Reaper’s Touch by Eleri Stone
|Book Name:||Reaper’s Touch|
|Formatt:||Audiobook / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Western|
|Release Date:||February 10, 2014|
I’m a big fan of romance. I believe in love at first sight, flowers, and date nights (even if it’s just an hour out of the house, simply to get a break from the kids). However, when it comes to reading science-fiction and fantasy, I don’t find myself straying too close to the ‘romance’ sub-category. I certainly expect romance in the books I read—because what’s a good fantasy story without a love interest or two—but I don’t really seek plots with that as its primary focus.
So when I was recently offered the chance to read and review Reaper’s Touch (*ebook copy kindly provided for review), written by paranormal and fantasy romance author Eleri Stone, I really didn’t know what to expect. Was I about to enter Mills and Boon territory? Or even 50 Shades of Grey??
As it turns out…no. I was about to canter into damn good story territory.
The Official Blurb
Abby is a Ranger, part of an elite group who defend the border against Reapers-humans infected with a parasite that turns them into mindless cannibals. Rangers are immune to Reaper infection, and as one of the only female Rangers, Abby is expected to settle down and breed more Rangers-a fate she’s keen to avoid. When she’s ambushed on the plains, she’s ready to go out with guns blazing-until a mysterious, handsome cowboy rides to her rescue.
Jake has his own motives for helping Abby, beyond aiding a damsel in distress. He’s a Reaper, and while he’s learned to wrest control of his mind from the parasite, the effects won’t last without a permanent cure. And he needs Abby to get it.
Abby and Jake are natural enemies and unlikely partners. But when their search reveals a conspiracy between Reapers and the rich industrialists who own the mountain cities, they must work together to find the cure-or lose the border, and each other, forever.
The Good News
Overall, Reaper’s Touch is a solid, enjoyable fantasy western, with a romance that is fresh, interesting and brought to the boil at just the right pace.
The two leads, Abby and Jake, are three dimensional in all the best non-physical ways—with their own duties, agendas, and significant flaws, and neither willing to give the other much leeway until at least half-way through the book.
The story revolves around Abby primarily, who is just the right kind of grim cowgirl-esque ranger you’d expect to find in this world; she can take care of herself for the most part and doesn’t appreciate anyone interfering in her business. While Jake, the mysterious cowboy, isn’t simply there to make up the romantic numbers, but rather brilliantly drawn, with dark and tragic secrets that will see you rooting for him—even though he may kill and devour Abby at any time, because he’s a Reaper and that’s what they do.
The worldbuilding is sparse, yet does the job nicely for this kind of setting. In fact, for me it had faint undertones of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, only detailing the bare bones of the post-apocalyptic wasteland while keeping the focus on these two loners as they ride through your average American Midwest that turns out to be anything but.
Time and again we’re given tantalising snippets of a more epic setting featuring fancy technology, grand cities and horrifying events. But we never stray far from the two gunslingers and their struggle to fulfil their separate quests, while not killing each other in the process. And while usually I like the epic in my fantasy, I was quite happy to spend time on this more intimate, slow-burn journey through the world to see where it took these characters.
The Bad News
There isn’t much to complain about here and what there is might be simply a matter of personal taste.
First and foremost, the writing is solid; clear and concise throughout, which again fits the story and the setting perfectly. That said, the sudden appearance of explicit sexual language caught me a little off-guard. I knew the story was heading in that direction, but I initially felt that the terminology used was perhaps a little too modern and out of place in this western fantasy.
Of course, this feeling could certainly be due to my inexperience in this genre. And I was happy at least that their direct use—as opposed to weaving in ‘flowery’ (ahem) metaphors—was blunt enough for me to quickly accept it as part of the world of grim, bad-ass cowgirls and boys for whom sex (until this point) has been a bit of an exercise in physical relief and companionship more than anything romantic.
Another niggle is that the bad guys in the story get short shrift. The faceless ‘youngling’ Reapers, who are initially menacing, eventually become cannon fodder, while we only hear about, rather than see, the more powerful sentients among them—who, like Jake, have overcome their parasites. One, Marston, stands out as the chilling foe we’d hope for in a story like this, but I think his part in the story could have been expanded somewhat.
All of which leads to me feeling that the climax of the book could have been a little bolder, a little crazier, considering the twists and turns in the journey that led us there. Ironically, despite a satisfying ending for some, I think a darker turn would have fit the western mood better and left me at least feeling a little more satisfied than I did.
All in all this is a great story. It’s probably not one I would have discovered myself, but thankfully I was offered the chance to read it and am very glad I did.
Regardless of whether or not you have anything for or against romance, know that at its heart this is a quality fantasy western tale featuring two well written characters, both of whom make for very interesting, if tense, campfire companions. The world is barren, but beautiful, while the plot has given me a new, interesting take on ‘zombies’ that I didn’t think was possible in this oversaturated undead world we live in today. Consider me bitten/smitten.