Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Review: Reapers by Bryan Davis


The word conjures images of hoods, scythes, and shadows. Death, ghosts, and the veil between here and eternity.

Reapers by Bryan Davis delivered on pretty much all of the above, minus the scythes. We've got an urban setting, wandering souls, dark alleyways, grit, ethical dilemmas, futuristic tech, and the big dystopian staple: untrustworthy power figures.

Find it on Goodreads // Amazon // author's website
Read chapter one for free HERE.
Two teenagers, Phoenix and Singapore, male and female Reapers, collect the souls of the dead and transport them to the Gateway where they will travel to their final destination . . . or so they are told.

A small note: I read this book back in July (a.k.a the mad rush to finish The Brightest Thread in time for Realm Makers), so it took me longer than usual to finish. I don't like when that happens, because I think it can distort my opinion on the book's pacing.

Reapers started out super interesting, don't get me wrong! (And it's actually funny how I've nearly memorized the first paragraph from all the times I've read it in Bryan Davis's writing how-to blog posts.) We get an engaging first look into Phoenix's everyday world--a mostly solitary life of watching over his Chicago district, collecting souls, and smuggling medicine to the sick and dying in his neighborhood.

But after the first bit, it felt like the story slowed down. We spend four or five chapters following Phoenix, Singapore, and two other Reapers all the way to a Gateway depot and back. Which isn't all bad, because although it was thoroughly detailed, it was necessary detail. Without getting the process of reaping clear in my mind, I think I would've floundered later on in the story. But because everything was meticulously laid out right away, big explanations weren't needed later. So really, I have just a small quibble with that pacing issue.

Once I hit the midway point, the pace really picked up! Big plans, sneaking around, action, danger--yes! I positively sped through the second half of the book. The stakes keep rising, trust issues between characters get shakier, and the tension just all-around builds.

And can we just talk about the concept of reaping for a minute? Because it's a really sad job to have. I wouldn't want to be the one called to every deathbed, the one to sweet-talk confused and wandering ghosts into trusting me, the one to carry the burden of all these souls to the Gateway. Some of these Reapers are pretty epic heroes for doing all that!


Phoenix: He was great! I'm used to Bryan Davis's noble, heroic protagonists like Billy from Dragons in Our Midst or Adrian Masters from Dragons of Starlight. And Phoenix is noble and heroic. But he's got a grittier side to him as well. It's hard to describe, because it's not as if he runs around making horrible choices . . . He just feels a shade or two darker than the abovementioned characters. But I loved being in his head.

Singapore: Ah, Sing, should I trust you? I couldn't answer that question till I was partway through the book, and that answer wasn't quite what I was expecting. She's a bit of a wild card, that one. Frustratingly inconsistent. Timid and unsure one moment, brash the next. But not to worry, it all makes sense later on! My uncertainty about her added to the tension for sure.

Shanghai: She's kind of incredible. No-nonsense, but still kind. Hugely capable and confident, and pretty much one the best at her job.

Alex: I hate her. But she's the villain, so that's a good thing! She's conniving, clever, and manipulative. Every time Phoenix thought he had her outwitted, she revealed another layer of her plan. And have I mentioned she's ruthless? Seriously, somebody needs to put her away.

Crandyke: Phoenix carries this guy's soul around in his cloak, much to Crandyke's displeasure. He's cranky, sarcastic, but very knowledgeable--so Phoenix isn't too eager to get rid of him right away. Crandyke's witty complaints made for quite a few smirks throughout the story, and it was great to have that dose of humor.

Everyone else lives in Spoiler Land, pretty much, otherwise I'd discuss them too!



Going into this book, I was interested to see how a Christian author would deal with the element of "Grim Reapers" and the afterlife. Bryan Davis handled it really well! Reapers lands in mainstream territory, so God isn't talked about, but everything was written tastefully. One question this book asks is, "What if souls didn't go to their eternal destination immediately, but had to be delivered there?" That's the role of the Reapers, but as the plot unfolds, we get the sense that this Gateway the souls go through is not what it seems. That perhaps the public is being fed lies, and perhaps the Gatekeeper is not as virtuous as he makes himself out to be. So now I'm even more curious to see where the next two books take that idea!

In the meantime, Reapers offers solid themes on the value of human life, defending the defenseless, trust, honesty, and the kind of teamwork I've come to expect from a cast of Bryan Davis characters. Again, I sense that this novel is setting things up for fantastic character arcs in the rest of the trilogy!

And unlike many dystopians, this narrative had a thread of hope woven throughout.

Random Things

  • Some of the futuristic tech reminded me of Bryan Davis's The Candlestone! Especially the setup of three special pedestals . . . (Anybody else remember that book?)
  • At times I also got a Hunger Games vibe. I remember noting it, but now I can't remember what exactly made me think of that. Dystopian, teens, themes dealing with death, a villain who's always one step ahead . . . ? I don't know, but it was cool.
  • It was fascinating how bold Phoenix was towards Alex. He basically tells her what he's going to do, stating some of his plans to her face. Considering that most people lie to cover up their plans, I thought it was really interesting to watch this approach play out. You'd think it would be a stupid move, but surprisingly it wasn't. I won't spoil anything, though. You need to read it for yourself!

4.5 stars!

I whittled down half a star because the beginning did move a little slow--but again, that could've been partially my fault for being so busy.

(A note on the content: based on a few grisly moments, several sad/callous deaths, and some romantic tension, I would recommend this for 16 and up, probably.)

