Thursday, 10 February 2011

Review: Robin Hood vs The Plague Undead (Mash Ups) by James Black

What happens when Robin Hood and his Merry Men are faced with a plague of zombies? Somehow, Robin must figure out a way to defeat the most difficult and dangerous enemy he's ever faced, and save the country from destruction...

There have been some brilliant YA zombie books released in recent years. The first that spring to mind are The Enemy and The Dead, both by Charlie Higson, and the soon-to-be-published Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (finished this yesterday, watch this space for my review). Zombies seem to be one of the next big things in YA literature and a number of publishers have zombie related releases coming this year (the one I am most intrigued about is Dearly Departed by Lia Habel, described by the lovely people at RHCB as Gone With The Wind vs Dawn of the Dead). Zombies are a great way of engaging boys and grabbing their attention, as we all know that reluctant reader boys love a bit of gore, and Orchard Books, through author James Black, are another publishing house with a new zombie book aimed at just this market.

However, Black's book is a little different from others on the market at the moment as it is a Mash Up. The mash up is a concept that has been popular in the adult market for a couple of years now (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies being the obvious example), but it is now making the transfer over to a younger audience, especially as a way of marketing books to boys, and Robin Hood vs The Plague Undead is the first in a planned series of Mash Ups books written by James Black. Yes, you read correctly, I did say Robin Hood, and this book is exactly what is says on the cover - the infamous outlaw of Sherwood Forest battling against a hoard of zombies. Zombie purists may hate it; Robin Hood officianados may hate it even more. But reluctant reader boys of aged 10 and above will probably love it.

When reading books for review I sometimes have to remind myself to look at these books from the point of view of a young male reader. As an adult reader I am far more picky about what I enjoy (or not) about a book, whilst an 11 year old who is not particularly fond of reading more may be a little less discerning. I've spent many hours talking to boys like this at school, and when I mention things like characterisation they tend to give me a blank look. But the moment I start talking about action, fights, blood and gore for some reason they become far more animated. If the first chapter is full of action, with a cliffhanger at its end, and the pace of the ensuing story is fast and exciting, then they can so easily be hooked by a book. 

Personally I felt that Robin Hood vs The Plague Undead ticks all of these boxes, even though I did not enjoy it hugely myself. I think I have been spoiled recently with the quality of Higson's zombie stories and couldn't help but compare them, and this one falls well short of The Enemy and The Dead in all areas. Higson's books are, however, aimed at a slightly older audience, and their greater page count and more complicated themes make them less accessible for struggling readers, whilst James Black's book is a much easier read (unless you're not a gore fan that is). I know it is going to be a hit with certain boys at school.

Robin Hood vs The Plague Undead was published on 3rd February and my thanks go to Orchard Books for sending me a copy to review. I have already mentioned that this is the first in a series, with the next book Blackbeard's Pirates vs The Evil Mummies, due to released in July. 

1 comment:

  1. Can see zombies getting old even faster than vampires... Publishers need to try to be more original, especially in kids' fantasy where the bar is so high.