Year of the Reaper

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Year of the Reaper
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
12+
Release Date
November 09, 2021
ISBN
978-0358272090
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From the writer whose stories have been called "brilliant" (Booklist), "masterful" (Horn Book), and "breathtaking" (School Library Journal), comes a romantic new standalone fantasy. The past never forgets . . . Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer's apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas' title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness. Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what here members. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them. When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer...one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret--one that could threaten the kingdom's newfound peace and plunge it back into war.

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3 Reasons to Read YEAR OF THE REAPER
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
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5.0
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Lord Cassia "Cas" was imprisoned for three years after being ambushed by enemy soldiers. When the plague took everyone in his camp but him, he was able to escape and make the journey to his home, unsure of what he would find there. Upon his return, he finds the king and queen with their new baby are staying at his estate, and it seems like there is an assassin on the loose trying to take out the baby prince. Together with young historian Lena, they will have to find out who is endangering the fragile peach brought with the queen and baby before it's too late.

1.) The protagonist- I absolutely love Cas. He is sarcastic, slightly broody, loyal, and has a huge heart, even if he tries to push it away on occasion. From his time imprisoned and from all the death around him from the plague, he carries significant trauma. He loves his home, his brother, and their community, but he is still challenged to find the right place for himself after everything. I loved getting to see him slowly heal and adjust to new life.

2.) The romance- The romance is not the central plot, but it is a fantastic and torturous slow burn. Lena and Cas has chemistry immediately (she steals his horse; he saves her life), but there is so much going on around them that romance doesn't have much space. Still, they gradually get to know each other while on missions to unravel clues about the assassin. While both still have their own healing to do, they find a beautiful companionship in each other.

3.) The mystery- The author does an incredible job setting up an engaging, ever evolving mystery. Even when you think you're sure who the culprit is, everything is turned on its head. There is a great tension throughout the story because the marriage between the king and queen (and their new baby prince) is the only thing that sealed the peace between their two countries, and the assassin could be out to wreck that peace and bring the war back to two already death torn countries. I was on the edge of my seat the entire last third of the book.

YEAR OF THE REAPER is an underappreciated gem of YA fantasy. This was the first Makiia Lucier book I've read, and I'm thrilled to have a backlist of their books to dive into now.
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engaging YA fantasy
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YEAR OF THE REAPER is a fantastic YA read about finding yourself, dealing with adversity, family, and forgiveness. Cas is on his way home for the first time in 3 years, having been imprisoned and tortured by a neighboring kingdom when he was 15 years old. After the plague swept through the prison and more broadly, both kingdoms, he was able to make his way back home, not sure if he would find his brother Ventillas still among the living.

A horse thief, who also needs his rescue, accompanies him on the last miles of travel to his family's castle. Upon arrival, he is surprised to find the king, his wife, and the whole of court having taken refuge there. This day is the king and queen's son's naming ceremony - one that results in a near-death experience. As Cas regains his presence in his kingdom and with his family, he is also thrown into a larger and more complex puzzle of the assassin who seems bent on destroying the royal family.

What I loved: This was a really riveting read that builds slowly with a lot of character development for Cas, as he struggles with the past he now holds, how others will view him through this new lens, and where he will find himself when the dust settles. Although his life has been forever altered, and he is not who he was before, he is not yet sure exactly who he will be and what he wants from this life he has. He is a really compelling character, who faces a lot of challenges and sees them through with kindness, empathy, and force when needed. He is driven by his passion for his brother, his kingdom, and those who suffer around him.

The kingdom has been ravaged by the plague, and this has led to a lot of suffering, death, and confusion, with different people reacting in different ways. In some ways, these themes around disease, suffering, and human reactions to it, are repeated throughout history. Another particularly intriguing element, which we learn about fairly early in the book, is that Cas is able to see some ghosts. He does not know why and he cannot see all of them, but these interactions added an extra fantasy-element that was particularly intriguing. Although I would have loved this unique ability to play a larger role in it all, the role that it does play is beautiful and adds to the kindness we see shining through Cas.

The story takes a lot of twists and turns, and although the biggest twist was pretty easy to guess, it's a well-plotted story that keeps the reader hooked with wondering where the dust will all settle. The romance in this was pretty light, as it's a relationship that mostly felt like a deep friendship/respect, but it was a nice touch nonetheless (though I would have definitely enjoyed more). The focus was more on character development and healing.

Final verdict: A unique and riveting YA fantasy, YEAR OF THE REAPER features a compelling cast, thought-provoking themes, and a thrilling plot. Highly recommend for fans of FABLE, DREAMS LIE BENEATH, and BRIARHEART.
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