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Synopsis: Raised by the Women’s Independent Territory Church (WITCH), Nel Zapur is a skilled sniper tasked to eliminate zombies. Never having once laid eyes on a man, she has been a prisoner in her tower for eleven long years. A fateful snowstorm leads a mysterious stranger to her window, and saving him may prove to be the best and worst decision of her life.

Special Agent Dane Prince was sent to gather intelligence on the WITCH, and his journey leads him to a mysterious tower in the woods. Snowed in with a virginal member of the feminist cult, Dane is determined to use the situation to his advantage. Not only will Nel provide him with the information he needs, she will also learn to submit to his every desire.

Based on the Grimm’s fairy tale “Rapunzel”, Tower In the Woods is a post-apocalyptic thriller, complete with zombies, snipers, a fateful snowstorm and…a hot, alpha male!

towerinthewoodsNWW Review: Apocalyptic US. When the Undead Reanimation Virus (URV) had been unleashed, the world went into chaos. Humans turning en masse into ravenous, mindless zombies. Those who had survived the initial outbreak were seeking the protection of the big cities to increase their chances of survival. Those cities  soon became fortresses, guarded by high walls and 24h security, becoming self sufficient megalopolises working tirelessly to develop a vaccine. In the mayhem of the early years no one noticed numerous girls going missing. And thus, the WITCH was formed, an independent terrorist cell fighting zombies and men alike. It preached that God punished the Earth and allowed only women to survive. It consisted of hardened warriors, trained from early years in the art of war. Ruthless. And when 30 years after the outbreak the vaccine was finally found, they were left unaware, secluded in the war camps, fighting a dying war…

Tower in the Woods is a novella just under 100 pages, a perfect glimpse into the apocalyptic Earth festered with zombies. It reminded me of Warm Bodies, which I have review earlier this year, and 28 Days Later, a superb sci-fi film. Of course due to the length of the story, a number of questions remain unanswered, and the story does not diverge to explain the world better. The plot focuses entirely on Dane and Nel, hence it feels natural and not rushed. The Author did not try to overload the short story with too much background information.  She included just enough to allow the Reader to enjoy the story and leave in a want for more rather than a raging headache from a fact overload.

Dane Prince, is an agent working at the Washington DC megalopolis. He is send on a mission into a zombie-infested forest surrounding DC to find WITCH headquarters and disable the terrorist cell. What he finds is more then he is ever expected to find. Namely, Nel Zapur, a sniper working for WITCH. She was one of the kidnapped girls, brainwashed and at the age of 16 sent on a solitary post to guard the WITCH’s territory in one of the watch towers surrounding the complex. Eleven years later she is as isolated as ever, spending her life exterminating zombies. When Dane finds her in the tower and sees her innocence, his initial MO is to seduce her, gather as much intel as possible, and leave. But his plan of seduction quickly goes awry when Nel throws him time after time with her sharp mind, innocence and sass: ““I have been thinking about the science behind what we are doing,”Nel chirpily proposed as she proceeded to cup his balls, “and it occurred to me that my mouth would better approximate the conditions of sexual intercourse.” Sexual initiation is surprising satisfying: steamy and, most importantly, described with a bit of tongue and cheek. Nel’s curiosity and innocence makes her a perfect tease. Her “don’t tell me what I want and don’t want” brings Dane to his knees. Almost literally.

There were certain elements to the story which I felt were a bit lacking. First of all it was the Dane’s supposed BDSM predilection. He informs Nel early on that he won’t have sex with her (ha-ha-ha) because she would not enjoy the way he likes his sexual partners. But we are witnesses to nothing more than a light bondage and spanking scene at the very end of the book, so this statement feels a bit exaggerated. Secondly, the word ‘love’ comes a bit too quickly which is sadly often the case with novellas and short stories. Luckily Nel doesn’t turn into mush and she remains her usual self, i.e. resourceful, smart and able to take care of herself. Lastly, I have questioned Dane’s actions and rapid behavioural changes like his willingness to forfeit his mission five minutes after he sees Nel. Somehow I could not imagine a hardened soldier throwing away his whole life’s work over one bat of any woman’s eyelashes.

Regardless, I have still enjoyed the novella and I would like to see its world expanded into a full length novel. You can find more information about other books by Tara Quan on the Author’s website.

Tower in the Woods can be purchased via: Amazon Kindle UK / Kindle US, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo.