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Year of the Reaper

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The past never forgets...

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer's apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’ title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas 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.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They 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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published November 9, 2021

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About the author

Makiia Lucier

5 books546 followers
Makiia Lucier is the author of Year of the Reaper, the Isle of Blood and Stone duology, and A Death-Struck Year. Her stories are inspired by history and mythology and have been called “brilliant” (Booklist), “moving,” (New York Times), “masterful” (Horn Book), and “breathtaking” (School Library Journal). They can be found on many notable lists, including the Kids’ Indie Next and the American Library Association’s ‘Best Fiction for Young Adults.’

Makiia grew up on the Pacific island of Guam, not too far from the equator, and holds degrees in journalism and library science.

She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,519 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
November 13, 2021
5 stars because why the heck not? lol.

i thought this was a COVID inspired book as a main chuck of the story is about an illness. but to find out its actually based on the black plague and a particular instance that happened because of it (wont mention what because of spoilers) had me enjoying this so much more.

but what first drew me in is the writing - it had me glued me to the page. the prose is so easy to feel present with and its written in third person, which i personally prefer. i also enjoyed that the MC is a boy. so often its young women who are the protagonists in YA fantasy, so it was refreshing to follow cas and his growth and life. hes extremely mature and level-headed, so he was easy to like.

i also have to give credit where its due. i love that this is a standalone. the art of creating a complete story in just one book seems to be a rare thing these days in YA fantasy, so i appreciate what the author has accomplished with this. yes, the ending is a bit rushed and there are some things that are left unexplained, but it feels pretty wrapped-up as a whole, so thats what matters to me.

this is the perfect book to pick up if you are looking for a historical kingdom story that is a little more adult, but still love the YA fantasy tropes, and want something that feels relevant to today (but in a fun way).

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Kelsey (munnyreads).
77 reviews5,735 followers
December 29, 2021
Ugh, I really love it when a book has a gorgeous cover and a story fit to match.

Year of the Reaper is a YA standalone that was inspired by/the aftermath of the Black Plague, Princess Joan, and the resilience of the human spirit. The story was written in a way that was easy to consume and captivating from the start. The main character Cas reminded me of Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. If Kaz was a nobleman and not, ya know, a criminal.

I wish there was more of the supernatural elements from this book, as the main character is able to see and communicate with ghosts/spirits, but it's not super prevalent or explained. I thought the relationships, both romantic and platonic, were handled fairly well. The MC and his brother had a stellar dynamic.

Overall, a very quick and exciting read with great characters, a bit of mystery, and a fast pace.
That and the cover I got is matte black and metallic gold with black sprayed edges. 10/10 would frame on my gallery wall.
June 13, 2023
—fourth read—
—⛓ 5 stars ⛓—

“And Cas, who did not like to be touched, wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, tucking her head beneath his chin.”

————about the book————

Age: YA
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Death, Plague,
Writing: 9/10
Quotes: 10/10
World building: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Romance: 8/10
My rating: 10/10

TRIGGER WARNINGS: death and grief, attempted murder, attempted infanticide, PTSD, plague, torture, prisoner of war themes, discussion of a forced hysterectomy, etc.

———my thoughts———

Three years ago, Lord Cassia disappeared in the middle of a war, on a mission from the king himself.
In the years since, a devastating plague has swept the land, leaving countless dead.
Having survived a rotting prison cell and plague, Cas, now eighteen, only wants to return home.
But home is not as he remembers.
And an assassin is on the prowl.

