Marc and Dana review Infected: Epitaph (Infected series, book 8) by Andrea Speed (Published by DSP Publications, November 18, 2014, 330 pages). This is the last book in the main series, though there is a prequel and the author will write other books in the same universe.
RGR received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Check out the previous duo reviews of Andrea Speed’s Infected series:
To read the duo review of Infected: Prey (Infected Book 1) click here.
To read the duo review of Infected: Bloodlines (Infected Book 2) click here.
To read the duo review of Infected: Life After Death (Infected Book 3) click here.
To read the duo review of Infected: Freefall (Infected Book 4) click here.
To read the duo review for Infected: Shift (Infected Book 5) click here.
To read the duo review for Infected: Lesser Evils (Infected Book 6) click here.
To read the duo review for Infected: Undertow (Infected Book 7) click here.
In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective solving crimes involving other infecteds.
Tiger strain infections start showing up all over Seattle, much to Roan’s dismay, and worse yet, they may have a personal connection. Meanwhile, Roan gets hired to look into the puzzling death of Dee’s former lover. Then the FBI wants him to investigate a new apocalypse cult of infecteds pushing for a violent revolution against normals. All around Roan, events are spiraling out of control. Just when his singular abilities are needed most, Roan develops new symptoms that might signify dire consequences if he doesn’t stop shifting at will. Roan finds himself at a crossroads and must make a difficult decision about his future.
Marc – If you have checked out my other reviews, you know that I read books 3,4,5,6 and 7 back-to back. It took me only 7 days, even though I’m a slow reader, because I couldn’t put the kindle down (and because I was on vacation and could afford to read all day in the sun). However, before I started book 3, I needed a break after book two broke my heart. It ended up being a two year break, but when I started book 3, I was ready and super excited to continue the series and see where it would go.
Sometimes, even if I love a series, there are moments where a break is necessary for me to let things settle or brace myself for things to come.It was the same before starting Infected: Epitaph, the last book in the ‘Infected’ main series.
I know Dana had to brace herself for book 8 as well, because the whole series is dark and gritty and after book two, it seemed like no one was truly safe. Given how high the stakes are in the Infected series and given the title of the last book, I honesty wondered if Roan could possibly survive this time. Now, my all-time favorite book is 1984 by George Orwell, a dystopian novel that still feels VERY relevant today and has the ultimate anti-HEA. I know not everyone would agree with me, but I don’t mind if a book doesn’t have a HEA or even a HFN.
A sad, dark or bittersweet ending would not have destroyed the book for me, but of course when you invest your time in 8 full-length books, you build a close and personal relationship with the fictional character. It might sound a bit crazy, since that character is FICTIONAL and as such never has nor ever will exist, but we all know it’s true. We get such an honest and personal insight into the character’s head and life and relationships and feel all his emotions, all his joy and pain. His fate is important to us.
Likewise, we have to hope that the author of any series we love will find a conclusion that will satisfy us after all those many hours we have spent with the books. It is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially since many readers may hope for different outcomes. However, I feel like the character’s journey should come to some sort of destination. A character development, major plot arcs coming to a close, loose ends being tied off. Most importantly, I always hope that nothing will happen that feels out of character for the main protagonist and the series as a whole. There have been a few series that have ‘jumped the shark’ with the last book and while that doesn’t automatically negate all the wonderful moments readers have had with previous books, it takes away the hoped-for pay-off. It is so sad when a reader says ‘XXX is an amazing series, but I wish I hadn’t read the last book’. So, I had to brace myself before starting book 8 and hoped that this final installment of the main series would be all I had wished for.
My expectation for the last book was pretty much total chaos. All-out war against infected people or an insurgence. With Roan’s special abilities and his charisma, I thought either he would become the leader of the infected population, find a way to help even more people, or his abilities would leak and cause a mass panic and even more violence on a big scale. I saw death and destruction and blood and maybe even an epitaph in Roan’s memory, on his own gravestone, after the man sacrificed himself for his friends or strangers. I could not see any credible way for Roan, a man with such a good heart in such a dark and gritty world, to find a HEA.
Alas, many of you will be very glad that I was wrong. Not just in thinking that the book would end with Roan’s death and a large scale war and uprising, but also in thinking that there would be no way to give the character a satisfying AND credible send-off into the sunset. Seeing the 8 books a big picture, I can still see why I thought what I thought. However, I also realize that it was never the destination Andrea Speed intended for Roan. He is charismatic and blessed/cursed with incredible abilities, but at the core of his journey has always been his desire to be normal, his desire to cling to humanity, his wish to be loved and to do good and life his life in peace. He has always been in a war with himself, because he is in the unique possession of powers he can use for good, if he sacrifices himself and everything else he wants. He has always done so, without thinking about himself, because he could. I think Andrea Speed has found a way to bring this personal journey to a very satisfying conclusion, while still feeling real and true to the Roan we know and love.
