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Your Servants and Your People by David Towsey

Your Servants and Your People is a direct sequel to Your Brother’s Blood. With that in mind it is entirely possible that this review may contain some minor spoilers if you haven’t read book one in the series. Warning done, onwards…

Seven years after Thomas returned as a Walkin’, the McDermott family are looking for a new life and Thomas has set his heart on starting a farmstead near the remote outpost of Fort Wilson.

But the teachings of J.S. Barkley are not so easily forsaken – there are those who would see the sinners dead, and they are slowly closing in.

Your Brother’s Blood, David Towsey’s début novel, was something of a revelation. I’ve read a fair number of zombie novels in my time, and it’s always a pleasure to discover a book that so successfully injects new life into the undead hordes. Pulling together elements of the traditional western and mashing it together with zombie horror, Towsey has created a unique and engrossing novel. I’m a great believer that you can’t beat a bit of zombie action. Turns out things can be even more entertaining when the undead aren’t focussed on brain munching. I’ve been looking forward to this second book for a while now, and this week I finally got the opportunity to give it a jolly good read.

Many years have passed since the last time we met Thomas McDermott. Some things, however, remain exactly the same as before. The Walkin’ are still considered sub-human and untrustworthy by many. They are viewed with suspicion wherever they go. The only option for the McDermotts is for the family to travel far out into the wilderness. In an effort to avoid continued persecution they need to find a place they can call their own, well away from everyone else.

Nearby the new McDermott homestead, this second book also follows a troop of men who are tasked with securing the backwoods against the still present threat of the Redcoats. These soldiers are the lowest of the low, nothing but grunts really. You can’t but help feeling sorry for them. There are a couple of them, Bryn and Silas, who are forced to confront all manner of horrors. Both men find themselves forever changed by their experiences.

While I was reading, I really enjoyed the detail that Towsey includes in his descriptions of places and people. There was a film back in 1999 called Ravenous directed by Antonia Bird that featured a similar group of soldiers stuck in the wilderness who end up turning on one another. They end up going full-on insane and resorting to cannibalism in order to survive. There’s no cannibalism in Your Servants and Your People, surprising I know, but remember it isn’t that kind of zombie novel. The book does however have a similar tonally quality to the film, there is an ever growing sense of impending doom. You just know that at some point, everything is going to go horribly and spectacularly wrong. Characters battle against this feeling with a grim determination, but you know that the outcome is going to bleak.

The book ends with a series of tantalising scenes, returning to each of the McDermott’s in turn. These vignettes prove Towsey has successfully expanded upon his original premise, which focused primarily on Thomas, and has grown the narrative so now there are multiple plot strands for each of the family. Thomas’ wife Sarah and his daughter Mary now have their own roads to follow. I can’t wait to see how each of these respective stories plays out in the final part of the trilogy. There is a thoughtful charm to this author’s writing I find particularly enjoyable. Zombie fiction is often viewed as just straight horror, but David Towsey has proved that it can be much, much more. What if you could continue to communicate with the recently deceased and they retained their personalities? Would you be able to accept them for what they had suddenly become? And would that situation not promote its own unique brand of problems? If death is not the end what would become of the human race? This sort of subtle, introspective horror really makes you think. The dark fantasy of Your Servants and Your People is well worth your time.

Your Servants and Your People is published by Jo Fletcher Books and is available now. The story of the McDermott family will conclude in Your Resting Place.

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