I always find it hard to describe how I love books.
Because, when I think about it—I simply don’t know.
It’s like they just arrived into my life, already loved.
And Year of the Reaper is no exception.
It’s a book that simply makes me happy.
Because even with its dark themes (for YA), there is a particular glow of sweetness to it.
And I think that is to do with the characters.
I love Cas with all my heart.
This is an 18-year-old who was imprisoned and tortured.
And the most beautiful thing about this book is his journey.
At the start, he cannot stand to be touched.
But by the end...he’s so happy.
And it makes me happy.
Cas and Lena make me the happiest of all.
They barely touch. But the way they take care of each other, and how Lena understands Cas’ feelings more than anyone else?
I think it’s beautiful.
But what is also beautiful is the writing.
It’s funny.
But it also holds this emotion, this way of making you immersed in this book.
And this is a book born from the pandemic, a world inspired not only by the Black Death, but Covid 19.
It’s fascinating to see something that our many-great ancestors saw merged with something we all lived though.
And it made this.
The plague may not be large part of the plot, but it is a huge part of the story.
Everything in this book would be different, if not for the plague.
For better or for worse, I don’t know.
This book doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. I’m surprised when I see other people reading it.
But if you’re in the mood for a YA...this is for you.


“When it came to the dead, it was best to pretend he did not see them.”

“Why did you come here? Were you looking for a book?”
“No. I was looking for you.���

“It doesn’t suit me anymore. I’m not sure how to be around other people.”
“By giving it one day. And the day after that, and another day after that. And if, after all those days, you still don’t like people—what of it? It’s no great crime to prefer the quiet.”

“Instead of taking his hand, Lena walked straight into him, burying her face in his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, breathing in her hair. And that was how they stood, for a long time, until the thundering hoofbeats warned them they would not be alone for long.”

———random extra thoughts———

Also, there are pet lynxes.

Thanks for reading! ❤️
Profile Image for Natasha Ngan.
Author 7 books3,389 followers
October 27, 2021
Just how I like my fantasy novels: bold, fierce and bloody. Grabs you by the horns and doesn't let go.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,226 reviews872 followers
February 7, 2022
On my blog.

Rep: mc with PTSD, gay side character

CWs: implied torture, gore, illness, amputation, human experimentation

Galley provided by publisher

So far this year, there have been only two books I’ve read that I’ve finished an ARC of, and then immediately gone away to preorder. This is the second of those books. (The first, for anyone curious, was Courtney Gould’s The Dead and the Dark.)

Let me start with some context. I’ve spent the last couple of years steadily realising that YA is… no longer for me, shall we say? There’ve been countless books I’ve read that have bored me to death. I’ve skimmed hundreds of pages, I’ve vowed to give up many times. But sometimes? Sometimes all that becomes worth it.

That’s how Year of the Reaper felt. I opened the book up, and within a few pages, I was fully absorbed. It’s cliché—and also somewhat pointless on my part to say, when I read a lot of books like this, for varying reasons—but I read it in a single sitting because I simply couldn’t put it down. Everything from the worldbuilding, to the mystery, to the characters themselves kept me turning page after page. I didn’t want it to end (so. Maybe Cas and Lena can reinvent themselves as investigators? Just a thought, Ms. Lucier).

I think what makes this book great, to me, is the combination of all its factors: world, character, and mystery, the last of which starts quite slowly, so the former two are very important. All of it leapt off the page, coming to life very vividly. Perhaps the clearest of the characters was Cas, as the protagonist, but he was surrounded by a vibrant cast too. And some of the backstories of those secondary characters made me desperate to know more about them and this world.

The mystery is also very well done. It’s kind of drip-fed to you for the first half, in a way that leaves you intrigued and waiting to know more, and then it’s steadily (or. Not that steadily, hahahahaha) ratcheted up in the second half. As more and more things come to light, you think you know who is behind it all, but whatever assumptions you make are smashed with glee by the author. I thought I had it sussed, but then the twist came, and it was one of those ones that genuinely makes your heart start racing.

So if this book is not on your radar yet, all I can ask is that you put it there right away. I enjoy so few YA fantasies that, whenever I find one I do love, I have to shove it down everyone’s throats.

Also I would really just like a five years later epilogue. For reasons.
Profile Image for Samantha.
224 reviews742 followers
September 18, 2023
You’re telling me I left this absolute GEM of a book sitting on my shelf for months??? I loved it so much 😭 I need more main characters like Cas. I would have read another 500 pages of this book. I would happily read a sequel. Absolutely a favorite omg I am unwell
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
970 reviews849 followers
November 22, 2022
For those of us who can straddle the lines between dark death, wry humor, and quick fantasy—this one's for us. And for anyone who's ever been interested in the Black Death plague.

