Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book Reviews: Beyond the Gateway + Reaper Reborn by Bryan Davis

Happy Sunday, everyone! Sorry I missed posting yesterday. I chose homework and an evening with friends over publishing this post on time, and while I wish I was a superhero and could get everything done, obviously I'm not. Thanks for bearing with this mere mortal!

Today I'm excited to be sharing not one, but TWO awesome book reviews! I feel like I've been doing more reviews than normal lately, which is . . . odd . . . because my reading time is diddly squat these days. Anyway! Remember a couple months ago when I reviewed Bryan Davis's Reapers? Shortly thereafter, I went ahead and read the rest of the Reapers Trilogy back to back.

THIS IS BIG. I ALMOST NEVER DO THAT. When I start a series, I usually take my time between books because I don't want to get tired of that storyworld. You can have too much of a good thing, right? (I mean, there's also the opposite problem, where sometimes I take too long to continue a series, and end up forgetting all the important stuff.) But I had the next two Reapers books sitting oh-so-temptingly on my desk, calling for me to discover how the story continued. So I did it. I read an entire trilogy within several weeks, and the final two books I read back to back. That should tell you how good they were!

Now, I have a weird, hard-to-define rating system when it comes to books. I rated Reapers 5 stars, and it deserved every single one of those stars. But I'm rating Beyond the Gateway and Reaper Reborn as 5 star reads too--except I loved them even MORE. See, there's a whole range of 5 star books in my mind: there's the "this was a solid book, I really enjoyed myself, and would gladly recommend it" kind of five stars. And then there's the "THIS BOOK WAS INCREDIBLE; EVERYONE, GO READ THIS NOW" kind of five stars. These last two books fall squarely in the latter category!

I can't disclose much about their plots because #spoilers, sweetie, but I'll try to review them anyway. They're perfect for this autumnal, "spooky" time of year, too.

Funny story: this cover jump-scared me. I was studying it up close while on break
at work, when I suddenly saw those creepy eyes in the background FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Book 2: Beyond the Gateway

This picks up exactly where Reapers left off. Whereas book 1 took some time to lay important groundwork before getting into the action, book 2 launches Phoenix and his friends right into the thick of things. Don't get me wrong--book 1 wasn't slow by any means! It just didn't get truly intense until the latter half. Not so this time! Beyond the Gateway swept me up within the first few chapters, and nothing let up until the very end.


Check that.

Nothing let up at all. Of course there are times of rest to give the reader (and the characters) a short breath, but overall, the plot feels like that long climb at the beginning of a roller coaster before it sends you plunging into an adrenaline-pumping adventure. So. Intense.

One thing I loved was Phoenix's journey. His principles are tested time and time again. He stumbles. He questions. But he grows. Oh, does he grow! The spiritual side of things starts coming to light in this book, clearer than in the first, and it's a new realm of thought for Phoenix.

That's another thing I loved! Most of Bryan Davis's male heroes are noble, upright, God-fearing men, but Phoenix is cut from slightly different cloth. He definitely wants to do the right thing, but his moral compass has no true north to which it points. (Yet.)

Speaking of which, it's here that the author starts using the book's speculative elements to their full potential. In a world where souls cannot instantly travel to their eternal destination, but must be reaped and deposited at a Gateway, the story is rife with opportunities to explore faith, eternity, doubt, and free will. Those things were hinted at in the first book, but here the characters dive right into those sometimes-murky waters in search of truth.

And I, of course, was gobbling it all up.

This book also widens the reader's experience of the Reapers' world. Some time is still spent in dystopian, run-down Chicago, but about half of the book takes you to the Gateway itself, and that new setting opens up a plethora of mysteries and answers and still more mysteries.

Back to the characters--remember how I didn't totally love Shanghai before? I've changed my mind on her now. She is amazing. Somehow she became more real, vulnerable, and lovable in this book.

All the characters, really, are fantastic! But the villains, guys--THE VILLAINS. I HATE THEM SO MUCH. I don't think I've hated someone as much as I hate Alex in quite some time.

