking the advice of a dark necromancer on parole, Marcus gets the shock of a lifetime when the once decapitated zombie is up, brandishing weapons again and apparently healing. Definitely off…like, way off.
Marcus must use all his contacts to uncover just what is going on and clear the name of an innocent man from the clutches of the council. It soon becomes apparent though that dark magic, the likes of which is unheard of, is stirring and its reach goes much further than just one zombie. Armed with his sword and magical abilities that are still not quite up to speed after a hiatus from the skilled world, Marcus finds himself in the middle of a possibly apocalyptic fights that will test him like never before.
Chaos Undead has gotten me all enthused because this is going to be a fun world to play in. Normals (non-magical humans) have been aware of the Skilled (the supernatural) for a couple of decades but it’s still not quite smooth sailing. Marcus’ family, the Shifters, are extremely powerful and somewhat infamous after centuries of policing the skilled. Nowadays, the Delwinn council performs this task, and even though his father (with whom he has a great relationship) is a member, Marcus got issues with the council.
This is a large world so there is the curse of worldbuilding slowing down the pace in areas. Marcus’ investigation involves a lot of information gathering, each meeting providing a building block for not just the plot but the world as well. I never found it overwhelming, and it was broken up with some great action sequences, but the place I felt suffered the most was in some of the characters’ relationships. Marcus spends a good chuck of the book in the Underground, an in-between realm that caters to the fringes of skilled society, which was awesome (it reminded me of Knockturn Alley) but did mean we didn’t spend much time with earlier introduced characters until later in the book.
Which is a shame, because his parents are badass! Ever wondered what happens to paranormal romance couples a few decades down the road? Well the Shifters are a couple I’d loved to read the beginnings of. Marcus meets some characters (in every sense of the word) in the underground, with Steve the Minotaur and Pip the bookworm being highlights. The one character I didn’t really get on with was Quinn, daughter of the dark necromancer. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her, but she didn’t feel as fleshed at as the other characters. While I enjoyed seeing Marcus strive to impress her, the attraction felt rushed.
I really enjoyed being inside Marcus’ head. He’s caring, funny and comes across as a genuinely good guy. He’s also self-deprecating, doesn’t see himself as a hero and has a huge case of the guilts. His reason for walking away from his magic for a time reveals itself as the plot progresses and I liked that there was already character growth in this first installment.
Chaos Undead is a great introduction, showcasing a likeable main character and tons of potential to this world. While I had a couple of issues, the story kept me intrigued, with a villain that’s bat crap crazy (in a super extreme and fun way) and a big all-out-battle climax. It’s Marcus’ contention with the council and their shady vibes, however, that will have me reaching for the next book, Summoned Chaos, out July 28.
Sexual content: none