Concept: ★★★ 1/2
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★
Humor: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★

Cas is on his way home. He's got a lot of PTSD and some new scars. He's the sole plague survivor of a POW labor camp for the enemy. He's also got an interesting and upsetting new ability to see ghosts of the recently dead. And he's got a horse. (That last one is the most important, as he's also scant broke and is trying to get home.)

Cas is dealing with a lot, obviously.

The last thing he needs is a random girl stealing his one horse out from under him.

Luckily, the girl gets stuck and needs some help—so now Cas has a horse AND and a girl...and still a bunch of emotional baggage. Cas would rather not have two of those three things, but hey, no one's ever asked for his opinion on the matter.

Cas is on his way home to his family's city estate and desperately hoping his brother made it out of the plague times alive. But when he gets home and is returned into the royal fold as the official Lord Cassia once more, Cas discovers more things have changed than just his own backstory—the royal court is now in residence at his own family's estate. And they've brought the enemy with them.

Now embroiled in an assassination plot, armed with baggage, and working through a bizarre interest in his horse thief girl—who is revealed to be the court's historian AND half-sister to the king, to boot—Cas has a lot on his plate.

He'd really just like the quiet life. But needs must, and Cas is nothing if not a wry utilitarian. There's things to be done.

Wow. I'd like to start by saying that Year of the Reaper is a book that I should have picked up a LONG time ago. I loved it. The fact that I picked it up at all was by chance—Fairyloot included it in their book box and it arrived on my doorstep. I feel compelled, obviously, to read those books. I would have never picked up the U.S. version based on its artwork... and what a shame that would have been, because this book was my vibe to perfection.

Macabre reading fans, rejoice!

This novel could have been depressing. It also could have used the Black Death inspiration as a shameless plot device and not done the topic justice. Year of the Reaper did neither of these things. In a true slice of grace, the author managed to write a novel that paid homage to the horrors, grief, and lingering fears of a generation dealing with extensive and unaccountable trauma while somehow maintaining a thread of hope and dose of wry humor. This was so, so deftly handled, I'm a bit in awe considering this novel's standalone status and shorter page count.

Pick this one up if you can! It's a gem in the genre.

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Profile Image for Lucy.
417 reviews626 followers
December 31, 2021

A lot of YA fantasy books seem to be about royals or royal kingdom settings and I’m a bit over it now. This was also set after a plague (inspired by bubonic plague) and Lord Cas, who was been wrongly imprisoned the past 3 years, is making way home, to find that everything he knew has changed. His castle has become a refuge for the Royal Court, things aren’t adding up and his brother who he once trusted is keeping secrets from him, and an assassin is targeting those closest to the Queen.

At first I found this book intriguing; why can Cas see the spirits of dead people!? When it’s not an ability he had before? What truly happened to the royal procession on the way to Lord Cas’ home? What is his brother and the Queen keeping to themselves?

Sadly I guessed very early on what the outcome would be and was a bit disappointed in how it played out. This outcome or “answer” to one of my questions, was also done SUPER quickly that I don’t feel it was given justice.
One of my main questions was how Lord Cas has this interesting ability (when he never had it before) and there was no answer given to this.

Some of what the other characters went through I feel I wanted answers to, and just didn’t get them. Or they were just put as a side note and not explored. These characters especially went through the worst possible hell and I just felt a deep sadness for them that I am sad this wasn’t explored further, or they weren’t given justice as an outcome of this book.

On the plus side this book is very fast paced and did start off well. Despite guessing the ending, I still wanted to see how this played (even though it was rushed and the character was not given the justice she most definitely deserved).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sanja ✵.
246 reviews
January 12, 2022
This is not a book I would’ve picked up myself, but I choose to give it a chance because it sounded interesting enough when it came in my FairyLoot box.

But boy, did it fall flat. The most interesting part is that the main character can see ghosts. We never get an answer to why that is and it wasn’t included enough in the story. It was just added when it was convenient and then forgotten about.

