Fields’ imaginative debut novel features an engrossing, modern world of life and death that will speak to fans of fantasy and secret societies.
Cornelius Hoyt is a simple Colonial American farm boy turned Grim Reaper Cadet. But gentle Cornelius slowly realizes that he’s a bad fit for this kind of work: “The Event left Cornelius heartsick. He departed the scene afraid he had made a grave mistake when he joined the cadets.” While Cornelius wrestles with his identity crisis, reaperdom is undergoing a similar struggle between the Provocateurs, who promote evolution by the assemblage, and the Traditionalists, who resist change: “An increasing number of reapers viewed technology as an existential threat and advocated drastic measures, specifically stealing the souls of inventors, innovators, and scientists, but the concept was unpalatable to the majority and impossible to implement without damaging the basic tenets of the Society of Death.” Evil Traditionalist Roger Mortimer, aided by his secret spies, seeks to devastate and remake the world with himself as ruler. Poor, conflicted Cornelius finds that he’s embroiled in this internecine battle whether or not he wants to be, and he tries to escape from this domain in which he doesn’t feel he belongs. While doing so, he discovers Kao, a kindred soul, and they try to find a safe place to call their own. For his part, “Cornelius only wished they were able to enjoy it without the constant fear of Expulsion.” In his dynamic style, Fields, using his background in cultural anthropology, provides a well-developed hierarchy for a group only hinted at by most mythologies. He skillfully balances Cornelius’ soul-searching with the larger threat looming within the organization, all the while effectively drawing characters that help make the fantastic seem believable.
A winning first release that admirably blends mortality, adventure, organizational politics and even a bit of love.