Abby is a Ranger, part of an elite group who defend the border against Reapers—humans infected with a parasite that turns them into mindless cannibals. Rangers are immune to Reaper infection, and as one of the only female Rangers, Abby is expected to settle down and breed more Rangers—a fate she’s keen to avoid. When she’s ambushed on the plains, she’s ready to go out with guns blazing—until a mysterious, handsome cowboy rides to her rescue.
Jake has his own motives for helping Abby, beyond aiding a damsel in distress. He’s a Reaper, and while he’s learned to wrest control of his mind from the parasite, the effects won’t last without a permanent cure. And he needs Abby to get it.
Abby and Jake are natural enemies and unlikely partners. But when their search reveals a conspiracy between Reapers and the rich industrialists who own the mountain cities, they must work together to find the cure—or lose the border, and each other, forever.
Reaper’s Touch is one of those unusual, creative novels that doesn’t neatly fit into one particular genre. Instead it’s a genre mash-up incorporating elements from western, paranormal romance, dystopian, and steam punk fiction.
Stone pulled me into an alternate universe replete with an old west landscape, zombie invaders, and airships all surrounding a centralized government where the affluent reside in extravagance while the rest of society live in harsh conditions struggling to eek out a living and fend off the zombie-like, cannibalistic creatures called “Reapers.”
To keep civilians safe, “Rangers,” a select group of men and women who patrol the country on horseback, are the military force charged with fighting and killing the mindless Reapers whose bloodlust and need for flesh drive them to attack humans. However, not just anyone can be a Ranger. They are the “star-marked” children who are born immune to the parasitic virus that Reapers carry and cannot be turned. As a result, all star-marked children must become Rangers when they become adults. The males are not allowed to marry but are encouraged to procreate as much as possible to ensure future generations of Rangers will be on hand to protect and serve.
The protagonist, Abby, is one of the rare females born a Ranger. It’s not the life she wants, but she has little choice in the matter. Her only other alternative is to settle down at one of the Ranger’s forts and have children, little Rangers who will also grow up with the same limitations that have been forced upon her. No matter how much her captain encourages it, Abby stubbornly refuses to leave her post. Yes, even in this alternate world, Abby has to deal with sexist attitudes from some of the Rangers in this male-dominated field.
The war between Rangers and Reapers has been going on for centuries, but as the story progresses, Abby surprisingly learns that some of these animalistic Reapers have become sentient, like Jake, who comes to Abby’s rescue several times when she is sent out on a lone mission. Initially Abby is attracted to this stranger who has become her savior until she learns what he really is. Throughout the first half of the novel, she’s disgusted and repulsed by Jake who makes her his prisoner when she refuses to help him with his agenda. Even though Jake has regained control of the “rider,” the Reaper side of him that thirsts for flesh and blood, he has to constantly fight these urges around Abby.
Much of the book’s plot focuses on Abby and Jake’s conflicting feelings for each other and the sexual tension that simmers between them. A central question in the book is whether a Reaper and a Ranger can fall in love. I like that the story is narrated from both Abby’s and Jake’s perspectives because it helped me to see them both as multi-dimensional characters and be able to relate to their situation. The book does include some descriptive love scenes intended for mature readers.
When Abby and Jake form an unprecedented alliance in the quest to find a cure for the virus, they face an uphill battle, with their efforts being thwarted every step of the way. It seems not everyone wants a cure for the virus to be found. The novel is engaging and suspenseful, and along the way, Stone raises some important moral and ethical considerations for thought. She also brings awareness to the ongoing debate about women serving on the front lines in war. The conclusion eased me out of this fictitious world yet left me longing for more. After I finished the book, I felt that the world-building could have been stronger and the resolution occurred a bit too easily for my satisfaction. However, after looking at the author’s Goodread’s page, I noticed that she has plans to expand the novel into a series. The next installment is titled Gun Shy, but a book description has not been provided yet. So Stone has plenty of time to continue fleshing out this unusual, creative world that she has begun building.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
I posted a Book Blast & Giveaway spotlight for Reaper’s Touch on Thursday, so if check out the post to learn more about the author and enter the giveaway!