Much of the story developed by the guards being utterly incompetent and messing up time and time again and therefore creating trouble. When they beat up the main character, that belongs to one of the most influential families, without giving him the chance to explain, their punishment was their own embarrassment? Doesn’t people get executed for that?

I also found everyone to be extremely loose lipped in the beginning. They just revealed all their darkest secrets in a room full of people. That didn’t feel believable at all for people that gone through so much trauma.

It was so repetitive, I lost count how many times I was told that the royal insignia was a bull and a flower. A lot of the sentences was also short and choppy.

There was a plot twist towards the end that was really good and I thought my feelings towards the book would pick up. But then Cas started acting like an utter twat and I was just annoyed again.

I didn’t enjoy all the focus on the baby. All he did was scream, burp and piss himself. I don’t want to read about that once every other page. But at the same time he was one of the most well developed characters, because all the other ones were hardly allowed to be part of the story and felt flat.

The ending was also extremely rushed and felt too easily resolved. It was however fun to have a male main character, but that’s pretty much it.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,501 reviews445 followers
November 8, 2021
Ever read one of those books where the first few pages hit you across the face, but in a good way?

This is the book.

It very much felt like The Curse of Chalion meets SERIOUS SPOILER HERE by way of 2020, in that a young man recently escaped from the prison of his enemy returns home after being thought for dead, immediately foils an attempted assassination against his king's newborn son, and stumbles into a mystery that threatens the peace between his kingdom and that of his enemy. Oh, and the young man can see the dead.

The seeing the dead part was underutilized IMO, but I didn't mind. It was such a light touch, so well done, to show how Cas was literally haunted. It's not easy to write a character like Cas, and I loved how he was portrayed and written, and how his motivations were shown instead of told. You never quite get into his head, but you are in his head through his actions. He's a very quiet character, and recovering from an awful lot, and highly intelligent, and...literally haunted. PTSD is a bitch, even in a world where literally everyone is suffering from some version of it. Throughout it all, however, he has retained his soul.

The writing is superb, the world-building was incredible (the food, the descriptions of the cities), the relationships of the people who were beside themselves over the return of their beloved lordling (COOK!!!!!), and the way the slow recovery from a decades' long war and even worse plague were handled was just *chef's kiss*

Holy shit, and Cas and Lena's relationship, and, quite literally, the relationships of everyone with each other.

I was in tears for something like 80% of the book. How heartbreaking, and heartwarming and just. I dunno. It's so, so good, even if the murder mystery aspect of it was fairly simple. But even though the "twist" is easy to find, the way Lucier wrote it made my heart catch as all of the implications were so emotionally engaged.

My only (very minor) gripes are the marketing, the title and the cover. I don't think this should be YA. It has an adult feel to it, although I can see why it was marketed as YA instead of Adult, and not just because the characters are young. Also, the title and the cover and the blurb made me feel like I was stepping into a war-like book, when it's not warlike—it's violent and brutal and filled with death, but this is about the aftermath of war and death and plague, and what comes next. So the cover—as hilarious as it is, when I figured out what it's supposed to depict—felt a little mismarketed.

Anywho, my one last minor gripe is that I NEED AN EPILOGUE!

Preferably set five years into the future, on that day. IYKYK.

Overall, however, this is just an incredible book, and I am so honored to have been granted an advance copy.

Full RTC. Yes, those are just my rambly bambly thoughts.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
851 reviews3,880 followers
December 12, 2021
3.5 stars rounded up because I really, really liked the characters. The story itself was fun, and if I'd have wished for a few things to be better explained, it was so effortlessly readable that I don't really care?

Few YA books managed to keep my attention this year, so really, I'm not one to hold a grudge.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,473 followers
October 31, 2022
Lord Cas has been missing for three-years. In this time, a plague has ravaged the kingdom and he has long been presumed dead. His return shocks all those who knew him, as does the news that arrives with him, and the new threats all inside of the castle now have to face. An assassin lurks within its walls and a plague dominates outside of it. Who will survive remains to be seen.

