Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Deadmen Walking may kick off a new series, but it’s so interconnected to previous works that newcomers may find it lacking context.
It’s very much possible to do an interconnected literary universe, much like how DC and Marvel Comics are releasing multiple movies every year to build up their cinematic versions. And it appears that Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Deadmen Walking falls under that category. However, it also marks the beginning of a new series.
Cameron Jack seeks out Devyl Bane, pirate, who turns out not to be a pirate so much as a supernatural hunter. He has a mission: stop his ex-wife from coming to terrorize the human world. With a motley crew, all brought back to life just like him, it’s up to the men and women of the Sea Witch to try and stop things.
On the one hand, Deadmen Walking has some great action beats. Additionally, its mythology seems reasonably coherent, if cobbled together from several different sources. However, it seems a little too inaccessible for putative new readers. It gets a rating of 2/5 stars from this reviewer.
There’s a very interesting world mythology at work here. Kenyon draws on vodou, Norse mythology, angel myth, and throws in some Greek here and there just to keep things interesting. That’s just a partial list, too. It very much reminds a reader of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, just without Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, and one suspects that Kenyon looked to them for inspiration here and there.
Putting Cameron Jack in the story provides Kenyon with the ability to help contextualize and explain all of the different ideas she seems to be pulling in from previous series. For the sake of clarity: yours truly has not read the Hellchasers or The Dark-Hunters series. I’m coming in completely blind here, although I’m familiar with the mythologies she’s working with at the very least. As a character, Cameron has natural and reasonable reactions. However, due to plot events, Kenyon effectively sets her outside the story, and that’s a shame.
Not having read Kenyon’s other series makes reading Deadmen Walking an exercise in trying to put two, the letter s, and a couple of symbols together and hoping that the resulting answer makes some modicum of sense. This isn’t to say that Kenyon doesn’t try and explain things. It seems that the purpose is to try and bring new readers like myself up to speed. However, there’s just so much that it could leave a reader pretty scrambled up and still not sure of certain characters’ ancestry, among other things. Additionally, some explanations never end up paying off, which can be frustrating as well.
Furthermore, the narration goes at approximately the speed of light. Events don’t feel like they unfold naturally, but just sort of happen to move things forward. A reader can see some things ahead of time. However, it doesn’t feel quite as satisfying here, because before long, it seems like things switch to something else entirely.
Finally, there were also some issues with word choice throughout. It’s a book about pirates. One practically expects the “me”s and references to a certain locker. However, the characters’ dialogue often felt too pirate-y … or it felt somewhat unnatural. The narration also defaulted to some more modern-feeling word choices; I caught at least one “As if!” in print, despite the book being set primarily in 1716. Although inhabitants of the Caribbean, resurrected or no, may very well have said things like that, it doesn’t feel like it fits with the setting Kenyon is trying to evoke.
Deadmen Walking seems like a novel for fans of Kenyon first and foremost. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that those trying to break in may finish the book feeling more puzzled than when they first started it.
Deadmen Walking hits shelves today from Tor.