Book Review – The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby

The Marching Dead
The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marius don Hellespont is dead bored. Literally. Despite being life-challenged he won the heart of the girl he loved and retired to the country with her, where with nary a shady scheme in sight, he’s bored out of his considerable wits.

Then the dead stop dying, his love gets kidnapped, and as Marius chases after her, he finds himself in a player in a much bigger game – a war between the dead and the living. Unsatisfied with being King of the Dead below, Scorbus wants to eradicate all the living and rule over both above and below.

Having not read The Corpse Rat King, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised by The Marching Dead. While it started off somewhat stereotypically (fridging the hero’s love to motivate him), the rest of the novel was less predictable and quite enjoyable.

While I knew I was missing come context and character back-story from the Corpse Rat King, it didn’t stop me enjoying The Marching Dead – Battersby had enough callbacks with cues for me to pick up the salient points as I read. That said, the characters seemed fairly well formed with minimal development during this book, something which may have been different for those introduced to them in the prequel. I also think Marius’s visit to his adolescent home and catchup with his parents may have had a stronger impact on those who’d read him in the prequel, but it’s difficult to say.

The plot was solid, and while it felt like it was on rails for the first half, it was deliberately set up that way with the characters also aware of it. It was only in the second half to last third that the characters started to act a bit more independently, and I found that a much more interesting read.

I enjoyed Battersby’s writing style, and in particular the incredibly black and inappropriate humour dotted throughout. While it had me laughing out loud, others may react a little differently.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the Corpse Rat King, then you’ll probably enjoy this. If you haven’t, and enjoy some irreverent, black-comedy fantasy, then I’d suggest starting with that, but this does work remarkably well as a standalone if you’ve acquired a copy.


Disclaimer: Whilst I read this as a judge for the 2013 Aurealis Awards, this review is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging co-ordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

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