I really enjoyed how this author wove historical aspects into something so fantastical and entirely its own creation. I vastly prefer the fantasy to the historical genre, and so I was glad to find it very firmly rooted in the latter.

Cas was our initial eyes into this world, and his status allowed us unbarred access to it. His privileged upbringing did not deter from his compassionate side showing and, through this, more than just the way of life for the wealthy was witnessed. The plague knew no such status and so neither did Cas's explorations.

The focus was split between plague and assassin and so death featured heavily within these pages. So too did a romantic focus. This latter was not my favourite but I loved how the other two aspects were explored and the twists that were continually revealed throughout this.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Makiia Lucier, and the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Britany.
991 reviews434 followers
May 30, 2022
I would have never picked this up if not for the "Pacific Islander Author" prompt on the PopSugar Challenge, and for that I am so grateful.

Cassia (Cas as he prefers) makes his way home back to Palmerin after being held as a prisoner for 3 years. Over that time, his home land thought he perished with the plague that wiped out most of the communities. Death and sadness seep through the land as he journeys home to see if his brother is still alive. Along the way, he saves Lena from a rabid lynx and their banter was my absolute favorite. The kingdom has changed with a new queen in charge and suddenly staying alive becomes the number one priority.

I really enjoyed this book. I read it in two sittings because it was impulsively readable. It got a little in the weeds at around the 60% mark, but I loved how well drawn the characters were and how much I loved the adventure. It jumped the shark a little bit for me plot-wise, but hoping for a sequel? I really wish we got more of Cas talking to the ghosts, besides the banter, that was my favorite part.

Profile Image for Lauren (thebookscript).
742 reviews337 followers
September 8, 2023
4.5 stars! Year of the Reaper is fresh, adventurous, fun and unique.

I loved that the book has a MALE perspective written by a female author. I don't feel like this is done often and well and Makii hit it out of the park. Our main character Kas felt like an age appropriate hero and the perfect fit for this YA standalone.

This is a plague book...a far reaching illness has spread across the land and deaths are mounting daily. This is more of an aftermath situation but I think it was done well. Our main character can see the dead and it makes his interactions fun and adds a layer of intrigue. This is a plot focused mystery fantasy. It feels like those classic fantasy books and may be a hit for people who love Jeff Wheeler or the Finnickin of the Rock series.

This is not a romance focused book and I didn't mind that at all. There is a small sub plot relationship that was sweet and just enough of a taste that romance didn't feel necessary to tell a great story! The murder mystery aspect was fun and one twists totally caught me by surprise and I felt like it was really clever. There is a threat to the throne and I love unpacking the clues alongside Cass and Lena as they find friendship and more within each other and use their brains to track down a murderer.

A SOLID standalone with great engaging writing and characters. I would hesitate to recommend this one. I would definitely read this authors next book.
Profile Image for Shaghayegh.
316 reviews83 followers
March 13, 2022
چی راجع بهش بگم�� ایده و شروع ماجرا عالی بود، آخرش هم دوست داشتم. اون وسطا می‌تونست بهتر باشه، ولی در مجموع خوب بود.
Profile Image for CC.
174 reviews57 followers
December 22, 2021
This is absolutely wonderful and inspiring and exceeded my expectations. It has all my Favorite Things: Tortured Hero who experiences Real Struggles with the trauma of being a captive, Middle Age inspired fantasy setting (no magic in this one), it features redemption (which may not be what you expect), and an inspiring and beautiful (I mean on the inside as well ;) heroine.

Cas is the very best type of hero. He has to deal with trauma and how his captivity and the torture and all the deaths around him due to the Plague affected him. He has to remain honorable despite the fact that he returns home to find that his close friend and king have married to the princess from Brisa, the country he was held captive in. Lucier accurately depicts all of these struggles.

The Cas + Lena ship is simply adorable and slow-burn in the very best of ways (from their first meeting to their interactions/banter... <3). She's just what he needed to readjust to normal life. And the depiction of what Cas has to go through after he returns home is brilliant. I also love all the family and friends dynamics.

