Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Return to Woodbury

Written By: Jay Bonansinga

Published By: St. Martin's Press

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                I’ve read the comics and watched the television series, but I still can’t get enough of The Walking Dead.  I had heard that there was a book series that recounted the tales of the people of Woodbury, before, during and after the Governor, but I had yet to read them.  That would all change when I was offered the opportunity to read a new book in the series: Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Return to Woodbury by Jay Bonansinga.

                Return to Woodbury picks up four years after the plague that turned the world upside down, making the dead rise.  The Governor is long dead, but somehow Lilly Caul has survived it all – the walkers, the despots, the religious zealots – she has weathered every storm.  But she still dreams of Woodbury…of the quaint Georgia town it once was.  A little bit of normalcy in the midst of an apocalypse.  Unfortunately, she was forced to leave the one place she could have called home in this hell and now, she wants to go back.

                Holed up in a huge Ikea with a bunch of survivors and her adopted children, Lilly wants to return to Woodbury.  Most of the folks think she’s crazy, but after a number of assaults on the building by walkers and the living alike, she and a select few have decided to pack as much of the provisions they can and head out to the place Lilly talks so highly of.  The going will certainly be slow – a hurricane has blown through the area, making the already damaged and impassible roads impossible to maneuver.  And there is little gas, so horse-drawn vehicles are the order of the day.  But Lilly is so sure of herself in this venture, she has no doubt they can get back to Woodbury and make it the town it used to be.

                That is, until she accidentally bumps into an old friend, Ash.  She has just escaped imprisonment by a madman former politician…and she’s taken a bunch of the children he kidnapped with her.  He’s none too pleased with her thanks to the fiery way Ash made her exit and the fact that he has taken the very children he and his wife were attempting to protect.  Ash is in full escape mode, chased by a lunatic despot and his posse who will stop at nothing to get those kids back…and exact revenge on Ash.  Lilly Caul’s group just so happens to be in the way of all that. 

                Though I liked the continuation of Lilly Caul’s character and the ways in which she has matured since I last saw her in the comics, I had some issues with this book. When you read The Walking Dead comics, sure, people die…fast…and often.  This even happens on the television series.  The fact that no one character is safe is something that both the comic book and television series are known and loved for by their fans.  The same can be said for Return to Woodbury…only faster. 

Sure, I’m coming into this series after a few books, so some of the characters have already been fleshed out in previous novels, but some are brand new to this book.  So, it comes as a real surprise when Jay Bonansinga introduces you to a bunch of new characters, complete with backstories, and then they are eaten, blown up, crushed and the like.  Whoa!  Slow down!  I just got to know that person!  Why is everything happening so fast?!  Then again, this is a novel and the whole story has to be wrapped up in this book, so things are bound to happen a bit more quickly. 

Then there is this whole issue with the lunatic chasing Ash.  If Ash lit a flare and shoved it down his throat, how is this guy talking, let alone bellowing?  I’m confused – wouldn’t this have burned the guy’s vocal chords out?  That he survives is not surprising – characters in this series tend to survive the nearly impossible – but the idea that he could still talk, let alone chase this woman to the extent that he does and torment all those who help her is a bit much.  And a tad bit to reminiscent of The Governor, if you ask me.

Was Return to Woodbury full of action?  Oh, yeah!  It all starts in the first pages with the hurricane hitting Cuba and a prisoner’s bid for survival.  So yeah, things move fast and furious and the action is fun, if not a little disorienting at times.  Is the novel true to the series, comic or television?  Yes, definitely.  Walkers are described perfectly and I loved the idea of the floodwaters not impeding them in the least.  Is Return to Woodbury everything I had hoped it would be?  Not quite.  Though the action was gripping and the characters interesting, I felt like much of this had been done before and some of the deaths took place too soon in the storyline of some of the characters. 

Jay Bonansinga writes very descriptively and I could see all the action taking place in my mind’s eye, but I just couldn’t enjoy the novel as much as I wanted to with the numerous discrepancies.  Now, I know that this was not a final copy, just a reviewer’s copy.  Thus, this mistake may be corrected before the book goes to print.  But this is the copy of the book I received and I can only comment on the one I read, mistakes or no mistakes.  I would definitely recommend this book to those who have already read all of the others in this series and if there is something good to be said about this book, I’m now even more interested in reading the ones that came before it.


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