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Zombie, Or Not to Be: Character profiles

Zombie, Or Not to Be: Character profiles

Zombie, Or Not to Be (Hazy Fables #2) is a middle-grade chapter-book spin on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. To celebrate the book's release, we're excited to introduce you to our book's sprawling cast, beginning with Edda, a 12-year-old science student who happens to be a zombie.
Edda, the Dead / Hamlet, the Dane
Based on the world’s most famous broody Dane, Edda is our Hamlet, an intelligent young zombie with a turbulent mind, thrust into a sea of troubles. When her mom goes missing, Edda doesn’t know who or what to trust—can she rely on her friends? Her own instincts? Can science provide a way out? Edda’s death is flipped upside down, causing her to question everything, including the very nature of zombiehood.

Edda’s name is not only an anagram for the word “dead,” it’s also a reference to the ancient Icelandic myths from which the story of Hamlet derives. A book of Norse mythology from the 1220s called the “Prose Edda” provides an early mention of an individual named “Amlothi” who has a story that’s very similar to Hamlet’s.

Nerida / Ophelia
Next, we turn to Nerida: a 12-year-old marine botanist who has committed her death to finding a way to rejuvenate Deadmark’s ecosystem in her undersea garden. Oh, and she also happens to be Edda’s former lab partner/best friend.

Nerida is based on Ophelia, but she has much more agency than her tragic precursor. Many aspects of Nerida’s character pay homage to Ophelia including her undersea garden, the seaweed and coral threaded through her hair, and her emotional falling out with Edda. But many other aspects, including her scientific talent, fierce independence, and resolute confidence, are all her own.Nerida’s name comes from Ancient Greek—it means “sea nymph” or “mermaid.” Perhaps subconsciously trying to right the injustices faced by her Shakespearean prototype, Nerida spends most of her time underwater attempting to cultivate solutions that will make the world a better place.

Our next spotlight is reserved for Bram, a 12-year-old vampire and classmate of Edda’s at Bittenberg University Prep in the country of Gormany.

Bram is based on Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend and confidant who attended Wittenberg University with Hamlet in Germany. In Zombie, Or Not to Be, Bram is from Gormany—a country of mostly vampires. Bram becomes instant friends with Edda at Bittenberg Prep, where he helps her adapt to the vampires’ social and cultural way of death.

While Bram is adept at some vampiric abilities—like bat transformation—there are others, like hypnotism, that he’s still getting the hang of.

Aunt Agonista / Claudius
Aunt Agonista is not only an anti-science corporate leader; she also happens to be Edda's aunt. And her greedy plotting turns her niece's death upside down.

Aunt Agonista is based on Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and, in Hamlet’s mind, the illegitimate king of Denmark. In Zombie, Or Not to Be, Deadmark is not a monarchy—it’s a scientific democracy. So, when Agonista assumes power over the country, she does so by claiming the highest position of the land: Lead Scientist. Knowing her aunt to be a science-denying egotist, Edda finds this problematic to say the least.

Among other personal quirks, Agonista is never without her black turtleneck, round black sunglasses, and a large and tacky wireless earpiece. Fashion is not her forte.

Rick / Yorick
Rick is an enchanted floating skull and one of Edda’s most loyal friends. Based on Yorick, Rick is a former court jester who was once Hamlet's friend and “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

While Hamlet can only reminisce while holding Yorick's inanimate skull, Edda is able to enjoy the company of her skull-friend in real time. A former human playwright in Ignorway, Rick insulted the wrong enchantress and found himself transformed into a blue, floating skull for the rest of eternity. He now bides his time running the biggest and best theater in Deadmark: The Glob Theater.

Cabbagio / Polonius
Let us now shift our skeptical gaze toward Cabbagio: Nerida’s father, and Aunt Agonista’s science-denying right-hand zombie. Cabbagio’s Shakespearian counterpart is Polonius, the father of Ophelia and Laertes, and top advisor to the play’s main villain, Claudius.

In Zombie, Or Not to Be, even as pollution flakes and billowing smog from Ignorway choke out the skies above Deadmark, Cabbagio is happy to sit back, relax, and sip on a nice glass of bubbly brain fluid. With a cushy position beside the most powerful zombie in Deadmark, why worry? He’s gotten this far by following his selfish intuition—a guiding force that he’s found to be much more profitable than pesky science. But if Edda, our young, science-minded hero, has her way, zombies like Cabbagio will start valuing the greater good over their baser instincts.

Squeak & Gibber / Rosencrantz & Guildenstern
Based on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Squeak and Gibber are Deadmark’s fiercest brain hunters. Their names are taken from phrasing included in the passage in Hamlet that inspired the idea behind the book. In Act 1, Scene 1, with the ghost of Hamlet’s dad wandering the castle’s battlements, Horatio discusses the climactic omens that preceded the assassination of Julius Caesar:

“A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun, and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.
And even the like precurse of feared events,
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on,
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto climatures and countrymen.”

With descriptions of sheeted dead rising from their graves to stalk the Roman streets amid a devastated natural environment, this one passage sparked the idea to adapt Hamlet with a cast of zombies, and use the effects of human-caused climate change as a foreboding backdrop. But don’t worry—the doom-and-gloom is balanced with plenty of humor, hijinks, plot twists and wordplay to make the reading experience far from a downer, despite the angst of our heroine.

Get to know all of these characters, and so many more, in our new middle-grade chapter book Zombie, Or Not to Be (Hazy Fables Book #2).