(I may be slightly biased to stories that feature heroes because I feel there's an oversupply of not-well-done heroines in the market... just warning you people. :D)

The prose is beautiful & gripping. I really like Lucier' treatment of the Plague as well as how people's lives were affected (including the grotesque but very real occurrence that ). The setting is also detailed - not in the boring way but in the fascinating way. I REALLY appreciate the various food and cultural descriptions. The Plague may make the setting sound very dark but it's also very real and very hopeful and I'm so here for it.

But especially: Errance VIBES. From Moonscript by HSJ Williams.

Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams
(When you said "Erre vibes" I was 100% bought in. That's how dedicated I am. ;)

The plot and pacing is well done. There's a good amount of well-executed mystery. Overall very gripping and pulled me right in, which is lovely because I didn't expect it to be so wonderful.

So yeah, what more can I ask?? I shall certainly be looking for more from Lucier!

Content: PG-13 for probably some disturbing image/s, and off-screen torture, violence, ghosts (but not in the super creepy way). Note that the story features the Bubonic Plague - so you can probably picture those kinds of descriptions.
No language that I can recall.
No sexual scenes. One kiss (yep, that's all we got, but it's worth it ;). There's a rather clear implication that a supporting character is homosexual and it's talked about between characters.
Profile Image for Nicole.
546 reviews49 followers
December 26, 2022
english review only

THIS BOOK. The first two chapters I was so unsure about it, cause I always have such a hard time reading a male POV (don't ask, I don't know either.)

But this book was so damn good written. I loved the story so damn much, AND THE CHARACTERS.
I freaking love Cas and Lena. I love them as characters but also together, their dynamic was so much fun to read. ALL THE FEELS.

The mystery was so good, and I loved the pacing of the revelations, the twists and the turns. I think the "show down" felt a little bit rushed.

But all in all, I LOVE this books so much and I'm mad it's a standalone, so I won't read anything new about these characters anymore. But I sure as hell will reread it.
Profile Image for Maryam.
720 reviews123 followers
February 11, 2023
A stand-alone brilliant YA fantasy, in the world of trilogies and even more-books-series, it’s a rare pleasure to find a good standalone YA fantasy story!

Year of the Reaper was exactly what I needed now! After reading couple of average best sellers, this book gave me the satisfaction of not putting a book down.

I liked how there was a brief story/background attached to each character. It was just the right amount of information I needed to understand each one. If you are into YA fantasy this one should be on your list.
Profile Image for Xia ✻..
510 reviews60 followers
November 28, 2021
★★★★✩ / 4.25

This book was surprisingly good and felt like a breath of fresh air.

For beginners, our main narrator is a man, something not common in the fantasy I’m used to read. Cas is young but level-headed, nice, mature and interesting, which made him very easy to like. I immediately warmed up to him and his story. I wish a lot of things of his personality and past were exploited more, but I was satisfied nonetheless.

The writing was beautiful and very well crafted. It made me want to keep reading without stop. Also, I love third person narration, which was a big plus.

The story was also uncommon and interesting. Whereas the worldbulding didn’t go very deep and a lot of things were left in the surface, focusing more on the mystery of the book, the plot was very well-structured, with a nice ensemble of characters and relationships, and a plot twist that left me gaping, which made me forgive any small niggling I could have.

I’m also very glad this is a real standalone. The story is based on the Black Plague in a fantasy world with a paranormal touch.

Totally recommend for a light, engaging and very good ride.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,052 reviews215 followers
December 9, 2021
CW: plague, medical experimentation, near drowning, burning, assault and whipping.

I have been seeing early review for this book for a while now and even though they were pretty gushing ones, I never felt like I wanted to read it. For whatever reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of the cover either. But recently, I happened to see vaguely a couple more lovely reviews and decided that maybe I should give it a try. I’m so so glad that I didn’t miss out on it because of my cover vanity.

