Book Review: YEAR OF THE REAPER by Makiia Lucier

Title in beige on maroon with swirling border
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for YEAR OF THE REAPER: title in white on red with a mace in the middle of the page and gold decoration around the edges

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. 

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Sometimes there are books that you’re so looking forwards to that you clear your schedule (as much as possible) when the book arrives so you can just pick it up. But then you find that you’re nervous stepping into them. Because what if it’s not everything you wanted?

Thankfully, this book did not disappoint.

In the aftermath of a plague, Cas tried to uncover the truth behind a mysterious spate of attacks on the new queen. He’s been away for years, and no sooner gets back than is embroiled in politics. It was such a fun, twisty story, full of tangled loyalties and priorities. It was a joy to read (and an experience over all too soon – I suspect I shall be re-reading soon.)

Yes, it’s about the aftermath a plague, but I’m at that stage of the pandemic where I want to read about the aftermath (to be honest, I also want to read about plagues, the escapism of a book where they end up dealing with it!) I want to see people moving on, rebuilding, healing, and also struggling with the grief of a pandemic. This book absolutely does that for me.

There is a stateliness to Makiia Lucier’s writing. The combination of pace and tone, not to mention the deftness with which she employs them, really differentiates her books from a lot of YA fantasies. There’s no rush, even in action. Everything is allowed to unfold at a measured pace.

The language choices are also subtle but powerful. YA is a lot more immediate and obviously full of emotion than adult – a consequence of the audience, character age, and conventions. It’s usually very overtly emotional language, the character’s qualms and inner struggles loud on the page. That is not to say that form of writing is bad – far from it. It’s a highly effective, gripping writing style, which is why it’s the predominant one in YA (and is starting to find its way into adult.)

However, Lucier doesn’t use that style. Hers is a much subtler, but every bit as powerful, technique (as well as Lucier’s ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE, another brilliant example of this style is Adrienne Young’s FABLE). It’s all about the subtext and what’s not said. There’s so much trust in that, that the reader will put the pieces together – which I love. The best word I can think of is “reserved,” but that doesn’t quite give it credit.

It’s not an emotional disconnect, but a different way of feeling and showing emotions. I think I connect to this style so well because it feels more like how I experience emotions. I’m autistic, and I know I process and emote differently – honestly, sometimes loud, very public emotions from others can be overwhelming or confusing. This writing styles feels more like how I experience emotions – every bit as strongly and powerfully as others, but internally and not expressed “the normal way.”

I can’t wait to see what else she writes, and to dive into SONG OF THE ABYSS now I’ve found a copy.

Read my reviews of other books by Makiia Lucier:

Tower of Winds:


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