The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor - Book Review

The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor - Book Review

The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor - Book Review

Rise of the Governor follows the story of Phillip Blake, and his journey to becoming the infamous Governor. How does the book compare to the comics? Does it taint the original? And just how shocking are the final pages? Find out in this review as I talk about the ups and downs of this prequel to the celebrated comic book series.

Rise of the Governor is the first in a planned trilogy of novels from the creative genius behind The Walking Dead comic book series, Robert Kirkman, and co-written by Jay Bonansinga. The first novel serves as a prequel to the series, exploring the backstory of one of the comic book series' first and most infamous antagonists, The Governor. As a big fan of the character, going into this book I feared that exploring the characters origins and turning him into a sympathetic one would not only change the way I read the original story, but would taint it. The Governor is the antagonist of the series, and isn’t exactly a character you should be rooting for. However, I’m happy to say that not only is Rise of the Governor a hugely rewarding read for fans of the original comic books, it also manages to shock and surprise at many turns throughout the story despite having a set path that, as a prequel, the book must follow.

Yes, Robert Kirkman does it again introducing a league of new characters, all of which become realised and likable within the book’s first couple of chapters. We are introduced to Phillip Blake (before he became The Governor), his brother, his daughter and his two best friends. The only thing that I had slight difficulty with when I started reading was the fact that, without spoiling anything for non-comic book readers, because we know the story that this prequel branches off of, we know where the majority of these characters are going to end up, or so I thought. However, my worries were comforted as I quickly became attached to all of these characters, and I was really rooting for them all to survive and predicament they found themselves in, even if I knew that someone wasn’t going to make it out alive. There were a lot of characters who I knew weren’t going to make it out of the book alive, but I wanted them to so badly because, like in the comics, Kirkman allows you to get to know these characters, their personalities, their habits, their views and their flaws, you feel like you’ve lost someone you’ve truly come to know when they do become walker-food.

One of Rise of the Governor’s few flaws, is that it isn’t entirely fast-paced. But it is a fairly short book, so you may find yourself breezing through it in a week or so, or it may take you about a month. The thing that kept me reading was the book’s strong characters. The four main characters that carry the majority of the story are fairly balanced. Some characters are neglected towards the beginning of the story, but you’ll find that you’ve come to know them by the book’s end, which makes saying goodbye all the more tough. The book focuses on the same five characters for Part One of the book (the book is split into three parts), but we are introduced to some new faces in Part Two. Although the characters in Part One are well written enough to carry the first 100 pages on their own, by the time we reach Part Two, it is refreshing to see some new faces.

Unfortunately, Part Two is where the books gets fairly slow. Although we are introduced to some new interesting characters, this is where the book feels almost as though it has just grinded to a screeching halt. But, thankfully, the book’s third and final part makes up for a fairly slow middle act. Throughout the entire book, there’s a sense of dread looming over the group. There are plenty of moments where the book teases something worse waiting around the corner for the characters. But it isn’t until Part Three that the tension really reaches its boiling point, and the book becomes more unpredictable than I could have ever imagined.

Part Three of Rise of the Governor is where the book shines. Not only was this where the book really had me turning the pages, but this is where the book steers off in a crazy direction, and proved me very wrong as someone who thought the book couldn’t do much to surprise me. I thought I was going to know basically how the book played out. I already knew that this character was going to end up here, but I just didn’t know how he would get there. But it turns out everything I thought I knew was a lie! Suddenly, the story takes a shocking turn, and does something so crazy that, just for a minute, left me very confused. But I soon realised that my leg had been pulled, and this was an ingenious twist that made so much sense, but I could never have seen coming from a mile away. This was such a daring and bold move that it made me want to go back and read the first fifty or so issues of The Walking Dead, because I knew having read this that I would see The Governor in a completely different way. Not in a way that contradicts his character (I can still never see myself supporting the terrible things he does), but I certainly now see what made him the way he is. Part Three was, undoubtedly, hugely rewarding to me for sticking with the book. And its ingenious final twist is something I’m still thinking about now, and is almost entirely why I wanted to do this review.

Verdict: ★★★★

Overall, Rise of the Governor does not at all taint or lessen the quality of the comics it’s based on. Instead, the book is truly a celebration of one of The Walking Dead’s [now] most interesting characters. This is a must-read for people looking for more of an insight into the story of The Governor. Although Rise of the Governor lacks some of the shocks and surprises of the comics and its array of characters, it’s still a short story worth checking out, and is certainly one that will make you look at the comics in a different way.
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