This is in the description, so it’s not a spoiler but I never actually thought I would read a book, albeit a fantasy, featuring a plague just when it feels like the omicron variant of the coronavirus is gonna wreak havoc soon. But I dared myself and picked this book up and it was a wonderful decision. Yes, this book is dark with gory descriptions of the plague and it’s aftermath, the devastation it leaves behind, the legacy it leaves behind for those alive. The author doesn’t shy away from describing it all in intricate detail - the landscape and the corpses and the stench and the castles and hospitals full of dying and helpless people - it is not an easy read but it is also not gratuitous, it’s just the truth. Amidst this backdrop, we also have an assassination attempt, the digging through the past and following of clues to uncover the culprit, and twists and turns which just left me on the edge of my seat, unable to put the book down at all.

While it feels like the whole book is dark and tense and mysterious - and it is - that’s not what one feels upon completion of it. Because in its heart, this is a story about hope and resilience in times of adversity, and the power of family and friendship. There is genuine love and joy to be found in these pages and I’m actually surprised and in awe of the author’s skill in writing such a hopeful book with a very opposing bleak backdrop.

I can probably count on my fingers that number of YA fantasies I’ve read with a young man as the main protagonist, so that was a nice change here. And Cas is a brilliant one to follow along. He suffers greatly in prison, walks out alive almost like a miracle, sees the past and present devastation caused by the plague with gruesome clarity - but all he wants is to go home. He is not the same scrawny young boy he was at fifteen when he left on a routine mission, but the love he has for his brother and everyone present in Palmeran keep is immense and it is equally reciprocated. He needs time to recover but when a mysterious assassin keeps trying to kill off the Queen’s retinue, he can’t help but follow the trail of clues and unmask the truth. He is persistent, dutiful and compassionate in everything he does and it was so easy to appreciate him for everything.

He is ably supported by a young historian Lena who also happens to be the King’s half sister. She is determined to follow the legacy of her historian grandfather and finish his account which was cut short. She is also very understanding of Cas’s circumstances, both the after effects of his imprisonment and his new found weird powers. She is lovely and cheerful, and maybe just the right person to befriend Cas in this new life, where he is still figuring out what he needs. Their friendship is another highlight of the book and I adored that any progression of their relationship was very natural and never forced, at a pace that felt true to Cas’s character arc.

Ventillus, Cas’s brother is a solid presence and his love for his sibling whom he thought dead was palpable in his every word and action. He may still think his little brother needs to be coddled and protected but it is still out of love. But he is also someone who has been devastated due to too much death - both war and plague - and only wishes for peace and prosperity for his remaining loved ones. Queen Jehan is kind of the central character around whom the mystery revolves but we don’t truly get to know her well. But she is a good mother and an even better Queen, who doesn’t consider some tasks beneath her just because of her status. King Rayan also seemed like a reasonable ruler who values the good people around and treasures his relationships. There were also quite a few others who had minor but very heartfelt and impactful presence in the story and I’m glad we got to meet them all.

In the end, I just want to say that don’t let the premise of the book scare you away. The book may seem bloody and bleak but it has some wonderful characters, especially Cas whom I really want to be best friends with, and a tale which is full of hope - hope that when we all work together full of love and compassion for each other, we will be able to overcome adversities. And I think it can’t be denied that in these trying times, it’s our bonds of friendship and family that have lent us strength to survive and hopefully continue to do so as we all navigate our pandemic stricken world.
Profile Image for Natasha  Leighton .
450 reviews176 followers
December 27, 2021
Beautifully thrilling and absolutely unforgettable,this YA fantasy stand-alone by Makiia Lucier isn’t to be missed!

Three years ago, in the midst of war and on a mission entrusted to him by the king, Lord Cassia disappeared. Since then a plague has spread leaving hundreds dead and the kingdom forever changed.

Having survived imprisonment and illness, Cass just wants to return home and forget his past horrors. But home isn’t as he remembers, for the castle has become a refuge for the royal court—and they’ve brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the Queen, Cass is drawn into the hunt for a killer... and an unexpected bond with brilliant historian, Lena. Together they realise the culprit’s identity is far less important than why. Looking to the past, they discover a terrible secret—one that threatens the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war.

I really enjoyed the brilliantly detailed world building and complex character development, of Cass especially. He and Lena had some of the best scenes and one of the most entertaining first meetings, I loved it!

