Review: Unquiet Dead

Unquiet Dead by Chris Pavesic audiobook cover. A sepia-tinted woman in a steampunk costume is bordered by a red banner bearing the title. Unquiet Dead by Chris Pavesic.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 4 hrs 22 mins.

The Unquiet Dead by Chris Pavesic is billed as a 'Steampunk Mystery', which I was excited to start listening to. Almost immediately, however, I was introduced to a theme I had missed in the summary: zombies. (I don't think it's a spoiler as although it isn't mentioned in the summary given in my Audible library, it is referenced on the website.)

Since the decline in my health a few years ago I've struggled with horror, both on TV and in audiobooks. As a previously avid fan of The Walking Dead I never used to mind a bit of gore, and certainly couldn't be called squeamish. Now, though, my worn-out body can't handle the adrenaline spike I get from imagining having my world torn asunder as it would be in such a terrifying dystopia. So it's fair to say that I knew I was going to struggle to keep going, but it's testament to the richness of the world-building that I was determined to try.

Despite a lot of steampunk and cyberpunk elements, this book still felt - to me - more like it was edging towards high fantasy. I'm more familiar with the lighter steampunk/fantasy style of series like The Invisible Library, The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, The Parasol Protectorate, and The Dark Days Club. Seelie court politics, warring factions, elves in flowing robes, and an undead plague in the country weren't really what I was expecting from a 'steampunk mystery', but I think there that the fault was mine.

Despite this, the author paints a vivid picture of this alien world, introducing the characters and the lands they inhabit without bombarding the reader with as-yet incomprehensible information. Chiaroscuro grows as we become more familiar with it, and always retains the sense that there is much more to be explored.

The narrator, Penny Scott-Andrews, was also an unexpected revelation. Initially I wondered how well I would settle into her voice, (and particularly the hard 's' sounds that jumped out at my fractious nerves as I lay in bed, listening to this book instead of putting away the Christmas decorations and finding a home for 26 new toiletry gift sets...). Soon her spirited performance outshone my initial qualms, and the lively way she throws herself from character to character, traversing multiple accents and contrasting personalities won me round and kept me listening to the end.

Though this turned out not to be quite "my" kind of book, it was entertaining and well crafted, and I would recommend it to fans of horror or high fantasy who would like to explore steampunk novels but aren't sure where to start, or who have found other examples to be too lightweight.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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2 comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for creating such an immersive world, and allowing me to glimpse a little of it.

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