Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Harvesting (Book 1 of the Harvesting Trilogy) by Melanie Karsak

The Harvesting

Blurb from the Author's Website:
It's all fun and games until someone ends up undead.

Though Layla reluctantly returns home to rural Hamletville after a desperate call from her psychic grandmother, she could never have anticipated the horror of what Grandma Petrovich has foreseen. The residents of Hamletville will need Layla's help if they are to survive the zombie apocalypse that's upon them. But that is not the only problem. With mankind silenced, it soon becomes apparent that we were never alone. As the beings living on the fringe seek to reclaim power, Layla must find a way to protect the ones she loves or all humanity may be lost.


Sweet Mary, mother of god, this book was all kinds of awesome.  I first learned of it from Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer ( who also loved it.

Layla is living in Washington D.C. and working as a medieval weapons museum curator and instructor (of the practical, medieval weapons-wielding kind), when she receives a very mysterious and brief call from her mystic and psychic Russian grandmother telling her to come home right away. 

Turns out the zombie apocalypse is about to happen, and Grandma Petrovich is a big believer in being prepared. The incredibly psychic Grandma P. has bought huge stockpiles of food, fuel, weapons and ammo, and has her property fenced in.  Next thing Layla knows, Grandma P. has given her a magic mushroom tea to open up Layla's considerable (but latent) psychic abilities.  She wakes up the next morning with a whopping hangover to discover the apocalypse is at hand, Grandma P. is nowhere to be found, and zombies are at the gate.  Pretty soon a Native American warrior spirit tells her to save the town survivors, which Layla does in a slam-bang action scene using a fierce combination of medieval and modern weaponry.

With her calm presence, her extensive academic background in studying medieval battle tactics (because life gets down to the non-electric basics mighty fast during the zombie apocalypse, folks), and her skill with weapons, Layla soon becomes the leader of the survivors.  All while dealing with her new second sight and the fact that her high-school sweetheart (who betrayed her) is still alive and human.  She excels at strategy and staying alive.

After a few months the survivors are found by a mysterious group that comes in a boat across the lake.  They promise them a safe haven at an island luxury hotel.  But something is off about the newcomers, and another frightening adventure with a new enemy is just beginning.  Layla can't convince her friends to stay where they are, and is forced to go with them to try and protect them.  By this time Layla has embraced her abilities, and the story is richly woven with creatures and tales from folklore.

I won't go into further detail because it would spoil the ending of the story, which is really a fantastic beginning to Book 2. 

Reading this literally left me breathless, as I kept going, wanting to know what happens next.  Layla is a fabulous heroine.  Reluctant, grieving, ethical, smart, and capable, she is a superior leader, a fiercely loyal friend and just all-around wonderful.  She does the job because people are depending on her and because it's the right thing to do.  And she is  damn good at it.

This story had so many fantastic elements all wrapped up in one superbly written and plotted book.  Folklore, fairies, magic, zombies, medieval weapons and battle strategy, all held together by the very human drama playing out with a small group of survivors, who may be on their way to losing status as the dominant species.  
I have a particular interest in folklore, and reading this absolutely delighted me - I haven't read this many references to classical folklore since I cracked open one of my Katharine Briggs books!

Book 2 is The Shadow Aspect, and the publication date is May 1, 2013.

For more information check out the author's website at 


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