I also really enjoyed the subtle paranormal elements (the ghosts) and the mystery surrounding the assassin and their motives was also rather enthralling—as was that incredible revelatory plot twist.

Overall, an exceptionally relevant tale of friendship, resilience and hope;fans of YA Fantasy or Mystery are going to love this I can’t wait to check out more of Lucier‘s work.

And a massive thank you to Hodder&Stoughton and NetGalley for the e-arc.
Profile Image for Carmen.
109 reviews15 followers
December 14, 2021
Year of the Reaper is absolutely incredible. It is easy to get through, thanks to the beautiful prose. The story follows Cas, a young Lord, who gets wrongly imprisoned for three years, only to catch the deadly plague that has been ravaging across the kingdoms. He survives the illness, and by recovering, he can now see ghosts. When he returns home, where he was presumed dead, he discovers a lot has changed: the King and Queen now temporarily reside in his castle, the only place where the plague hasn't struck yet.

Cas is thrust into a murder mystery when an assassin attempts to kill the newborn prince on his Naming Ceremony, but fails when Cas rescues the prince. Along with Lena, the royal historian, they try to uncover the reason behind the several attacks on the queen's life, only to discover a terrible secret that changes the lives of their loved ones.

Not only is the plot really engaging, but the characters are well written as well. It is refreshing to have a male lead and Cas definitely is one of my favourites: he is brave, strong and knows what needs to be done, while maintaining his good heart and morals. I definitely rooted for him along the way. Lena is also an endearing character who doesn't conform to the assigned gender roles. I really liked the way she and Cas became friends. It gave me so much joy.
Profile Image for Mimona Masarwa.
277 reviews30 followers
December 19, 2022
A story of carrying on after a plague.

A story that happens after the plague and shows how people carry on with their lives, if their trauma of what they lived will ever dissipate, it may never vanish but they can live with it.

I am so deeply in love with the characters, they are loveable, strong kind and on top of that, they are so noble.
The story is very well written and arranged. It was so easy to dive into it from the very first chapter, in chapter five I was already obsessed and immersed into it.

The amount of historical details fits just right. it gives historical, architectural, and art details just what the reader needs to get the point of the scene.

the story shows different kinds of relationships, love honor brotherhood motherhood friendship, and much more.

The relationship between the two brothers is my fav! they are so loveable! I kept remembering my own older sisters, just like with velenteri they are so protective and give a reliable assurance with their presence!

the book radiates hope, that after darkness sun will rise for sure.
Even after all these people went through kindness for sure was still there. their hearts could warm a country and they are absolutely beautiful their hearts are. Bravery kindness and warmth for each other and for the ones in need, its the essence everyone should work to find in themselves.

I wasn't ready for the climax point was not even expecting it! it was so sad, so devastating and for me no one was wrong but it just went wrong somehow ... my heart ached for the characters!

By the final chapters, the book felt like it is telling a story about coming home in a lot of different ways. for each character a different kind of coming home.

The book is perfect. loved it so much, the ending was not entirely happy for everyone but what mattered was that in the end each one of them was able to carry on after everything, a different way for each one.

I am still wondering why did Cas choose to fight with a mace? was it a Symbol for the story, and identification, or just part of the character that the author wanted him to have... guess I will never know.

highly recommended and it is not related to the corona virus or came to any closer to it so you don't need to worry that it had a plague as a starting point :)
Profile Image for Nafeeza.
252 reviews4 followers
April 20, 2022
So delightful- I enjoyed Cas as a MC so much! Year of the Reaper was a refreshing, original and smart read. It snuck up on me and next thing I knew I was in love with the book. Cas made for a fantastic MC, a total grump on the outside but a cinnamon roll with the heart of gold on the inside. I adored his relationship with his brother (good sibling dynamics get me in the ole ticker every time 😭) and all the other bonds he formed (despite his best efforts I might add) along the way. I needed more Bitior though.

Now did I guess the twists? Yes. Did it detract from my enjoyment of the book, not in the least! Highly recommend this one.
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