Year of the Reaper

Clarion. Nov. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358272090.
Gr 7 Up–After surviving plague and escaping the hospital where he was left to die, 18-year-old Cas makes his way across a pestilence-ravaged nation, desperate to be home after three years imprisoned in an enemy country. His newfound ability to see the spirits of the dead everywhere makes his journey infinitely more difficult as he gets closer to home and sees more and more people he once knew. Cas makes it home just in time to save the infant prince on his naming day, discovering the royal family and their court have moved into his family’s ancestral keep. When Cas discovers the assassin had not been aiming for the young prince, but his nurse, questions are raised about how the foreign queen arrived in Oliveras for her marriage and where, exactly, her royal entourage went. Cas’s soft, slow-building romance with Lena, a clever young historian, is wonderfully authentic and adds depth to Cas’s character arc from vengeful prisoner to trusted official. Lucier’s a deft hand with layered relationships tangling her characters together in fascinating ways and propeling the story forward, and Cas’s succinct narrative voice holding high stakes and hope in equal measure. Expertly plotted with complex characters, the book features well-crafted twists and turns as Cas is thrown headfirst into the mysteries of the royal court. The king is biracial, the other characters are unspecified.
VERDICT Part political mystery, part dark adventure fantasy, this is a book you’ll want to devour in one sitting. Deeply satisfying.

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