3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
What happens when Death gets suicidal?
Thus begins the final chapter of Jackie Morse Kessler's Riders of the Apocalypse series. The first three books introduced us to Lisabeth, Missy and Billy, three teens who - upon their deaths are tapped to become Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Lisabeth, the anorexic, becomes Famine. Missy, the cutter, becomes War. And Billy, who's bullied, becomes Pestilence. Each of the teens finds life through assuming the mantle of their Horsemen.
The one constant throughout each story has been Death, who appears in the image of Kurt Cobain. Death is clearly not one of the Horsemen, but their master, their leader.
Death is clearly Other. What will Death's story be?
Breath finds Jackie's universe finally unveiled. Death meets a boy named Xander, whose own story gradually becomes more ominous. Death unfolds his story for Xander, and all the questions Jackie's first three books raised are answered.
Despite being wholly Other, we learn that Death, too is susceptible to despair. And in this, Death becomes more human than we thought possible. Because Death is the defining human condition. Death is the one universal constant, the one reality from which there is no escape.
I'm not like you. I'm something else. Something older. Something different. I'm . . . I don't have the word for it. It's not a human word, not in any language. It's not a living concept. I'm other. -- Death
As Death's story entwines more fully with Xander's, Breath becomes Jackie's most human story yet.
The story's worth not spoiling. Suffice to say, if you've been a fan of the series so far, Breath will not disappoint. It's at once bigger and more intimate than any of the previous stories. Jackie's mythology is fully on display, and we even get more of the previous riders' stories.
Just as Death is utterly unlike any of the other Horsemen, and yet completely sustains them, Breath is utterly unlike the previous installments and yet totally necessary.
Breath is ultimately a poignant reminder that there is something bigger than Death: Hope.
Death is what happens when we can't imagine tomorrow. Hope is the conviction that life will go on.
From the first book, Hunger, Jackie's series has explored moments of personal apocalypse. The End of the World is the End of My World. It's what happens when we can't believe that anything comes after this, that the sun will come up tomorrow. Apocalypse is what happens when the world comes crashing down around us.
Living things die. It's just a matter of how and when. But if it makes you feel any better, the purpose of the Horsemen is to avoid having everyone die of disease or starvation or warfare. They prevent the apocalypse. -- Death
As they ride, each of the Horsemen finds hope. Hope that the sun will come up. That life can get better. That the Apocalypse isn't, in fact, the End of the World. This is why Jackie's books work so well. The mythology is much different from the Four Horsemen of Revelation. But at the core, these books are about the same thing: there's something stronger than Death, and that's our conviction that the World will go on, that we're not abandoned. To steal some Stephen King, Hope springs eternal.
Bottom Line: Breath is the rare final installment that delivers on every promise, and then some. Get it. Read it. Love it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I still feel emotionally drained and a little incoherent after finishing Breath, a book it seems I've been waiting years for. Since he first showed up looking an awful lot like Kurt Cobain in Lisa's basement in Loss, I was fascinated by Death and couldn't wait until Morse Kessler got to his book. Now that its release is here, I know I'll miss the Riders of the Apocalypse quartet but his story was so exquisite that at least for now, I can't be sad. That's not to say the Kleenex weren't piling up next to my chair though.
Through the millennia of his existence, Death has always had reason to continue his own cycle of reincarnation after reincarnation. He created his Horsemen and their steeds, watched humanity evolve and when the burdens of his job became too much, found a place called The Slate that he could retreat to, to gain perspective, unwind, let his hair down. He's been feeling depressed, so much that his own pale steed tells him he needs to take a break. When he heads to The Slate, what he sees (or doesn't) robs him of all hope, sending him on one last trip to see a boy before he lets loose the Apocalypse with his own final death.
But then there's Xander. Exactly as Morse Kessler has done in the other books in the series, she gives the power in the story to a teen that may or may not know they need it. This time, Xander seems like a completely normal kid, having a normal life. He's an art geek, popular in a general sort of way and is asking out the girl of his dreams he's had a crush on forever. Life seems good, if you don't count the weird lapses in time he's having, the blackouts, the feeling out of step with everyone and a sense that time is running out for everyone. When he walks out onto his 30th floor apartment's balcony and sees Death sitting there, it's almost anti-climactic, except for the part that really is afraid of heights (or as Death puts it, is afraid of falling and splattering on the ground).
I loved Death from the beginning of the series and I fell for Xander early in the story, so when these two came together, it looked like it was going to be a bittersweet moment. Death isn't exactly known for bringing good news or choices to characters, but in this case, recognizing his depression and suicidal intentions, Xander asks him to tell his story.
Barely anything had been revealed about Death's origins in the earlier books and he always seemed like such a larger-than-life (heh) personality that even considering where he came from or that he may not have wanted his job or the scope of it, wasn't something I did. I started losing count of how many Kleenex I went through as Death's story poured out - and it wasn't just his story. There were interludes from the Horsemen and from Xander where the impending crisis was palpable. As the conversation with Death went on, as it did with the other books, there was a brilliant scene when the character understood that weight of responsibility was his now and he had the choice to accept or reject it. I'm giving away how much of a wimpy wimp I am, but those particular scenes are always so powerful to me, I'm always a soggy mess, but this time, I had some suspicions about what was happening behind Death's own story and it was even worse.
I'm an utter disaster by this point in the story. I loved Death with his funny pale steed who was always quick with a freakishly hipster comment and even accepted that he'd hijacked Kurt Cobain's body (sorry, not a Nirvana fan). The concept that he could be depressed was a foreign thing - Death is supposed to be forever, right? What would the end of the world be like with no death, war, famine or pestilence, nothing in balance?
Even knowing that if I let myself get too close to the story and I'd end up gutted at the end, there was no way to keep myself distant from it. Sure enough, when things played out and Xander's horrible story was revealed, Morse Kessler had me right in her hands, which are thankfully also always capable of putting me back together.
I can't finish reviewing Breath without adding comments about the whole series because for me, they're connected. Each book has had a teen confronting a devastating issue, yes, but in each book, I feel like in places, Morse Kessler is writing directly to me. She has the most incredible ability to weave these complex, painful stories and make them universally relatable. I've never been so touched or affected by a series of books and I can only thank Morse Kessler for that. Breath was a brilliant, perfect ending to everything.
A copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher