When I started this review I kept trying to figure out how to categorize this romance. According to Carina Press’s website its dystopian, post-apocalyptic and paranormal. But when I started reading it also had a steampunk and old timey western feel to it. In all honesty it’s a mesh of all these genres. Which works for me since I’m always looking for something out of the box.
Reaper’s Touch tells the story of Abby, a Ranger whose job is to kill Reapers and Jake, the Reaper who she slowly falls in love with. Reapers are zombie like creatures who are mindless killing machines and feast on human flesh. They are the unfortunate humans who have been bitten and contracted a parasite that takes over their lives and creates a blood lust and craving for violence. Abby is one of the only women Rangers, as most women aren’t birthed star born. When she is sent on an errand by her Captain she gets into trouble in the neighboring town and is rescued by a cowboy named Jake.
Little does Abby know, Jake is no ordinary traveling cowboy, but one of the few sentient Reapers and he is on a mission to find a cure. As one of the first infected by the parasite, Jake has lived a long time. He only has vague memories and impressions of what he did when he was first taken over by what he refers to as his rider, but he has learned over his long life to control his baser urges and let his human side run the show. His only hope of getting rid of the parasite in his system is to let a group of scientists experiment on him to come up with a cure. What he needs is Ranger, who are naturally immune to the parasite, to experiment on as well. That’s where Abby comes in.
When they begin their journey Abby is not sure what to think about this man who is her natural enemy, but does nothing but come to her rescue and protect her time and again. Jake isn’t like any other Reaper she’s ever seen. For one thing, he’s aware and appears to have amazing control over both his mind and body. As her fear of what he is starts to lessen, she gradually starts to get to know him and realizes that she’s never actually considered who Reapers really are. Their pasts, where they came from, the family they left behind, what they were before they were bitten. She’s always thought about them in abstract terms, things not people. Jake is so very different and he inspires feelings in her that she doesn’t want to feel, but can’t help herself. Their romance develops very slowly. Very, very slowly. It isn’t until the last half of the book until they even start to acknowledge to themselves or each other that they have a desire or need for the other. And if you’re worried about zombie sex scenes, don’t. I wouldn’t call this a sexy romance as it takes most of the book for this couple to come together in that way.
I was taken with how well Ms. Stone allowed Abby and Jake’s relationship to develop and unfold. She’s standoffish and untrusting and he’s a little scary at times as he’s battling internally for control of himself. They go through some perilous and brutal times as they journey across the wild west and fight both blood thirsty Reapers and human scientists with an agenda. While this IS a romance, what I liked the most about this story was the world building and different take on the zombie/ dystopian genre. While it did start out slow for me at first, the more I read the more I enjoyed myself. This world is cold and barren, with only subtle hints of steampunk. The reader never really sees the steampunk elements as they are only really spoken of and there are just glimpses of such things as airships. The only way to really describe it is a cowboy western where ordinary citizens and survivors of the parasitic plague are living in small towns and forts while the elite live amongst the mountains.
In the end I very much enjoyed this read and would recommend to anyone looking to branch out of their historical and contemporary rut and try something different. Final Grade- B+
“I’m a Reaper and you’re a Ranger. That’s the plain truth. Call me a coward if you want to, but I was never so chicken shit that I couldn’t face the truth.”