Speculating on SpecFic

Fantastic Literature: From epic fantasy to fairytales to myth-making

Deadly Hemlock - Kathleen Peacock When I first read the blurb of Deadly Hemlock I was immediately drawn in - I wanted to see how the world reacts to the news that werewolves do exist and are murdering people. Upon reading the book I discovered that I had mis-interpreted the story: Deadly Hemlock doesn't resemble the world of True Blood in any way (where vampires have 'come out of the closet' and have integrated into main stream society) - the werewolves in this world are stripped of their rights and shipped off to containment compounds, where they are forced to live out their lives in conditions bordering on inhumane. But extremist groups like the Trackers want to exterminate everyone who has been infected with the virus, so society is largely divided on the issue of how handle them. Are werewolves humans who have contracted a disease, or animals that should be locked up, or worse, killed?In the midst of all this is Mac, struggling to move on after the horrific death of her best friend at the hands of a werewolf. She used to be part of a group of four friends: herself and Amy, Amy's boyfriend Jason and his best friend Kyle. For the last three years these four have been inseparable. Until Amy's death sets Jason on a path of self-destruction and Kyle wants nothing more to do with him. The relationships between the friends, before and after Amy's death, are believable - it's very easy to empathise with Jason and see why he blames himself, and why Kyle can't stand to be around him anymore, and feel sorry for Mackenzie, who is in the middle, trying desperately to keep her friends together. When I read the blurb I was sceptical of Mac's reasons for investigating the murder herself - that's a pretty stupid thing to do! But I understood how much she wanted to bring the murderer to justice so she would get her friends back, so things would begin to resemble 'normal' again.While I saw some of the romance in the book coming early on, I love the way Kathleen Peacock handled it. Again, it is extremely realistic - friends never want to ruin what they have for the possibility of something more, and I think the characters are motivated in believable ways. Other aspects of the romance in the story caught me completely by surprise, but once revealed they made complete sense. I hate love triangles, I wish authors didn't include them in their YA novels. But this one is real - this can happen to anyone, and it makes the story sweeter and more desperate at the same time.So, great relationships, engaging plot, skilful world building. Check, check, check. Why then, wasn't I overwhelmed with love for Deadly Hemlock? Why wasn't I furiously flipping pages to see how it all turns out? I feel like I was never allowed to know Mac. She internalizes everything, and as Kyle points out, holds everything and everyone at a distance. Including the reader. So while I can sympathise all I want, at the end of the day I didn't have an emotional investment in the story. I did have one in the characters, but even when I read the epilogue and read that tantalising tid-bit that should have left me desperate for the sequel, my reaction was bland. More along the lines of 'Great there's a sequel, I'll have to remember to buy it' rather than 'I have to wait how long before I can what happens next ... is there a novella, is there anything to tie me over?'Make no mistake: I will be reading the next book or books. I really enjoyed Deadly Hemlock and believe fans of YA will too. And if you're into urban fantasy or dystopian stories then I urge you to try it: the book has elements of both genres in it and may surprise you.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.