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.
With Cas returning home after being imprisoned and presumed dead for so many years, this description gave me The Count of Monte Cristo vibes. I also liked that it’s a standalone.
This book sneaked up and put a bear hug on me. With characters I loved, others I loved to hate, and the mystery of who was behind the attacks, I wanted to plow through it in one sitting. After three years of prison beatings and torture, surviving the plague, and witnessing so much death, Cas has a dark side to him. He’s not the person who disappeared three years ago, and his struggle to control that part of him is a challenge. I immediately liked Lena. She’s disguised as a royal messenger and steals Cas’s horse the first time they meet. She loves books and isn’t a fan of the rule requiring her to be in the company of male escorts/chaperones most of the time. I’m always a fond of rebellious characters.
The mystery of the assassin is full of red herrings and plot twists that lead Cas and Lena on a perplexing journey. It kept me guessing, but by the big reveal (and it’s a good one), I’d guessed the culprit. There’s a paranormal element I didn’t expect, but it adds a nice angle to the story. The supporting cast is also strong, but Bittor is a standout for me with his humorous lines and big heart.
Although the story is complete without it, I’d hoped for an epilogue set five years in the future, but I won’t go into detail about that date – no spoilers. With compelling characters, a gripping mystery, paranormal flair, and a sprinkling of humor, Year of the Reaper enthralled me from beginning to end.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.