Three years ago, young Lord Cassia disappeared in the midst of war. Since then, a devastating illness has swept the land, leaving countless dead and a kingdom forever altered. Having survived war and plague, Cas, now eighteen, wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.
An assassin targets those closest to the queen, drawing Cas into a search for a killer. With the help of a historian-in-training named Lena, he soon realizes that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. Cas and Lena 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.
Thank you to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Wow, this book blew me away! I had a peek at the first pages to see what I was in for, not planning to actually start reading it yet, and then couldn’t put it down. Makiia Lucier has a way of writing that gripped me completely and left me thinking of the the story whenever I had to leave it for a while . I resented the times I wasn’t reading and felt fully immersed whenever I picked it back up, which is all I can ask of a book, really. I also don’t know if this was written before or during the pandemic, but having a plague be part of the central storyline really hit home in a way it might not have at another time, especially seeing it in a more fantasy kingdom setting than the usual pandemic story set as post-apocalyptic or futuristic. But really, apart from the writing and world-building, the characters are absolutely phenomenal. Cas in particular, our main character, was someone I wanted to protect at all costs, and I loved being inside his head.
Cas, aka Lord Cassiapeus, is one of the lords of Palmerin, but he was captured three years before the start of the story, by a group from the neighbouring country, with which they were at war. He wound up in a labour camp, and was the only one to survive when the entire camp caught the plague. His story starts as he makes his way back home, hoping to find his brother still alive, and longing only for a quiet life in a familiar place. But, of course, life has other plans, and he arrives in Palmerin just in time to stop the assassination of the newborn prince. He discovers the royal family have taken up residence in his family estate, where the plague has had less of an effect; king Rayan is an old friend, but his wife Jehan is from Brisa, the country Cas was tortured in, the country that Oliveras has been at war with for fifty-two years. Their union has ended the war, but tension still runs high, enough for their son to be in danger. Instead of a quiet homecoming, Cas finds himself investigating who might be behind the attempt, and discovers other strange happenings around the estate. He has help in his search from Lena, a clever historian-in-training who Cas immediately takes a liking to. Lena and Cas are brilliant characters, and whenever they’re together they riff off each other really well, making all their conversations flow well and remain engaging.
I loved the mystery element to this story, but it was only one of the things I loved; I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint what about Year of the Reaper made me love it so much, but there’s just something about it. The writing flowed well, the mystery kept me guessing until the last, the characters are all distinct and loveable, even their dark sides, the soft romance made me feel things, and the world building wasn’t overdone but had enough to make me want to explore more of the world. And, though it has the elements of a medieval fantasy in terms of setting and names, there is no magic in it, and is more of a historical fiction. I wish I could do this book more justice, but the best way I can describe it is that it makes me scream internally whenever I think about it, and that I wanted to reread it as soon as I finished it, which is always the sign of a good story. I know it’s a standalone, but I really hope we get to see more of this setting, and maybe more of the characters, in the future.
Published: 9th November 2021
Genre: Teen & YA
Narration style: third person, past tense
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: death, plague, torture