I’ve noticed a few things about Pyr’s new line of young adult books, and this observation makes me endlessly pleased. While I can always count on Pyr to produce top quality books, their young adult line pleases the part of me (which is a larger part than I’d like to admit) that really doesn’t enjoy young adult books that much. Pyr’s young adult books are more mature, less full of angst than most that I’ve run across. It’s incredibly refreshing, and the part of me that looks at young adult (much like urban fantasy) and recoils, starts to relax and ease into each YA book Pyr throws my direction. So huzzuh to them.
K.D. McEntire’s Reaper starts off where Lightbringer ends. Reaper is pretty much owned by Piotr. While the perspective is split between Piotr and Wendy, Wendy seemed a bit more confused and less developed than him, so it’s Piotr who seems to propel the book forward. McEntire really delves deep with his character and his search for answers to his mysterious past. Piotr evolves and grows to be a more frustrated and angry character than I expected him to be. He also gains quite a bit of depth and really achieves an ability to hold his own, whereas I often felt that he had a pushed-around air in Lightbringer.
On the other hand, Wendy is searching for answers of her own regarding her family heritage, and plenty is revealed in that regard. Readers will expect some of these reveals, but others will come as huge surprises. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Wendy is how sidetracked she seems to get with other people/activities/chaotic plot elements that seem to slip in at the worst possible times. There were a few occasions where I thought, “Okay, we’re finally getting somewhere so I’m expecting the author to throw in something that will totally derail Wendy within the next few pages.”
Despite that small complaint, McEntire really takes the world building in Reaper to a whole new level. The world, magic system, ghostly elements, the Never and everything else that she began building in Lightbringer are elaborated upon. McEntire adds so much depth and dimension to her world that it’s actually rather surprising. Readers might have had questions about the different types of dead before (Reapers, etc) but McEntire answers all of those, and fleshes out those answers in a masterful, non infodumping sort of way. The world in Reaper shines brightly, and is vividly real.
McEntire balances her plot perfectly. As Reaper unfolds, she answers questions left over from Lightbringer while posing new ones to keep readers going. Along with the added depth with characters and world building, I’m sure many fans of Lightbringer will be immensely pleased with Reaper and the author’s obvious growth and development.
Speaking of plot, McEntire ramps up the complexity quite a bit, adding a dash of political tension, some danger both in our world and in the Never, and plenty of backstory, which adds a load of tension and danger to an already precarious situation. McEntire manages to balance all of these elements without losing the story’s young adult appeal. Inevitably (and somewhat predictably), Wendy and Piotr somehow find themselves in the center of a pivotal situation which could spell the death of both of them. Warning: Reaper ends on a huge cliffhanger.
I have to talk about the romance a bit because, honestly, I have issues with romance in books. Wendy and Piotr’s interesting relationship really adds a unique dynamic to Reaper. While there aren’t many young adult books without some sort of romantic angle, McEntire keeps this relationship from straying too far into the cliché-angsty-teenage-swoon book that I’d expect from YA (sorry, but I gotta be honest). First, Reaper has a darker vibe than many other young adult books I’ve read, and their relationship is a testament to it. Secondly, and perhaps most welcoming, McEntire makes a very strong point of making their feelings for each other, and their relationship obvious, while keeping both Wendy and Piotr from straying into the I-can’t-live-without-you territory that seems to crawl under my skin the wrong way with many young adult books I’ve read.
When it’s said and done, Reaper is a step above and ahead of Lightbringer. McEntire has grown between her two books and while Lightbringer showed immense potential, Reaper lives up to that potential. Though there are some minor issues with characterization and plotting, Reaper is sure to please. It’s a strong second installment in a young adult series that I have enjoyed immensely so far, and I’m not saying that lightly, as I usually don’t mix with YA well. K.D. McEntire has not only proved that she has a promising career as a complex, layered, and talented author, but that she also has the ability to redefine the young adult genre.
Lightbringer — (2011-2013) Young adult. Publisher: Wendy has the ability to see souls that have not moved on — but she does not seek them out. They seek her. They yearn for her… or what she can do for them. Without Wendy’s powers, the Lost, the souls that have died unnaturally young, are doomed to wander in the never forever, and Wendy knows she is the only one who can set them free by sending them into the light. Each soul costs Wendy, delivering too many souls would be deadly, and yet she is driven to patrol, dropping everyone in her life but her best friend, Eddie — who wants to be more than friends — until she meets Piotr. Piotr, the first Rider and guardian of the Lost, whose memory of his decades in the never, a world that the living never see, has faded away. With his old-fashioned charms, and haunted kindness, he understands Wendy in ways no one living ever could, yet Wendy is hiding that she can do more than exist in the never. Wendy is falling for a boy who she may have to send into the light. But there are darker forces looking for the Lost. Trying to regain the youth and power that the Lost possess, the dark ones feed on the Lost and only Wendy and Piotr can save them — but at what cost? Lightbringer is a YA urban fantasy/romance set in a world a breath away from our own. Similar in tone to Tithe and Unleashed, Lightbringer tiptoes down the line between love and horror as Wendy discovers herself and the darkest parts of the afterlife.