‘Undeath and Taxes’ by Drew Hayes

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Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Humor, Paranormal, Fred, the Vampire Accountant, Fiscal Fantasy

Similar books: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyKitty and the Midnight Hour

Previous books in the series/by the author reviewed: ‘The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, Vampire Accountant.’

Rating: Highly Recommended

Here’s the TL;DR for my review:

  • Pros
    • Fun, unassuming protagonist
    • Great cast of friends
    • Conceptually absurd and hilarious plot
    • Audiobook has excellent narrator
    • I love the setting, a mostly standard urban fantasy setting but from the perspective of a tax accountant.
    • Does not take itself seriously.
  • Mixed
    • This is an anthology of short stories, each one describing one of Fred’s adventures. The adventures are interrelated. If you’re not into reading a group of associated stories and instead want one big story this might not be for you. I, however, loved the storytelling style.
    • This is a tried-and-true urban fantasy novel, including tropes/cliches of werewolves and vampires and a secret society covering them up. If you haven’t been burn out on the genre, chances are you’ll like this series. The fact that this doesn’t take itself seriously helps nudge this into pleasant parody territory.
  • Cons
    • I liked the first book in the series more, because most of the short stories had better self-contained plots. This book was focused instead on the uber-plot of the novel/anthology as a whole. I thought one or two of the short stories in this one were forgettable.

Spoiler-ific Review

Book two in the ‘Fred, Vampire Accountant’ series, this novel is legit hilarious. Including from contractually obligated haunted houses to zombies wielding Swords of Destiny, ‘Undeath and Taxes’ is the wildly successful followup to the riotous first book in the series.

Plot: Fred and the Gang must solve several problems which have popped up in the ‘glorious’ town of Winslow Colorado. A rival gang of lycanthropes have come into town and have challenged the town’s ruler for leadership; there’s a paranormal convention going on and Fred has to help his girlfriend set up a booth there; and finally Fred has to lock down several large business deals for the Supernatural Accounting Firm he just opened.

This book contains several short stories. My favorite was the ‘haunted house’ short story, in which Fred and several other accountants are held hostage by a haunted Bed and Breakfast which doesn’t want to be demolished by predatory accounting firms. It was a weird-fun story, which was resolved without violence whatsoever. I also liked the ‘supernatural convention’ story, because it helped really expand Fred’s girlfriend Chrystal as a character.

Pacing: Was a bit touch and go. Some of the short stories seemed a bit unfulfilling. In one of them Fred is kidnapped, only to be rescued a few hours later. Fred didn’t have agency in his freedom, so I wasn’t invested. Overall, however, when the short stories are taken together they combine into a cohesive whole which was super-entertaining to read.

Characterization: As mentioned, Chrystal got more character development in this novel, as did Neil the necromancer and Albert the zombie. None of them are characters to write home about, but they were fun and made me smile. Unfortunately Fred himself didn’t get much development in this book… but honestly I don’t the author really can develop him without ruining what makes him an awesome character as-is. The last two members of the squad, namely Bubba the gay trucker were-pony and Amy the stoner alchemist, didn’t get much time in the limelight.

Setting: This is a traditional urban fantasy, but seen from a different perspective. Yes, there are nefarious vampires and werewolves and suchlike, but this story is from the perspective of an accountant and not a hero. That mundane change of perspective really alters how the world is seen. Alchemists don’t turn lead into gold, they make potions to get you high. The magical FBI has to go to conventions with other supernatural types in order to prove they aren’t The Man and recruit new agents. And sometimes haunted houses just want to be Bed and Breakfasts instead of that creaky old manor which no one goes to. It’s a joyously mundane setting which is unafraid of lowering the scale for the sake of making the setting more vibrant.

Net total, I had fun with this one. I didn’t like this as much as the first, for the first was more holistically complete than this one, but I have to admit that I think the plot of this entire novel was better than the plot of the last one. I suggest you check out the first book in the series if this review at all interests you.

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