Audiobook Review: THE UNDYING by Ethan Reid (Narr. Candace Thaxton)

The UndyingThe Undying fulfilled most of the expectations created by its Eiffel Tower surrounded by undead hands lifted and ready to feast. Ethan Reid wrote an apocalyptic experience in France as authentic as I could have hoped for.

The narrator, Candace Thaxton, vocalizes French accents with flair and keeps us grounded in each character’s personality. When characters use French, Reid uses an effective translation method directly after (except where we’ve learned what the words mean). I don’t know if Reid traveled through France prior to or while writing this, but it feels like his grasp of the local setting is that of a native’s, while also catering to the point of view character being an American visiting for the first time.

In short, are you looking for an apocalyptic trip into France as it collapses? Good, you found it.

Next up is how Reid executed the monster aspect to his apocalypse. I’m glad to say his monsters felt unique enough to keep me intrigued and at times, scared. They are most like the monsters depicted in the movie version of I Am Legend, vampiric monsters that arise and mutate from the bodies of dead humans. A small part of this book entertains the mystery of their arrival and if it relates to meteor fragments that have fallen across France. They also are unique in their ability to get into people’s minds. I’ll leave details about that for you to discover in your read.

Thumbs up for the monster aspect, as well.

So, why the three star rating if I’ve given my thumbs up to the author’s setting and monster creation? (I’ll add the narration and craft of prose as solid contributions, as well.)

Unfortunately, the characters and, possibly, the plot did not lift the story into one that I really enjoyed. Our main character is a college-aged girl who has come to France to visit friends after her father passed away. Reid shares glimpses of her life leading up to the loss of her father, how she lacked the strength to see him before he died, and the guilt that she feels in the aftermath. His death left her in a recluse state, and this trip is meant to help her break through that mental state. I empathized with her in this recent loss and how she must feel having missed her chance to say goodbye, but that issue felt emotionally muffled because the main conflict was her survival during the monster invasion of France. It’s nice to have a leading character with a past that makes us care about their survival, but I want the main emotional battleground to act out in the present.

The side characters didn’t do enough to make me enjoy that level of tension in the present, and “merely” running from monsters is a difficult means of carrying the story. She has found a baby and, by means of her being a good person, must find a way to keep the boy safe while she runs through streets and underground France searching for somewhere safe. That aspect was a nice touch to create sympathy for her, and interest in their survival, but the baby often felt like just a thing she had to carry as she searched for an escape. There was one point where she had to do something drastic to get the baby to safety, but looking back, I’m not sure I understand exactly how she did it.

I give The Undying 3.5 stars for mature writing in setting and action, but whether I’d recommend it remains up in the air because of a lack of interest in the characters. I’ve started the next book and think it has improved, partly because of how the characters have changed over time. Halfway through The Undying: Shades, I’m coming back to this review to say this series deserves a shot. Ethan Reid is a storyteller to follow and Candace Thaxton a narrator I’m growing more and more fond of.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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