Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Death of a Saint

Title: Death of a Saint
Author: Lily Herne
(Sarah and Savannah Lotz)
Pages: 346
ISBN: 9780143530077
Series: Mall Rats #2
Publisher: Puffin (Penguin)
Published: April 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

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Secrets. Everyone has them. But what if your secret is something so unthinkable that you can't even admit it to yourself?

Exiled from the city enclave for crimes against the Resurrectionist State, teen rebels Lele, Ginger, Ash and Saint -- aka the Mall Rats -- are hiding out in the Deadlands, a once-prosperous area now swarming with the living dead. With the sinister Guardians breathing down their necks, the Mall Rats face a stark choice: return to the enclave and try to evade capture or leave Cape Town in search of other survivors. But what if the rest of South Africa is nothing but a zombie-infested wasteland? Will they be able to survive on the road if all they have is each other, or will their secrets tear them apart? After all, only Lele knows the shocking truth as to why the dead leave the Mall Rats unscathed -- knowledge that she can't bring herself to share. And she's not the only Mall Rat harbouring a dangerous secret ...

The Mall Rats are back and they are better than ever! Death of a Saint takes place shortly after the events of Deadlands, the first book in the series. Conditions in the enclave are deteriorating, the Mall Rats have lost their hideaway and after a run-in with the Resurrectionists they are forced to leave Cape Town to go in search of other survivors. Leaving everything familiar behind Lele, Ash, Ginger and Saint venture into the unknown with one question looming large - are there even any other survivors left to find?

While I enjoyed Deadlands there were some things about the writing style that annoyed me (short chapters, Lele addressing an audience and the overuse of prognostications), but I’m glad to say that Death of a Saint is better in every way. The writing is much more mature and feels more refined. The addition of Saint as a viewpoint character is a very welcome change especially if, like me, you aren’t that fond of Lele. Saint adds her own unique perspective on events and gives some relief from Lele’s constant angst over Ash. My only criticism is that Lele and Saint’s voices are quite similar. Since the chapters constantly alternate between them it’s quite easy to lose track of who is narrating forcing you to quickly check the chapter starts to see whose turn it is.

Ginger is still my favorite character and he manages to steal the show yet again. His quips are hilarious and after adopting a pet hyena called Bambi, he has arguably the best line of the entire novel, “Don’t shoot! I have a hyena!” (p 150). We also get to see his more vulnerable side and he finally gets a well-deserved chance at romance.

Some new characters are added into the mix. The beautiful and far too likeable Ember adds even more strain to the relationship between Lele and Ash, and the enigmatic Lucien holds a shocking revelation about Ash’s past.

There’s not as much action or zombie ass-kicking as in Deadlands. In fact the Mall Rats seem to treat the rotters far more humanely, even going so far as pitying them when they are mistreated. On their travels through a decimated South Africa they soon discover that their fellow humans are far more dangerous and devious than the rotters could ever be.

Ultimately Death of a Saint is all about the journey, both physical and emotional. It explores the relationships between the characters and how those relationships evolve over time. It’s these diverse, well-crafted characters which makes the novel such a great read. You get drawn into their world and soon find yourself wholly emotionally invested, turning the pages at a frenzied pace to discover what happens to your favorite.

The ending has a great cliffhanger twist which left me awestruck. Even the sneak preview of the next installment, The Army of the Left, couldn’t sate my craving for more. Each novel in the series seems to get better and the all too brief sneak preview hints at even better things to come. I can’t wait!

The Verdict:
Death of a Saint is a stunning read with great characters. Herne manages to deftly weave the different cultures and backgrounds into a believable tapestry of what a decimated, post-apocalyptic South Africa could be like. Highly recommended even if YA isn’t your normal thing.

The Rating: 8/10 (Very Good)

Those in the UK and other Commonwealth countries can look forward to the release of both Deadlands and Death of a Saint in 2013. Corsair, an imprint of Constable & Robinson, has recently acquired the publication rights for these territories. The first book is set for a Spring 2013 release with the second installment following later.

Thanks to Candice from Penguin Books South Africa for providing the review copy.


  1. Great review! I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy :)

  2. Excellent! You've just made my to be read list longer.

    And also, hi, I'm new to your blog, nice to meet you. You're the first book review blog I found that wasn't strictly YA. You are elusive!


    1. Thanks for stopping by Jamie. Glad you liked the review.

      YA seems to be the major thing right now so almost all book bloggers seem to focus on that making us other bloggers seem to be the exception. Heck, male bloggers are even more elusive. Guess I'm in the minority of a minority! ;)

  3. I just finished Deadlands and I'm proud to say I'm a fellow South African! I'm getting DoaS today! I have to read it to satisfy my hunger for more! Deadlands was beyond what I ever thought it could be but I know DoaS will blow my mind!

    1. I really enjoyed it so I hope you do too. Let me know what you think about it. I've had some feedback that some people dislike the fact that it focuses more on the characters than moving the plot forward.