A recent review by Tracey Dyck (Photo at left) of two of my Reapers books did just that. I am reposting it here.
Today I’m excited to be sharing not one, but TWO awesome book reviews! I feel like I’ve been doing more reviews than normal lately, which is . . . odd . . . because my reading time is diddly squat these days. Anyway! Remember a couple months ago when I reviewed Bryan Davis’s Reapers? Shortly thereafter, I went ahead and read the rest of the Reapers Trilogy back to back.
THIS IS BIG. I ALMOST NEVER DO THAT. When I start a series, I usually take my time between books because I don’t want to get tired of that storyworld. You can have too much of a good thing, right? (I mean, there’s also the opposite problem, where sometimes I take too long to continue a series, and end up forgetting all the important stuff.) But I had the next two Reapers books sitting oh-so-temptingly on my desk, calling for me to discover how the story continued. So I did it. I read an entire trilogy within several weeks, and the final two books I read back to back. That should tell you how good they were!
Now, I have a weird, hard-to-define rating system when it comes to books. I rated Reapers 5 stars, and it deserved every single one of those stars. But I’m rating Beyond the Gateway and Reaper Reborn as 5 star reads too–except I loved them even MORE. See, there’s a whole range of 5 star books in my mind: there’s the “this was a solid book, I really enjoyed myself, and would gladly recommend it” kind of five stars. And then there’s the “THIS BOOK WAS INCREDIBLE; EVERYONE, GO READ THIS NOW” kind of five stars. These last two books fall squarely in the latter category!
I can’t disclose much about their plots because #spoilers, sweetie, but I’ll try to review them anyway. They’re perfect for this autumnal, “spooky” time of year, too.
|Funny story: this cover jump-scared me. I was studying it up close while on break
at work, when I suddenly saw those creepy eyes in the background FOR THE FIRST TIME.
This picks up exactly where Reapers left off. Whereas book 1 took some time to lay important groundwork before getting into the action, book 2 launches Phoenix and his friends right into the thick of things. Don’t get me wrong–book 1 wasn’t slow by any means! It just didn’t get truly intense until the latter half. Not so this time! Beyond the Gateway swept me up within the first few chapters, and nothing let up until the very end.
Nothing let up at all. Of course there are times of rest to give the reader (and the characters) a short breath, but overall, the plot feels like that long climb at the beginning of a roller coaster before it sends you plunging into an adrenaline-pumping adventure. So. Intense.
One thing I loved was Phoenix’s journey. His principles are tested time and time again. He stumbles. He questions. But he grows. Oh, does he grow! The spiritual side of things starts coming to light in this book, clearer than in the first, and it’s a new realm of thought for Phoenix.
That’s another thing I loved! Most of Bryan Davis’s male heroes are noble, upright, God-fearing men, but Phoenix is cut from slightly different cloth. He definitely wants to do the right thing, but his moral compass has no true north to which it points. (Yet.)
Speaking of which, it’s here that the author starts using the book’s speculative elements to their full potential. In a world where souls cannot instantly travel to their eternal destination, but must be reaped and deposited at a Gateway, the story is rife with opportunities to explore faith, eternity, doubt, and free will. Those things were hinted at in the first book, but here the characters dive right into those sometimes-murky waters in search of truth.
And I, of course, was gobbling it all up.
This book also widens the reader’s experience of the Reapers’ world. Some time is still spent in dystopian, run-down Chicago, but about half of the book takes you to the Gateway itself, and that new setting opens up a plethora of mysteries and answers and still more mysteries.
Back to the characters–remember how I didn’t totally love Shanghai before? I’ve changed my mind on her now. She is amazing. Somehow she became more real, vulnerable, and lovable in this book.
All the characters, really, are fantastic! But the villains, guys–THE VILLAINS. I HATE THEM SO MUCH. I don’t think I’ve hated someone as much as I hate Alex in quite some time.
That being said, Phoenix had to grapple with some verrrry interesting things regarding the fine line between justice and mercy! (If you can’t tell, I adore ethical dilemmas in fiction.)
And naturally Beyond the Gateway ended with a cliff-hanger! Good thing I had the next book on hand . . .
|Don’t you just love that cover? All the amber tones,
the flying dust/debris, the light…
So I thought book 2 was intense. HA. Book 3 ratcheted it up a few notches!
Villainous people play even crueller mind games on Phoenix.
Even more people are in great danger, with their lives hanging on his decisions.
Chicago is burning.
People are being gassed, bombed, and tortured.
Creepy robots called illuminaries are everywhere.
With new allies and new threats, Phoenix starts getting paranoid–and understandably so. He doesn’t know who to trust at first, but pretty soon he’s forced to trust others in order to take down the corrupt Gateway system and save the people he cares about. Here we see Phoenix stronger than ever before, both physically and character-wise. Seeing him finally get mad at a certain somebody who keeps harping on “his principles” and refuse to take any of that junk was so satisfying! And at the same time, Phoenix is struggling more than ever, sacrificing more than ever, and–
Right, I said there’d be no spoilers. Just go read the trilogy already so we can talk about all the juicy parts!
I have to say, while the book held the reader side of me captive, my writer side was also grinning as I pieced together the genius plot Bryan Davis wove together. He answered questions I barely knew I had, and built it all up to a heart-pounding climax!
You know what else he did? He tied this trilogy to the Time Echoes trilogy!* Old-time readers of his will be thrilled to find the connections, and new readers will hopefully be curious enough to go pick up those other books. The ties between the two series are so clever! I honestly got so excited when Scarlet, a Time Echoes character, was mentioned in passing a few times.
*formerly titled Echoes from the Edge
And after all the cliff-hangers and suspense, the ending of Reaper Reborn was positively perfect. There are huge consequences to everyone’s actions, but there is also enough happiness and satisfaction that by the time I reached the final page, I was content. (Unlike many YA dystopian novels that seem to favor bleak endings . . .)
I know reviews should be balanced, and I should mention any quibbles I had with these books . . . but there were none. This reading experience was full of the heart, courage, mystery, faith, well-rounded characters, and tight plotting I’ve come to expect from Bryan Davis.
On that note: when I pick up new books by beloved authors who were my favorites during childhood or teenhood, I’m usually a bit worried that my memories are too kind–that I’ll find the new book lacking somehow, and all the magic will crumble.
Well, folks, I’m happy to report that the Reapers Trilogy shows Bryan Davis is at the top of his game! His older books will always hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart, but these newer ones are so skillfully written that they hold a place of equal value. I won’t be forgetting my time with Phoenix in futuristic Chicago anytime soon!
Have you read the Reapers Trilogy yet? Do you like dystopian books? Who’s the last villain you loathed with your entire being? And, most importantly, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO PUT THESE BOOKS ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST?
Categories: Guest Post