That being said, Phoenix had to grapple with some verrrry interesting things regarding the fine line between justice and mercy! (If you can't tell, I adore ethical dilemmas in fiction.)

And naturally Beyond the Gateway ended with a cliff-hanger! Good thing I had the next book on hand . . .

Don't you just love that cover? All the amber tones,
the flying dust/debris, the light...

Book 3: Reaper Reborn

So I thought book 2 was intense. HA. Book 3 ratcheted it up a few notches!

Villainous people play even crueller mind games on Phoenix.

Even more people are in great danger, with their lives hanging on his decisions.

Chicago is burning.

People are being gassed, bombed, and tortured.

Creepy robots called illuminaries are everywhere.

With new allies and new threats, Phoenix starts getting paranoid--and understandably so. He doesn't know who to trust at first, but pretty soon he's forced to trust others in order to take down the corrupt Gateway system and save the people he cares about. Here we see Phoenix stronger than ever before, both physically and character-wise. Seeing him finally get mad at a certain somebody who keeps harping on "his principles" and refuse to take any of that junk was so satisfying! And at the same time, Phoenix is struggling more than ever, sacrificing more than ever, and--

Right, I said there'd be no spoilers. Just go read the trilogy already so we can talk about all the juicy parts!

I have to say, while the book held the reader side of me captive, my writer side was also grinning as I pieced together the genius plot Bryan Davis wove together. He answered questions I barely knew I had, and built it all up to a heart-pounding climax!

You know what else he did? He tied this trilogy to the Time Echoes trilogy!* Old-time readers of his will be thrilled to find the connections, and new readers will hopefully be curious enough to go pick up those other books. The ties between the two series are so clever! I honestly got so excited when Scarlet, a Time Echoes character, was mentioned in passing a few times.

*formerly titled Echoes from the Edge

And after all the cliff-hangers and suspense, the ending of Reaper Reborn was positively perfect. There are huge consequences to everyone's actions, but there is also enough happiness and satisfaction that by the time I reached the final page, I was content. (Unlike many YA dystopian novels that seem to favor bleak endings . . .)

I know reviews should be balanced, and I should mention any quibbles I had with these books . . . but there were none. This reading experience was full of the heart, courage, mystery, faith, well-rounded characters, and tight plotting I've come to expect from Bryan Davis.

On that note: when I pick up new books by beloved authors who were my favorites during childhood or teenhood, I'm usually a bit worried that my memories are too kind--that I'll find the new book lacking somehow, and all the magic will crumble.

Well, folks, I'm happy to report that the Reapers Trilogy shows Bryan Davis is at the top of his game! His older books will always hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart, but these newer ones are so skillfully written that they hold a place of equal value. I won't be forgetting my time with Phoenix in futuristic Chicago anytime soon!

Have you read the Reapers Trilogy yet? Do you like dystopian books? Who's the last villain you loathed with your entire being? And, most importantly, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO PUT THESE BOOKS ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST?


  1. These books sound incredible. I might have to read them. Good heavens. O_O

    1. GOOD HEAVENS, YES. If it wasn't already obvious, I highly recommend them! ;)

  2. I NEED THIS. Oh GRACIOUS, these look like books that I'd enjoy. Thanks so much for the review, Tracey!

    ~ Savannah | Scattered Scribblings

    1. I think you would too! They're so thrilling and intriguing and just--ahhh, all the good -ings! XD Thanks for the comment!

  3. *FLAAAAAAAAAAAAAILS* I just THOUGHT I was dying to continue this trilogy. Now I'm like "I MUST GO FIND A BOOKSTORE THAT IS OPEN THIS LATE OF NIGHT AND GET THEM AND READ THEM NOOOOW!" Okay, maybe I won't take such drastic measures but AAAAHHHHH!!! I need them. I mean, they're Bryan Davis books! OF COURSE I NEED THEM.

