Reading Sanctum #17

One of the highlights of my year was reading The Harvesting series by Melanie Karsak. This series of novels was a truly unique reading experience that begins with a global pandemic and quickly turns into a zombie apocalypse, but incorporates elements usually found in urban fantasies. I considered it something akin to a kitchen sink story.

The Harvesting is not just the title to the box set, but to the first novel as well. This first book initiates a mash-up that in my humble opinion works really well. This is the third time that I read through the series, and I figured I should write something about it. Many people do not care for the metaphysical, spiritual, fantasy aspects, but I wholeheartedly disagree.

Karsak hinted about those areas from the very beginning when she writes about Layla’s Russian grandmother being consulted by the townsfolk as being connected to the ethereal. I ordinarily do not go for the paranormal, fae, urban fantasy, sub-genre, but because I read so much hardcore horror gore-fests and especially zombie post-apocalypse end-of-the-world scenarios, I found this a refreshing change. Like I said, it is my third time in ten years.

Layla Petrovich works for the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. She is a curator and docent to the historical weapons wing (swords and such). When a global pandemic that looks like the flu, begins to explode into a catastrophe, Layla returns to her hometown, Hamletville.

Although she has spent her entire adult-life attempting to escape her smalltown roots, Hamletville is where her grandmother lives, and she feels an incredible urge to protect her. Little does she know that her grandmother has been preparing for this disaster. It has been revealed to her and only her grandmother has witnessed in her visions the full scope of the danger.

Book 2 is titled Midway and the initial reaction which you might have is, “Am I reading the wrong book?” Book One ends on a cliffhanger. Reading this book right after the first one, confused me because this is a totally new set of characters in a completely different setting, but gradually I came to understand that these characters are going to meet the other characters somewhere along the line.

Here the characters are from a carnival. Cricket is the Tilt-a-Whirl girl who wears overalls and carries an over-sized wrench. She has a dog, Puck and pals around with Madam Vella, the fortune teller with a true gift.

I was still enjoying the mashup idea of having a zombie apocalypse in the midst of an urban fantasy, but I get a sense that one of the characters might be a metamorph and that might be a bridge too far, although if the reader can accept that this is going to be a kitchen sink type of book (a book that incorporates all sorts of genres) then I guess I should be able to accept that. I have to admit that I am enjoying the originality flourishes that I have rarely found in other books. This is a really good series.

The Shadow Aspect is Book 3 in The Harvesting series. The novel picks up right where the Harvesting left off with a cliffhanger that really stayed on hold throughout Midway, but the story immediately follows Layla and her group having been misled and lied to. They believed that they were being taken out of a sticky situation to safety, but it was more like out of the frying pan and into the fire. Enough said about that.

The narrative really moves quickly, even though the survivors are hiding out in relative safety for most of the book as they try to re-establish a makeshift society, but as always, there are those wanting to muck things up. Really strong, quick-paced story with heart, and all the feels while also providing horror, gore, pathos, and a little magic for those that like fae. For those that think that zombies are not enough, there are vampires, too.

In this fourth installment of The Harvesting, the genre bending zombie apocalypse, horror fantasy titled Witch Wood, written by Melanie Karsak, our cast of characters is once again left in a state of suspension while the reader learns of another set of characters and how they have fared in this apocalyptic world.

Like the novella between the first and the third, Book 4 is used as an opportunity to prologue and write about characters that will become important in the final chapter. Luckily, I acquired all five installments at one time, or I might have had a difficult time following along.

I continue to love the mixture of characters which is a hodge-podge mix of human horror tropes, fae, vampires, zombies, and witches now led by Amelia. The kitchen-sink type has led to an innovative mix that I have found fantastic because of its distinctive take on the zombie apocalypse. This part was too short but almost perfect.

Layla, Cricket, and Amelia have made a way forward for their respective groups in this apocalyptic world that is a mash-up of zombie horror and fantasy characters: kitsune, vampires, fae, witches, zombies, chicks with swords, and metamorphs.

In this last chapter of The Harvesting series, the world quite literally is being torn apart by the keepers of the earth as they punish humanity with a plague of the walking undead. The three main characters must cooperate to find a safe place that will not only allow humanity to survive but thrive as well. This is a strong finish I recommend it highly.

I always worry about overstating with hyperbolic gushing about the things that excite me, but I have given my caveats and for me this unique vision of the Zombie Apocalypse is 4 and a half out of 5 Grey Geeks.

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