This is the fifth book in MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series, following the death and times of Betsy, Queen of the Vampires. Though a Minnesota native, Betsy Taylor is the quintessential Valley Girl. Tall, blonde and leggy with a shoe fetish, she was living an ordinary life when she was killed in an auto accident—and rose again as Queen of the Vampires. Undead and Unpopular follows the trials and tribulations of Queen Betsy as she tries to come to terms with her undead life. Like the previous book, Undead and Unreturnable, Undead and Unpopular can stand on its own. However, it’s better to read the books in sequence, beginning with Undead and Unwed.
In Undead and Unpopular, Betsy is still planning her wedding to the vampire king and her consort, Eric Sinclair. But she has put those plans on hold to switch her attention to her surprise 31st birthday party—a party that she has firmly told friends and family that she does not want even as she makes a list of invitees. At the same time, a delegation of vampires from Europe arrive, ready to begin negotiations they should’ve started a year ago when Betsy first became Queen. Also arriving are Sophie and Liam, a vampire-human couple who want Queen Betsy’s approval of Sophie’s turning Liam into a vampire before he dies, some 40 years in the future from old age. And Betsy, in honor of reaching the big 3-1 and the anniversary of her death, decides that she would quit blood cold turkey.
Once again, Undead and Unpopular‘s opening line is great. Garrett, the feral vampire that knits, crochets, and lives in the basement, casually announces to Betsy that there is a zombie in the attic. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn’t live up to its opening. The flaws found in the previous book are even more pronounced here. The wide margins, big type, and wide open spaces between words are back, making Undead and Unpopular much less than it seems, and the book reads like a synopsis rather than a fully fleshed-out novel. We never discover why the zombie is lurking in the attic, which in and of itself is fine. Mysteries that linger from one book to the next are great as both a unifying thread and a lure to draw us to the next book. But Betsy and her friends and lover don’t wonder why either, even after she is attacked. And though she kills the shuffling, flesh-eating corpse, no one goes up to the attic to see the zombie for themselves, to find clues, or to even remove the rotting body. We’re just kind of left hanging.
Undead and Unpopular has a rushed feel to it, with the book skimming along the surface; it hits the high points but seldom reaches the depths or explores the breadth. There’s little tension, little emotional connection, even with the main characters. When first introduced, Betsy was a delightful combination of vanity and native shrewdness, with an eye for the absurd and a keen understanding of how to play on someone’s last nerve. However, in each subsequent book she is dumbed-down and made less, until in Undead and Unpopular she’s become a stereotypical blonde. Again, I would recommend Undead and Unwed to any who want to read Davidson at her best.
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