A Winter’s Grave (The Reaper Series) by Cree Walker
What would you do if you woke up in the snow with absolutely no memory of who you are or how you got there? What would you say to your savior when she tells you that not only are you now dead but you’ve been chosen to become a Grim Reaper?
Ceres is working to piece the slivers of her former life together from fractured memories, all while learning how to stay off her demon Mistress’ radar.
Ceres may have been qualified to become a Reaper, but that doesn’t mean she’s very good at it. From her catastrophes in becoming a Reaper to her inability to maintain a day job, Ceres and her tiny Hellhound aren’t doing much to impress anyone in the house, especially Gavin, the head Reaper of their Wake.
Gavin and Ceres may have gotten off on the wrong foot but there is something about her that he can’t ignore. The problem is he’s not the only one interested in her.
What Ceres soon finds out is that their Demon Mistress has laid claim to Gavin and she’s told Ceres it’s hands off.
Does Ceres accept the fact that their Mistress is trying to force Gavin into her own patiently waiting arms or does Ceres risk her afterlife in order to save his?
A Winter’s Grave is the first in Cree Walker’s Reaper series, and it didn’t take much effort for me to become immersed in this creative supernatural world of Reapers and one young woman’s struggle to accept a new way of life…or rather death to be accurate.
The story opens with Ceres who awakens in a snow covered field, but she has no idea how she ended up there. Furthermore, she is surprised to find a strange woman waiting to take her to her new home. The story is told from Ceres’ perspective, so we only get her assessment of what happens in the story. Nevertheless, her limited POV is effective in adding to the mystery and suspense. Plus, her witty, sarcastic thoughts are funny, even when she is caught in dangerous situations, and they add freshness to the author’s writing style that kept me engaged.
This woman waiting for Ceres is the “Angel of Death” and is not one bit friendly—Ceres is merely a job to her. This intimidating angel is a Reaper whose duty is collect Ceres for her new role in the afterlife. She looks nothing like the fabled Grim Reaper we might expect.
Without any compassion, she bluntly informs a shocked Ceres that she was found lying in the snow because she froze to death. That’s right, Ceres died but has been resurrected as one of the lucky few who are granted the opportunity for redemption for her past sins. Once Ceres does this, she will have a chance to enter Heaven.
Although it isn’t exactly clear to me, it seems she is in purgatory, where she is forced to become a Reaper whose new assignment is to collect souls of the damned and send them to Hell. She is now bound to Hell and enslaved by a demon known only as the Duchess.
This malicious Duchess likes to harp on the power she has to determine Ceres’ future, and she does a good a pretty good job of terrorizing her new slave.
I was not expecting the type of fantastical world Cree has created. The rules of this supernatural world have been well-thought out; they are relevant to the plot of the story and simple enough to remember. In addition, Cree countered many of my expectations about what the afterlife would be like, leaving me pleasantly surprised.
Ceres is not a ghost; she feels everything a human does even though she no longer retains her past memories. Everything is blank, who she used to be when she was alive and, more importantly, why and how she died. This is frustrating for Ceres, but she is comforted by knowing her memories will gradually return. The question for us all is will whether she can accept what she learns. When Ceres finally does learn how grave her sins are, she feels like a monster.
Gradual clues scattered throughout the book indicate that Ceres is different from the others. All of her housemates realize this, but they just don’t know who or what she really is. I thought I had guessed her identity, but, in the end, I was wrong.
I was also pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t able to predict aspects of Ceres’ new environment.For example, I expected her to reside in a different dimension and only return to Earth to collect the souls she has been assigned to send to Hell. It’s just the opposite, she lives on Earth in a corporeal body and is able to interact and work among the living. Her amber colored eyes are the only clue that she is different. Ceres’ interactions with other supernatural entities and humans are hilarious at times and provide a nice reprieve from her somber situation.
No matter what Ceres did in the past, her conscience bothers her and she isn’t comfortable with her new role as a Reaper. She sympathizes with those who are damned no matter the extenuating circumstances that caused them to risk an eternity in Hell. This is one of the inner conflicts Ceres must face along with her attraction, really her lust, for two very handsome Reapers who seem determined to capture her heart. One of them is her Master, Gavin, who continually confuses Ceres by being harsh with her in one scene only to turn around and show her gentleness and affection in the next.
Another problem is if Gavin does like her, he is bound to the Duchess although he isn’t aware of this. And she isn’t about to let him go! Ceres’ other suitor is Ash who is sexy and says the sweetest things to Ceres to soothe her anxiety even though his motivations eventually become suspect.
I like the inclusion of romance because it only enriches an already intriguing story. I wish there had been more time spent showing the growing intensity of feelings among the characters. I felt some of the characters’ love for another was instantaneous and premature.
The romance is clean; intimate moments occur but aren’t described in explicit detail.
This book kept me so engaged that I read most of it in one sitting and only stopped because the battery on my iPad died. It’s full of unexpected twists and suspenseful turns that caught me off guard, and I liked it!
However, I feel the ending of this book is rushed and think more elaboration is needed about what happens with Alpha Jack, the Duchess, and this new potential antagonist, Duke. I do look forward to finding out what’s next for these Reapers, and I hope little Titan will still play a role. He was fierce and adorable all at the same time. Please, Cree, don’t keep me waiting too long!
I received a copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
About the Author
Cree Walker lives in Northern Maine with her very patient debate partner and their furry love child, mini rat terrier, Titan. When Cree isn’t plugging away at her computer she can most likely be found at the hospital where she works as an advanced psychiatric technician for both children and adults.
To date, Cree has four novel length publications with Naughty Nights Press. Paranormal werewolf romance, Whisper on a Scream, and it’s sequel, Urban Fantasy nominated book for 2012, Willing Sacrifice. She also has paranormal romantic comedy, A Winter’s Grave, book one to the Reaper series and her most recent publication, Maple Lane Manor, Home for Retired Supernaturals. So far, Maple Lane Manor has been a finalist in the 2013 UpAuthors Fiction Challenge and all have received the coveted 5 star review rating from the Paranormal Romance Guild.
For more information about Cree Walker and her books please visit her at http://www.creewalker.wordpress.com/ or check her out on facebook.com.
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Music to Complement the book
Cree Walker mentions lyrics to “Hotel California,” and it certainly fits the plot and tone of the story:
Eagles “Hotel California”
The John Butler Trio “Damned to Hell”
Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”