Narrator: Jonathan Myles
Published by Harper Audio on 2021-11-09
Length: 9 hours and 48 minutes
Reviewing Audiobook from TN R.E.A.D.S.
Reading Challenges: 2023 Audiobook Challenge, 2023 Backlist Reader Challenge, COYER 2023
A rich and captivating YA standalone fantasy that's perfect for fans of Brigid Kemmerer, Rachel Hartman, and Naomi Novik, from the writer whose stories have been called “brilliant” (Booklist), “masterful” (Horn Book), and “breathtaking” (School Library Journal), comes a captivating new standalone fantasy. In the aftermath of a devastating plague, a young lord is determined to discover the truth behind a mysterious attempt to assassinate the young queen.
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 18, 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.
For those readers who enjoy dry humor, dark and grisly deaths, and light fantasy, this book is for you. Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier has been on my TBR shelf since prior to the book’s release, yet somehow I kept forgetting about it. I recently found an audiobook copy at my local e-library and devoured it. This book is wonderfully written with just the right balance of humor and macabre.
Lord Cassiapeus, who goes by Cas, was on a mission from the king to inspect the country’s aqueducts when he and his three friends were ambushed and taken prisoner by a rival kingdom. Three years, Cas was thought dead, and now because of the plague that swept the country, he is free. The story opens with Cas nearly home, struggling with PTSD; his own near brush with death giving him the ability to see the spirits of the dead. His only goal is to return home and hope that the plague has left his brother and city in peace. What he finds is the king, his new bride, and recently produced heir threatened by an unknown assassin.
Cas is a great character. I loved seeing the story unfold through his perspective. His own struggles are at the forefront, but the mystery around the prince’s failed assassination at his naming day help to distract him. Lena, the king’s sister and horse thief to Cas, makes a great ally. She brings Cas out of his darkness. She recognizes the parts of him that have been irrevocably changed by his experiences and is willing to sit in those dark places with him.
The quirky humor was unexpected but greatly appreciated as the subject material can be quite dark. Johnathan Myles narrates, and his narration adds to the humor with subtle inflections in his tone. Sarcasm doesn’t read well on page, but in audiobook form it is spot on! Cas, along with most of the survivors of the plague, cope with gallows humor, which isn’t for everyone. As a nurse, I highly appreciate it. Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying because if you really stop to think about what is happening it will break you. This is where Cas is when we meet him, and Lucier conveys it well.
Overall, I really enjoyed Year of the Reaper. Its light fantasy, beautifully depicted characters, and their devastating world is captivating. I got lost in this one and didn’t come up for hours at a time. I think I would classify this one as historical fantasy as it is loosely based on the Black Death in 14th century Spain, even this world is a fictional Spain. Highly recommend!