Protecting the Dead – Katherine Gilbert
I read this novel as part of the TBRindr programme.
237 pages| esKape Publishing| fantasy/paranormal/romance
3.5/5 (rounded to 3 on Goodreads)
The digest: a fun and uplifting fantasy/romance novel that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to people looking for a less serious foray into a supernatural setting.
Protecting the Dead is probably the first novel that I can remember reading which comes under the romance genre, let alone fantasy/paranormal/romance mix, so I didn’t go into the book expecting world-shattering plot twists or a relationship I could get behind. Fortunately, that didn’t really matter. The novel is a fun spin on traditional fantasy tropes and stereotypical character profiles, with a romance element which made me blush once or twice but is nowhere near as rowdy as I feared it might become.
The plot follows Lydia, the new tenant manager of a supernatural community, over a short period of time as she struggles to come to terms with exactly where she is and how normal it all seems to her. Why does she feel as if she knows other members of staff? Why is she not as freaked out by it all as one might expect her to be? And how is her boss, Geoffrey, so downright attractive? This obviously is not a serious novel seeking to reinvent the fantasy wheel, nor does it offer a ground-breaking romantic plot. But that’s okay. For me, Protecting the Dead proved to be an entertaining palette cleanser between heavier stories, and I found its almost whimsical nature (at times) to be just what I needed between epics.
Protecting the Dead opens at quite a pedestrian pace, Gilbert laying out quite a lot of information without a lot of action. But don’t let that put you off, especially if you are a fan of character-driven novels. Throughout the course of the story, you will see the environment change from almost idyllic and peaceful (with the odd noise coming from the bedroom closet), to… something quite different. The latter parts of the story are definitely more action-packed and fast-paced than what comes before, the aforementioned character development mostly paying off for a dramatic conclusion.
The worldbuilding in Protecting the Dead is quite entertaining – angels and demons rather peacefully exist on the Earthly plane, with our protagonist being the new tenant manager for the ‘good’ side of a supernatural care home. I found this to be quite a unique take on typical tropes, and appreciated the role that companionship plays throughout the story (I’m a bit sick of ‘monsters’ either being parts of extremist murderous groups or living in complete isolation). There are a couple of niggles which Gilbert could have made clearer – such as how exactly the general public react to such a community (if they know about it) or how the supernatural beings are kept secret from the populace, but the novel doesn’t seek to provide all the answers and perhaps it doesn’t have to. The story probably appeals to fans of shows such as Supernatural or Grimm – a bit of a ‘monster of the week’ narrative lacking unnecessary gravitas.
The characters, again, aren’t as deep as they could be and this might put off some readers, but the emotions of our protagonist are almost always clearly explained and I found myself slowly growing to care about her. She isn’t the easier to emphasise with (after all, she grew up with weird cultic parents always completing weird rituals and whatnot), and I would have preferred to spend more time with a smaller accompanying cast. Werewolves? Cat-women? Vampires? Ghosts? Yep, yep, yep, and yep. A solid amount of supernatural species (beyond those I have listed) but there just didn’t seem to be enough time discussing them all. As I have said in previous reviews, I really enjoy getting stuck into the different aspects of worldbuilding (e.g. magic) and characters, and for me, Gilbert would have perhaps have created a more interesting cast had more focus been put on the duality that the residents feel. There are also a couple more humorous species thrown in but I’ll let you find out about those for yourselves! My main annoyances come with how there is such a build up of Lydia’s past when this is never really explained, as well as how swiftly the concluding revelations are glossed over. I’m grateful for the lack of a proper love triangle and the strength that Lydia has in the face of bullies and creepers, but when I finished the novel I was a bit… put off the by ending. Won’t say if it’s happily-ever-after or not (you’ll have to read it yourself to find out), but I prefer my endings to be a bit win-some lose-some and I just don’t think there was enough of that here. No points docked for this though as it’s just a personal preference!
3.5/5 means that I found this novel to be a good piece of entertainment for what it is, but probably won’t be something I come back to in the future. Don’t expect too much in way of subverting any of its genres, and don’t expect world-class storytelling, and I’m sure you will have a good time reading it! That isn’t to disparage the author at all – for an indie book this is a perfectly fine text, and Gilbert has demonstrated the ability to tell a certain sort of story for which there is a large market! There are a few negatives, but these can be rather ignored should you view the book as light-hearted fun above all else.
I have chosen to round down to 3 on Goodreads as whilst the novel is good for light-hearted entertainment, I can’t honestly say it is closer to my 4/5 than my 3/5.
Thanks for reading – do have a look at this novel is if sounds interesting to you! Let me know what your thoughts are if you have already read it 🙂