    That's so awesome it just gets better and better. I looooved the first book, but it hasn't held a special place in my heart QUITE as much as some other Bryan Davis books. But I suspected once the trilogy got farther along and the characters began to grow, it'd wiggle right into my heart like all the others did. And, from your amazing review, it's looking like that's exactly how it'll be!

    And I remember when Bryan Davis said he was tying this in with the Time Echo books. I'M SO CURIOUS HOW HE DID IT.

    I know exactly what you're saying about being worried books/authors you loved when you were younger won't feel the same with adult eyes. So it just thrills me these books held up the Bryan Davis standards we know and love! ^_^

    That's so funny you said we should put these on our Christmas lists, because before I even finished reading the post I was literally thinking I was going to put these on my Christmas list. XD IT MUST HAPPEN. I NEEDS THEM, PRECIOUS!!!

    1. *laughing* GET THEE TO A BOOKSTORE RIGHT NOW, YES INDEED. (Seriously, though, you're hilarious.)

      I kind of felt the same. I mean, I still LOVED Reapers--it was a great book! But I guess I wasn't feeling as nostalgic or deeply invested as some of his other books? But you're right, something about the rest of the series totally gripped me.


      Yep! Some books/authors don't seem to hold up years down the road, but I'm glad that wasn't the case here. <3

      Ha, brain twins! I hope they wind up under your tree!

  4. These look awesome! I already added them to my goodreads TBR. XD


  5. I really need to read Reapers Reborn! I've read the first two books but I haven't gotten to the last one! It's definitely going to be on my reading list for next years. I'm trying to finish the books I own first haha. XD

    1. Yasssss! It really takes the trilogy to a new level. :D But I totally understand wanting to finish your own books first! *glances at the stack on my desk*

  6. I don't read a lot of dystopian these days- but this series looks so unique!

    1. I don't either--not because I'm avoiding them, exactly, just because it's hard to find good ones, I guess--but yes. This is a good one right here!

  7. I started reading the first book of Reapers but it scared me so much, the intensity was so much, I couldn't handle it so I had to put it down. Terrifying that a grown teen has to put a book down by one of her favorite authors because she gets scared of it. *cringe*

    1. That's totally okay, Daisy! Everyone has different reading preferences and different things that freak them out. This series does have a lot to do with death (I mean, Reapers... XD). Have you read Tales of Starlight? That's another YA series of his that's more classic fantasy, with dragon slave masters and quests to rescue prisoners, etc. He also just released Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World, which looks SO FUN. Buuuut you probably know about all of those if he's one of your favorite authors! Oops, I get excited when I start talking about books...

    2. My first Davis books actually were Starlight. It was um...I didn't like it as well as Dragons in Our Midst, lets put it that way. But I found the books interesting in how it was portrayed. I have heard of his newest book. I haven't seen it out in stores yet though but I would be up for reading it. I get excited talking about books too. I actually love hearing people ramble on about an interesting book. :)

    3. That's okay! DIOM remains one of my TOP favorites of his books! And hey, you could always put Wanted on your Christmas list!! ;D

  8. He ties them to 'Echo's from the Edge' I love that! I have to read these!

    1. That's cool. I've read the first two of those.

    2. It's awesome! Very clever, too. I love when authors connect series you didn't expect to be connected! (Ted Dekker has done that too.)

  9. So I scrolled RIGHT past that cover, read your comment, looked back, and almost jumped out of my skin when I saw the eyes. Like, literally, physically JUMPED and then wondered if anyone in the room noticed. And now that's all I can see! :)
    Sound like fascinating books! Enjoyed your review!

    1. BAHAHA. THAT IS AWESOME. XD I don't know why I didn't see the eyes right away either! I think I was too busy studying the pedestal, and then the eyes freaked me out. Anyway, glad I'm not the only one.

      They definitely are! Thanks!

    2. The eyes were creepy to me too. By any chance does anyone know whose they are supposed to be?

    3. I think I know.... SPOILER ALERT: (it's the Gatekeeper)