Debut Review – Deadtown by Nancy Holzner


by Nancy Holzner
Penguin/Ace Fantasy
Paperback – $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reviewed by Deborah Blake

Victory Vaughn is Boston’s only professional demon slayer, in a city where the vampires, werewolves and zombies are confined to a quarantined section called Deadtown. Not only is she dealing with a workaholic werewolf sort-of boyfriend, a rash teenage zombie apprentice, and a demanding, demon-ridden client, but now the Hellion who murdered her father has come back for her. And he intends to destroy the entire city in the process.

I confess—I wasn’t sure whether or not this book was for me. I love a lot of urban fantasy and some of my favorite authors write in this genre; if you haven’t checked out C. E. Murphy, Jeri Smith-Ready and Kim Harrison, run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore. But I’m not a big fan of the new zombie trend, and some urban fantasies are just too dark or too sexy (more sex than plot, for instance) for my taste.

Happily, Ms. Holzner’s book didn’t fall into either of these categories, and she actually found a way to make zombie characters sympathetic and even likable; something I wouldn’t have thought was possible. Her world-building is detailed, plausible, and highly original, and she doesn’t fall back on too many of the classic paranormal tropes in an effort to tell her story.

DEADTOWN’s protagonist, Vicky Vaughn, is real and believable, and the reader can identify with her problems, even when they are set in a world that is somewhat different from ours. The book jumps right into the paranormal; starting out with Vicky fighting demons in her client’s dreamscape reality, along with her zombie apprentice Tina, who wreaks havoc right and left.

As I said before, Ms. Holzner does a great job of making zombies more appealing than I ever would have thought possible. Three years earlier, a plague hit a localized area of Boston, turning regular folks into the walking dead. One of the reoccurring themes of the book revolves around prejudice and intolerance (in this case toward zombies and other paranormal citizens), and the author handles it well, without preachiness or heavy-handed melodrama.

I only had a couple of small complaints about the book—really small, and nothing that would stop me from recommending it. I sometimes had a hard time believing that Vicky would continue to put up with Tina’s impetuous and often destructive behavior. Vicky’s job as a demon slayer is so important; the reader has to wonder why she would continue trying to train this girl to follow in her footsteps. I also thought the book dragged a bit in a few spots, despite the almost non-stop action. But seriously, these are tiny issues and the rest of the book more than makes up for them.

Overall, however, I found the book entertaining and highly readable. The characters were interesting and believable, and the dynamics of the protagonist’ difficult family and social relationships were as realistic as her world was imaginative.

I am looking forward to the author’s next book and to returning to DEADTOWN. Although I have to say, I’m really glad I don’t have to live there!


Deborah Blake is one of my most enthusiastic followers, and is constantly linking and Friday Following this blog. I know she loves urban fantasy, so when I received this novel and it wasn’t really for me, I thought of her. Here is her bio:

Deborah is the published author of three nonfiction books on Witchcraft from Llewellyn, with two more coming out this year. She has also written three novels that are as yet— alas— unpublished, including an urban fantasy. Her prize-winning short story, “Dead and (Mostly) Gone” appeared in THE PAGAN ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION, and she won the EMILY “Best of the Best” award in 2009 for her novel WITCH EVER WAY YOU CAN. She also gives two popular online writing workshops, “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author” and “Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Original Paranormal Characters.”

Ms. Blake lives in upstate NY in a 100 year old farmhouse with five cats who occasionally allow her to stop petting them long enough to write something. She can be found at and as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Thoughts to “Debut Review – Deadtown by Nancy Holzner”

  1. I started this book and I might have finished it if I had not had another urban fantasy to read, plus one I had just finished up. What I read was fun, so I thought it deserved a review by a true fan of urban fantasy. Thanks Deborah!

  2. Deborah Blake

    You’re welcome–I had a blast doing it!

  3. Chicory

    “actually found a way to make zombie characters sympathetic and likable -something I wouldn’t have thought possible.” Off topic, but that line made me think of Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett can make ANYTHING sympathetic and likable. He had me sympathizing with trees in `Reaper Man.’

  4. Deadtown is an excellent read, and I liked the different take on zombies. Especially the aspects dealing with their hunger.

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by deborahblake: Check out my guest review at the Debuts and Reviews site! The book is an urban fantasy.

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