Don’t get me wrong, the book still ends in death and blood and fire and ash and destruction. The world Roan lives in is still as dark and unstable as our own (even without a similar virus). The story story still has everything I LOVED about the series, but all in all, the scale was smaller than I expected and the conclusion more personal and happy than I ever anticipated. For me, the pacing was perfect, there was fast action, suspense that had me at the edge of my seat. There were amazing mysteries and the wonderful characters we love were back. Everything just worked and left me – surprisingly – happy AND satisfied.
Thank you so much, Andrea Speed.
And thank you for being as addicted to these characters as I am and being unable to quit them. Dana and I will duo review ‘Infected: Paris’ next week, the prequel to the main series. And I can’t wait for the holiday special, the Holden spin-off and hopefully many other books in this amazing and unique world.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Dana – I have to say right off the bat, I was afraid to read this book. Not only is it the last full novel of an incredible series, but the the title Epitaph? How much more ominous can you get? I did get find my courage though, and loved this book.
For the most part Infected: Epitaph was business as usual. Roan and Holden took cases as private investigators. Most were people looking for missing relatives or catching cheating spouses, but the Seattle police department called on Roan as well. Between loose cats, infected cults, religious cat-haters, and now the FBI, Roan finds his hands full. The headaches and pain haven’t stopped, and neither has his partial shifts. When Dr. Rosenburg presents some new speculations to Roan, he must make a decision about how he wants to live whatever time he has left.
I’ve talked in the past about Roan’s two natures, but in this book, I’ve realized that he really only has one. To help people. As soon as he aged out of the foster system he trained to be a police officer. Ever since being kicked off the force, he has continued to work with them to save innocent humans and infecteds alike. His jaded views come from being disappointed time and time again, but he never stops wanting to help even at risk of his own life. At times, Dylan, Dee, Holden, Roan, and I have wondered if he really cared about being alive or not, but I think he doesn’t even consider whether he will make it through a situation or not.
Holden’s two sides definitely seem to be fighting for dominance in this book, though. His ruthlessness has been shown several times, but when he commits an act straight out of Reservoir Dogs, I realized I had no idea how dangerous he could be. On the other hand he is dealing with real feelings emerging in his casual relationship with a hockey playing jock. It bothers him because he hasn’t let anyone really close to him, except Roan, perhaps, but also because he doesn’t think his jock will ever come out as bisexual. Holden also cares about abused kids, and the boys on the street hustling for a living like he once did. He will do anything to protect those he cares about, even cut off all emotions to do what he feels needs to be done.
Dylan and Roan’s relationship has definitely come a long way since book three. Dylan has found a lot of backbone in order to survive in Roan’s world with his crazy friends and crazier enemies. But their relationship is not perfect. What relationship really is? Roan feels that Dylan can do better than him, but will hold on tight to Dylan as long as he can have him. Dylan has to face the possibility of Roan’s death, due to someone attacking him or from the virus itself. I feel for Dylan. He can’t turn off his feelings like Holden, or lose them in the lion like Roan. Dylan can’t stop loving Roan, even though it will devastate him if and when Roan dies.
I’ve said this before and will say it again, the secondary characters in this story are phenomenal. There are many that have come in and out that became dear to me, too many to name. The main side characters Randi, Dee, Dr. Rosenburg, Gray, Scott, Tank, Fiona, and Holden are back in this book. The hockey players appearance in book five added humor to the story and showed the kind of loyalty that Roan amasses from those who really get to know him. I’m glad they stayed on for the continuing books because they have brought such life to the series. I know that the author wrote Infected: Paris which we will be reviewing next, and Infected: Holden is in the works. I’d love to read a book about Gray as well. His sexuality has always been ambiguous, but I don’t think there is a character in this series with a bigger heart.
With the fear I felt starting this book, I’d almost say Epitaph was anti-climactic. However, it was perfect I couldn’t think of a better and more deserved ending for Dylan and Roan. I will hope they make an appearance in any future spin-offs/novellas but I look forward to the other characters being in the spotlight. I can’t say enough about this series but I will cut myself off before I reveal too much. It has been a wonderful emotionally charged set of books and I highly recommend them.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars.
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)
In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men.
Viva la revolution!