Rating: 3 out of 5
In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective solving crimes involving other infecteds.
The last thing anyone needs is for a new tiger strain of the virus to start showing up among the Infecteds. Even worse, with one sniff Roan realizes that his connection to this tiger virus is personal and painful. Roan has also been asked by Dee to investigate the death of one of Dee’s former lovers.
Then the FBI wants him to investigate a new apocalypse cult of infecteds pushing for a violent revolution against normals. All around Roan, events are spiraling out of control. Just when his singular abilities are needed most, Roan develops new symptoms that might signify dire consequences if he doesn’t stop shifting at will. Roan finds himself at a crossroads and must make a difficult decision about his future.
It has taken me weeks to decide how to approach this review, hoping time would allow some sort of objectivity to layer over the disappointment and sadness this story produced. But that didn’t happen. My feelings towards Epitaph remain the same…I feel letdown and regretful that I didn’t stop at Undertow, a story where the promise of Roan McKitchen and his universe remain vibrant, gripping and full of anticipation for the future.
First of all, let me say that this has nothing to do with the fact that Epitaph is indeed that, an epitaph for Roan McKitchen, the Infecteds, and the complex, enthralling universe that Andrea Speed created back in 2010. Actually it began prior as it started as a serialized story on Andrea Speed’s website (stories now removed). No matter. From the beginning, Speed created in Roan McKitchen not only the tragic mythic hero but one for our ages, complete with t-shirts showcasing obscure bands and a dialog that snapped and sizzled. Roan’s conversations were always full of current references to books, songs, poems even events, places and people that demonstrated Roan’s high intelligence and sarcastic regard for society as a whole. Roan would have been amazing as a human but as an Infected child? He became heroic, memorable and magnetic in his hold over the others he meets and befriends as well as the readers who discovered him.
I am one of those enthralled readers. We readers have followed Roan through his soulmate relationship with Paris and the resulting heartbreak that ended with Paris’ death, a death that still gets to me. We have watched the transformation of Roan as the virus morphed and Roan figured out how to deal with that changing status no matter the pain, pills, and blood it cost him. Throughout seven books Andrea Speed kept developing and deepening her universe and that stunning creation of a cat virus. The wilder the transformations and spread of the virus throughout the population the more caught up in Roan’s world and Roan himself we became. Through discoveries that Roan’s tumors were packets of the virus, the changes in musculature that in once instance formed a protective plate that saved him, even to the fact that the Lion could be awake and thinking while Roan was not, all powerful images and concepts.
All that would be enough to satisfy any series but Speed’s vision grew larger, as did her science and virus. There was the memorable and heartbreaking Infected Pieta scene that had me in tears. What a brilliant image and the emotions it provoked in the onlookers watching Roan and the dying lion were the same ones that pulled on the readers hearts as well. There were chilling moments such as the one where Roan/Lion destroyed an Infected underground fight ring, aided by Infecteds in cat form (different species) who followed Roan and his orders as if he were their King. It was stunning and visionary, full of immense promise and speculation for future stories. And the one element that I always kept tucked away hoping to see resolved…the fact that Roan’s lion was as much in love with Paris as Roan was, an emotion that did not carry over to Dylan. Paris was that unique creation that matched Roan perfectly and Dylan’s character never was able to rise to the vibrancy and complexity that was Paris or Roan.
I could go on and on, about scene after scene that Andrea Speed filled with imaginative plot threads, unique elements and additional fantastic characters I took to heart much as the main ones. This series is filled with strong, magnetic people like the various Seattle Falcons hockey players (Grey, Tank, or Greg , not to mention such friends as Holden (my favorite along with Grey), Doctor Rosenberg, Fiona and Dee. Andrea Speed’s Infected series is chock full of people you could build series around and then some. And this large cast got better, more layered as the books and various storylines continued. Until the end. That sad, sorry, dispirited end.
Towards the end it was almost as if Speed was deconstructing her characters, pulling them apart like insects under a magnifying glass. Poor Grey, he always had a certain enigmatic allure to him. Not so much by the end of the book. It’s been reported that there is to be a Paris prequel and a Holden story. I don’t think I can bear it. Not after this.
I almost gave this story a much lower rating. Why? Well, not because it didn’t end as I hoped it would. No, that prerogative rests solely with the author. It’s their right to do whatever they want with their characters and story. No, its because this story was lacking the life, complexity and power of all the previous installments. I could have taken any ending had this story lived up to the quality of the previous stories. Reading this book was the equivalent of watching the blood drain from a dying animal, an animal you loved. Every scene was a sad, tired struggle, for the characters and this reader to get through. Even the major conflagration scenes here, ones that should have been bursting with explosive drama and fireworks were more of a dustup then all out battle. After that it was just one last diminished little journey to the finish line. All promise gone, all the splendid anticipation squandered, and worst of all, what an injustice for a heroic creation like Roan. How lifeless, limp and lame.
I should have stopped at Undertow. And I will do my best not to think any further about Epitaph. All the other stories remain well remembered and loved. For them and for Roan, I gave this story a 3 star rating. There were still flashes of inspiration and dialog that made me smile, however, infrequent and sparing they were.
Cover artist Anne Cain’s covers have been outstanding throughout the series, including this one.
ebook, 330 pages
Published November 18th 2014 by DSP Publications
Books in the Infected series in the order they were written and should be read: