The second in the "four horseman" series, Kessler does it again. A wonderfully imagined story of Melissa, a cutter and junior in high school, who is at war with herself. Instead of dealing with hurt and pain, she releases it through cutting and the one person who she eventually confides in (a boyfriend named Adam) turned on her months back and again as she asks her to strip naked and releases partygoers to take video and pictures so the entire school knows she's a cutter. In steps Death and appears Famine from the first story to show her the balance she brings as War with her black steed. As with the first, the mortal battles coincide with the magic of riding around the world on her horse to destroy but internally she struggles with a war.
When she decides to embrace peace, war is now balanced within and without her and Melissa will now ride as one of the four horseman.
Truly magical and at times, extremely disturbing, it truly is a cautionary tale on bullying as well as the psychological scars cutters carry. Family dynamics play a role, as Melissa's younger sister is popular and hates her reputation tainted by an emo older sister. Her parents are too busy to notice anything wrong since they're overworked. I do worry about the often gory details of her cutting and the blood being too much for some, but taken for the beauty of the message, it is remarkable.
"Her gaze was transfixed on the Sword, and she drew it close to her face. She saw herself reflected in the blade: her eyes shone wickedly, hinting of murder, and her smile was twisted into something grotesque."
"Your past is meaningless and your future is waiting to be defined. Don't condemn yourself to mediocrity just yet."
"She dragged the Sword behind her, and it left sparks of fury in her wake."