Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler

Breath is the fourth book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series,  so I think it's safe to say that I was pretty excited to read it. I've been fascinated with Death from the beginning, so reading his story was something I've been looking forward to.

Of course that kind of excitement can be dangerous. It can be really hard not to totally hype up a book you're been waiting for. And for a series that I've enjoyed as much as I've enjoyed this, the stakes are definitely very high. 

So, did Breath meet my expectations and give this series the finale it deserved? Or was it totally dead on arrival? Read on and find out.

 (Summary from GoodReads)

Contrary to popular belief, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse aren’t just harbingers of doom—they actually keep life in balance. But what happens when their leader and creator, Death, becomes suicidal?

Before the first living thing drew its first gasping breath, he was there. He has watched humanity for millennia. And he has finally decided that humanity is not worth the price he has paid time and again. When Death himself gives up on life, a teenager named Xander Atwood is the world’s only hope. But Xander bears a secret, one that may bring about the end of everything.

This heart-pounding final installment of the Riders of the Apocalypse series looks at the value of life, the strength of love, and how a small voice can change everything . . . forever.
There is so much that I want to say about Breath, and yet there is so much that I really can't tell you without spoiling it. The ending is a complete 180 spin around mind-screwing thing of epic proportions. This went from 5 hearts and a Kat's Meow down to three stars within fifteen to twenty pages, if that tells you how strongly I felt about the ending. Jackie Morse Kessler did something which I can see was necessary now, but which actually made me do a book toss when I got to the end. So glad this wasn't on my Kindle.

Here's the thing: nothing we learn in this book actually matters, or at least, we don't learn whether it actually matters. Now, this does have its pros: it gave Jackie free reign over what to do with Death, and as always her mythology--and his characterization--were both spot on fantastic. But, as this is the last book in a series and I've been looking forward to learning about Death, I ultimately felt cheated. The idea that Death is personal to us all was and is a brilliant concept. But to me, it also felt like a bit of a cop out and by the end I was seriously asking myself what the purpose of reading the book had actually been.

To say I was upset is probably the understatement of the year.

Along with the usually great characterization for Death, we also got to see how all the characters from the previous books were doing, and I really loved their interactions here [SPOILER: (until I found out that none of it was real!!!)].] I really felt, up til the end, that Breath was one of the finest showcases of how to wrap up a series that I have ever seen. It was, and is, this oh-so-close to greatness factor that makes the end all disappointment so disheartening. In essence, Breath broke something that I feel is one of the unforgivable curses of writing [SPOILER: In essence, the whole damn book was a dream!]

As for Xander Atwood, I found him likable, but considering how loud and vibrant a character Death is, I was pretty much prepared from word go that it would be hard to find someone who would overshadow him. And for me, I was right.
If you've read the other three books in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, you might as well read Breath too. It's interesting and well written, I just wish I hadn't felt so darn cheated by the ending. 


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