dEaDINBURGH: Vantage

dEaDINBURGH: Vantage was written by Mark Wilson and first published in 2014. It is a horror story, focusing on two teens as they try to survive in a zombie infested Scottish city. The novel forms the first part of the Din Eidyn Corpus series and is followed by dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (2015), dEaDINBURGH: Origins (2015) and dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (2016).

For hundreds of years the plague mutated beneath Mary King’s Close, slowly reanimating the long dead victims and giving them a hunger for human flesh. When they first began to rise from their graves, people initially thought it was a hoax. It wasn’t until the disease began to spread and the power went out that they realised how much trouble they were in. Soon after, the government walled Edinburgh off from the rest of the world. At first, the survivors believed that a rescue would come. However, as the years ticked by, they soon realised that they had been abandoned.

Joey MacLeod was born within the zombie-infested city and has never known a different life. He has been raised by the Brotherhood – a sect of monks who worship the zombies – and fears the day that they will force him to take his vows, giving up life on the surface forever. Alys Shephard’s life could not be more different. She has grown up as part of an all-female commune and been trained since childhood to protect herself from both zombies and men. Alys feels nothing but contempt for the Brotherhood, until the fateful day that Joey saves her life.

An unlikely friendship is forged between the two, but it is put to the test when a sinister man named Bracha targets the people closest to them. Learning that Bracha is searching for a cure for the disease, the two of them set off across Edinburgh to find it and have their revenge. However, to locate Bracha they will need to cross into territory belonging to the Exalted – a cult who believe that the living should be fed to the dead…

I’m aware that I’ve been saying this a lot lately but, before I begin, a word of warning. As you might expect, dEaDINBURGH: Vantage is a violent story. It contains scenes of torture and gore throughout, ranging from beatings to eye-gougings. The book is clearly targeted at older teens and if you’re squeamish or easily frightened, I would suggest giving it a miss.

If you are a fan of zombie stories, you will know what to expect from this book and probably get a lot of enjoyment out of it. The idea of a zombie virus spreading from the plague pits beneath Mary King’s Close was uniquely interesting and I did think that the historical background for this gave it a unique twist. I especially liked the given name for the undead in this story – the Ringed – which was derived from the characteristic rash that appears on bubonic plague victims. This was a nice touch which added a bit of colour to the world building.

However, at their core, the Ringed were pretty standard zombies. They shuffled, groaned and infected their victims with a bite. I’m a big fan of horror stories but I personally feel that this has been done to death. There are a million other zombie stories out there which feature monsters just like these. I didn’t really feel that Wilson did enough to make the Ringed stand out from the rest.

However, I did like the setting of the story. It’s clear that the author knows Edinburgh very well and his knowledge of the city made the novel feel a bit more realistic. United Kingdom based zombie stories tend to be set in or around London, so it was refreshing to read a novel that took the action further north. The early chapters of the novel were by far the most intriguing as these set the scene, introducing the different groups of people who now inhabited the city and their attitudes towards the outbreak. However, some of this did stretch believability a bit too far.

I did not understand why the Gardens (the all-female community of hunters) provided food for the Brotherhood when the monks did not seem to give them anything in return. As the leaders of the Gardens were so distrustful of men, this made their actions seem even stranger. Similarly, the south of the city belonged to the Exalted, who were described as being a group of a thousand rapists and murderers. Seriously, where did all these psychopaths come from? Were they already active in Edinburgh before the quarantine or are we supposed to believe that the general population of the city will just snap that easily?

In terms of plot, the story got off to a strong start and was intriguing enough to maintain my curiosity throughout, however it did start to slow down significantly around the half-way mark. The author has a bad habit of expositing things to the reader rather than showing them, which led to a number of abrupt time jumps. This often meant that we often missed a whole bunch of development for characters, such as Joey’s years of learning from Padre Jock which passed entirely off-page.

Wilson was also not the most descriptive of writers. While the story could be grisly in places, the fight sequences were an area that I felt was missing something fundamental. Joey and Alys frequently dispatched several zombies with a single shot and shrugged off debilitating injuries as though they were nothing. I mean, in one scene Joey has to have a big toe amputated in the middle of a battle on a muddy field. Following this sequence, the text periodically mentions that he has a “painful limp” but otherwise he shows no discomfort. I’m pretty sure it would hurt a bit more than that.

By the final chapter, it was starting to feel as though the novel was rapidly losing steam. While the book built to an exciting final confrontation, it then kind of petered out without any true climax. The final chapters also contained a twist that I think will divide readers. While this was integrated well into the story, with sporadic clues scattered throughout the early chapters, I personally found it to be a bit underwhelming. I won’t spoil it for you here but, if you read this novel, I would be curious to hear what you thought.

In terms of characterisation, the novel was actually surprisingly strong for a horror story. Both Joey and Alys were very likeable characters and complimented each other nicely. While Alys had been raised as a huntress and took a very pragmatic attitude to their situation, Joey was more sensitive and sentimental. This was a nice reversal of typical gender norms and helped me to quickly warm to them both.

However, the supporting cast were unfortunately less memorable. While I liked the idea of the Gardens, the fact that they believed in casting out all men didn’t really make a lot of sense. I mean, Edinburgh is closed off from the outside world. How do they think they’re going to survive without men in the long run?

The villains of the story were also particularly shallow. All of the bad humans that Joey and Alys encounter in the novel are simply insane. Not just a little bit insane, either. They’re stark, raving, worshipping zombie footballers insane. While they could be brutal, they were far too over-the-top to be truly frightening. In all, the only supporting character that was truly interesting was Padre Jock, and his ultimate contribution to the story was far less than I initially thought it would be.

Anyhow, I think I’ve said enough. In all, dEaDINBURGH: Vantage was a bit of a mixed bag. While it may appeal to fans of the genre, I didn’t think that the novel went far enough to set itself apart from any other standard zombie story. Still, if the undead are your bag, you could certainly do far worse than this book.

dEaDINBURGH: Vantage can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on

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