Overall, however, Reapers is a shadowy tale uncovering the dark underbelly of a once-trusted institution. It's a tale of risk, a tale of taking a stand when all around everyone else is turning a blind eye. It's got humor, it's got heart, and once you get going, it's a hold-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat kind of ride!

If you're looking for that kind of book, go get yourself a copy of Reapers right this minute! And if you've already read this one, I'll race you to book 2, Beyond the Gateway!


  1. That sounds really ... really cool. I mean, it seems to remind me of Scythe + some epic creepiness (does it have some creepiness? Please tell me it does!?). And there's someone named Singapore? I. MUST. FIND. OUT. WHY. BECAUSE HELLO I'M HALF SINGAPOREAN!!! hehehe, we'll see :D My list of books to buy will kill me soon...

    1. It really is! I highly recommend it! I haven't read Scythe, but yes, there IS an element of creepiness in Reapers. (Some very stark and chilling deaths as well. Naturally.)

      You're half Singaporean?! That's so cool! I think you'll Sing! She's a hard one to figure out at first, but ends up pretty awesome. <3

      Ahhh, yet another problem of the bookworm life! Towering TBRs and not enough money. XD

  2. I was sooo excited to see this review. I've been dying to hear your thoughts on it! #NosyBookDragon It's been a few years since I've read this one, so my memory of it was getting a little fuzzy, but your review brought back all my thoughts on it!

    I think it took me by surprise at first because it was so DIFFERENT from what I was accustomed to from Bryan Davis. But once I accepted that, I absolutely enjoyed it. Although I was surprised at the lack of a Christian message his books always have. Writing a story about souls not going straight to Heaven was a bold thing to do for a Christian writer! And I was expecting that to all be explained but...the ending just left me with even MORE questions. BUT it was only the first book, so I suspect reasonable explanations will be made later. (It's kind of absurd that I read this book right when it released and STILL haven't even read book 2!)

    My favorite thing about this book was the plot and intensity of it. I never felt like the characters were safe. Alex was just...AGH. She was so horrible and made me nervous every single time she showed up! It was a total edge-of-your-seat type of novel which I LOVE. All the action and intensity was spectacular. And it also really showed how Bryan Davis's writing has improved through the years. Sometimes it seemed like the DioM books could fall on the cheesy side (was that just me?), but the writing in this one was phenomenal.

    I think my main quibble was the characters. As you said, they just weren't the same as the Bryan Davis characters we usually have. I did like Phoenix, but he kind of annoyed me sometimes. And, to be honest, I didn't really like Shanghai at all for some reason. :-/ BUT. I LOVED SING. She was so sweet but complex and mysterious. She was great! Crandyke was also really funny. XD

    Really, the few problems I had with this book will probably be resolved in the next ones. I suspect there will be much epic character development and all my questions will be explained and everything. So basically...I NEED TO FINISH THIS TRILOGY.

    1. I'm definitely a nosy book dragon myself, so I get it! XD I know, it's crazy that this book has been out for a while but it took me so long to get it! I'd better get to #2 and #3 a lot faster. :P

      That makes sense! It was something to get used to, but at the same time I was excited to see him write something mainstream as well that had the potential to reach a wider audience. (When it came out, I even saw it in Chapters' YA section, where you'd probably never find DIOM!) I have lots of questions too, but you're right, the rest of the trilogy will probably make it all clear. :D

      YES YES YES. ALL THE INTENSITY. Especially in the second half! That's a really good point about the characters never being safe. o.o (No, I think some of DIOM was a little cheesy or dramatic, but I loved it so much as a teen anyway. ^_^ It's kind of how I view Once Upon a Time. "I will find you... I always find you!" gets a little cheesy, but I adore Snow and Charming regardless and think their little phrase is perfect for them!)

      Hmm, I can see that. Phoenix has quite a bit of growing to do, methinks. And Shanghai *did* come off as kind of arrogant at times? I waffled on my opinion of her... but maybe it's more realistic to have characters that aren't 100% lovable? I actually didn't like Sing for a bit at the beginning, but the more I understood her, the more I liked her! (LOL, is this the first time we aren't complete brain twins about a book?? Oh wait, there was Auralia's Colors too. I kid, I kid! XDDD)

      Sooo I've basically just repeated everything you summed up in your last paragraph! XD WE MUST FINISH THIS TRILOGY. WE MUST.

  3. I didn't know Bryan Davis wrote in the sci-fi genre! This looks FANTASTIC!! You don't see a whole lot of Christian/clean sci-fi books, which is sad.
    I'm definitely adding this to my tbr! *stares up at ever-growing shelf* Oh boy. XD

    1. He does! And it IS! :D By the way, have you ever heard of his Time Echoes trilogy? (It used to be called Echoes from the Edge.) It's not sci-fi, per se, but it probably fits under urban fantasy. You'd probably like those too.

      Heehee, despite the monstrous size of your TBR, Reapers well deserves a spot on it. ;) I hope you enjoy it!

  4. Certainly sounds like a fascinating book! I love stories that can get really dark, but always offer hope. <3

    1. I love that too! Dark stories have the potential to let the light shine that much brighter. ^_^

  5. I read your review on Good reads and aghh, this book sounds so goooood!!! I want to read!! (The only problem is that it made me realize that my newly-finished book is not as original as I had hoped... Oops!!!)

    1. IT IS! I'm on the third one right now and wow, they just keep getting better! (Oh no, that's not a fun feeling! But I'm sure yours is still unique--even if two people write about a similar idea, they'll both take completely original approaches.)

    2. Eeeeeep!!! That is awesome!!! (You're right and I console myself with that!!)