Epeolatry Book Review: The Undead Redhead by Rachel Roth
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Title: The Undead Redhead: The Girl in the Mall
Author: Rachel Roth
Publisher: House of Honor Books
Release Date: 11th June, 2022
Synopsis:Her love has endured for over 2,500 years without signs of waning as she gathers cast-off children to call her own. The undead redheaded girl living in a Tennessee mall is something the world has not seen before or since. She turns the unwanted and the unloved into a family of the undead.
Follow her drawing of three disaffected and abused teens into her world. In a dark code of justice, they feast on the abusive and oppressive while fighting off all who get too close to the truth with ruthless savagery.
Immortality is thrilling. A dream found in our Sci-fi, Horror, and Fantasy genres. Can humans become immortal? Would we grow to detest our undying selves? The thrill of a mythical creature who crosses that line and turns a human into one of their own can sometimes be repetitive. However, Rachel Roth’s The Undead Redhead spins immortality on its axis as a healing method, a medicine against humanity’s evil acts. This rationality drives Roth’s supernatural redhaired character, Ruby, to save as many children as possible.
Due to its half-rhyming title, I misjudged The Undead Redhead. I thought, ‘Oh look, another vampire retelling wannabe.’ Nothing wrong with thinking that, nor do I dislike vampire retellings, but I didn’t believe I would want to reread The Undead Redhead. Looking back now, I’m glad I misjudged it because Roth practically walloped me across the face saying, ‘This is no vampire, so pay attention.’
Despite Ruby being Roth’s main character, she doesn’t appear on the pages until after a long while. Instead, The Undead Redhead, told through the eyes of children, begins with Mark, a troubled twin with disturbing mental health issues. His intellect, caring nature, and daily troubles pulled at my heartstrings. His mental health issues were extreme enough for me to consider that he was supernatural or was in the middle of unlocking his unknown powers. After reaching his limit one day, Mark’s world turns upside down after a friend’s betrayal. His perception altered, Ruby thus enters whispering she can provide a better alternative than the one with his abusive mother and rotten classmates, free from the pain and the constant voices. He would become the predator rather than the prey.
After Mark, Delilah introduces herself, another teenager living in Riverwade, Tennessee, 2015. Delilah lives in a broken home with an abusive father and a boyfriend who assaults her at every opportune moment. Yet, Delilah is not a sobbing victim, weak and defenceless. She fights back, relishing the agony she can inflict upon anyone. Delilah is a strong character who knows how messed up she is. She wants her father’s approval, but after so many defeats, she knows she cannot face him after a particular fight with a homeless girl who shelters at the local mall. Delilah vows revenge for her humiliation, and with friends she swears are not her friends, she returns to the mall at night to kill the girl known as Ruby.
One of Delilah’s friends is Connor, a star-gazer who dropped out of school. Ruby spares him that night at the mall. Believing he is the only survivor, Connor becomes envious of the attention that his deceased friends have garnered. With his parents ignoring his very existence and his friends now dead, he spirals out of control, especially when a familiar teenager named Mark turns up with a message.
These three characters are the highlights of The Undead Redhead. Roth manages to connect all three of them with their intriguing histories, families, and troubles while keeping their individuality. They shine even as they make mistakes. I would even go far as to say their humanity almost outshines Ruby’s Celtic origins, which are slowly revealed and retold from different perceptions.
Alicia is the last character introduced. She stands out from the other characters because she is an adult, a parent sucked into Ruby’s orbit due to her marriage. Her husband, Allen, is obsessed with the supernatural and convinced that his twin boys are in trouble and need help from the evil Ruby. He forces Alicia and their daughter Abby back to Riverwade, Tennesee, where he ditched his sons long ago. Stuck in her poverty, loveless marriage and disgusted by her child’s revolting nature, Alicia seeks comfort from the bottle and sex with strangers. She doesn’t believe in any supernatural crap but quickly starts having disturbing visions. Though she understands them as warnings, her husband refuses to leave and unleashes Ruby’s wrath upon the family. The satisfying ending came with a couple of surprises, but for me, Alicia’s character didn’t shine as strong as the children. Perhaps Roth intended this, thus showing that Alicia’s flaws are unforgivable.
The Undead Redhead is a gem in disguise. As Roth’s first book, it is a stimulating world without a barrier between myth, magic, and modern society. Her use of figurative language flows naturally in every paragraph with no overuse, and her developing characters are a genuine mastery. Mark, Delilah, and Connor come to life. As for Ruby, she maintains her mysterious aura and her level of threat. Her nature comes across at times as vampiric, but Roth is clear in Ruby’s origins, and there is more to her than first glance (I won’t spoil it). Blood and corpses follow Ruby wherever she goes, and she seems determined to save teenagers and children abandoned and crushed by society. Is she a hero or a monster? Roth leaves that up to you to judge.
Available from Amazon.
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Corinne Pollard is a new disabled horror writer from West Yorkshire, UK with published works in Sirens Call eZine and Trembling with Fear. With a degree in English Lit and Creative Writing, Corinne has always enjoyed the world of dark fantasy. Aside from writing, Corinne enjoys metal music, visits to graveyards and shopping for books to read.