9.7 Overall Score
Writing: 10/10
Story: 9/10
Editing: 10/10

Masterful writing | Intriguing protagonist | Intelligent world-building | Professional editing | Strong supporting cast | Exciting plot

Dialouge and romance occasionally feel forced | Single editing mistake | Some may dislike the darker tone


Author: Bryan Davis

Publisher: Scrubjay Journeys

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Supernatural


Ever since the discovery of his fated birthmark—one that labeled him as a Reaper—Phoenix has been forced into serving the government as a collector and carrier of souls. With a mysterious power keeping souls trapped on earth to wander as ghosts, only Phoenix and his fellow Reapers are capable of safely delivering them to the Gateway… and their eternal destination.

At least, that’s what they’re told.

Enter Singapore—a spirited, enigmatic, female Reaper—the newest soul collector in Phoenix’s district. Despite his sworn dedication to complete his term as a Reaper, and at last be free to marry his childhood sweetheart, Phoenix can’t help but be intrigued by Singapore’s criticism of the Gateway… and charmed by her beauty.

But Sing isn’t alone in her thinking. Gateway Deniers lounge about in the dark streets, preaching against the so-called Gatekeeper and proclaiming a lack of proof that the souls are going anywhere at all.

One thing is certain: the government seems to thrive on death, in a world where anything that heals is illegal. Determined to help those under his surveillance, Phoenix takes enormous risks in smuggling life-giving medicine to sick and dying people in his district. When his latest attempt to save a young girl fails, and the family is arrested on account of medicine possession, Phoenix takes responsibility to pursue the family into the government labor camp.

Teamed up with Singapore and an old Reaper friend named Shanghai, Phoenix sets out on a mission to rescue the poor families imprisoned within the cruel labor camps… and discover the truth about the Gateway.

Success means hope. Failure means death. And only Phoenix and a handful of his allies are capable of bridging the gap between the truth and the lies.


A Ghost-Filled Future of Fantasy

If there’s one thing Davis does uniquely well (and he does more than one thing well, I assure you), it’s his ability to immerse readers in a flawless, fixed perspective. Reapers is told exclusively in the first person from the protagonist’s POV. From this telling point, Davis uses subtle methods to keep his readers deep within the pages of the story. The POV is never broken, action follows thought, and the entire world of dystopian Chicago is depicted from the intriguing perspective of a Reaper. Davis has honed his craft to a rather sharp, scythe-like point, and it shows. This is storytelling at its finest.

The overall tone of Reapers is a shade or two darker than Davis’ previous works. With crime, thugs, sinners, despair, ghosts, and death hovering around every proverbial alley corner, a feeling of oppression—enforced by the god-like Gatekeeper and his government—seems to permeate each page. That’s not to say that this ghost-story is haunted by hopelessness, though. Phoenix breaks through the typical dystopian mold as a believable hero, guided by morals but struggling to keep them. Despite his adherence to blatant honesty and “doing the right thing,” Phoenix never comes across as a cardboard “good guy.” His decisions, though shaped by his morals, are never unbelievable, and he’s flawed just enough to make readers want to cheer him on.

The supporting cast moves the story forward, lending plausibility and tension to Phoenix’s mission without being out-shined by him. Singapore and Shanghai both act as strong, female characters and Phoenix’s constant companions (and predictable love triangle—more on that later). Villains are as soulless as the bodies that they so frequently dispose of, and I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. From the controlling, ruthless Alex, to the not-so-benevolent-as-they-thought Gatekeeper, the villains display variety and cruelty. These personalities are augmented by their clever, cunning, and believable dialogue; and interactions between characters create precious moments of genuine suspense, forcing readers to utilize all their willpower in order to keep from reading ahead for some peace-of-mind.

Much like the government’s iron grip on dilapidated Chicago, Reapers never lets go. It opens with a “punch in the gut” (literally, read the opening line), and races continuously uphill from there—past street fights, deadly escapes, executions, rescue attempts, sabotage, infiltrations, and treacheries; and it’s all wrapped up in a great, story-building package, where ghosts slowly become ingrained in the world if left un-reaped for too long. Davis takes great care—and great creativity—in detailing the reaping process, the system of the Reapers and their government, and the manner in which this dystopian world flows.


A Few Sinister Specters

A lack of conspicuous errors shows just how well Reapers was edited. Aside from one, minor misspelling that likely snuck under the editing radar, no technical inaccuracies mar this novel’s pages.

In fact, there’s very little ill to speak of from an objective standard. Reapers is tightly-paced, scenes never drag on too long, characters are interesting and inspiring (or dastardly), and the dialogue is crisp and, for the most part, natural.

That being said, there are sparse times that the dialogue feels just a tad forced—not corny, but with a slightly augmented, wise-cracking edge to it. This causes the novel to feel like a YA read at times, though that’s definitely not outside of the story’s intended audience.

A predictable love triangle (or love square, if you prefer) enhances that YA feel, making Reapers more sensual (though not sexual) than Davis’ previous works. Readers who enjoy the suspense of romance—or, dare I say it, shipping—will be enthralled by Phoenix’s struggle to determine the right soul mate. Coming off of that point, though, the romance feels just a little pushed—not unbelievable, per se, but certainly acknowledged at most opportunities. Perhaps this has more to do more to the author’s new writing style, and less with the romance itself, however.

Conclusion: The Start of a Trilogy

ReapersCoverMockupSmallFor those of you who dislike cliff-hangers, I’ll warn you now: Reapers is a trilogy, with the remaining two novels in the works. That’s not to say that this first installment ends on an unbearable note, but it’s certain to have wide-eyed readers searching the last few blank pages for any hints of the impending sequel.

Few authors have Davis’ ability to write with a nigh-flawless POV, and the restricted, first-person perspective makes Reapers an adrenaline-laced read. Fans of dystopian, fantasy, and sci-fi (particularly the former) will want to look into Bryan Davis’ latest brain-child. Fellow writers will be inspired by the depth of both the characters and story, and editors can comfortably read Reapers without feeling the need to whip out their red correcting pen and scribble across its pages.

Reapers is an entirely new flavor of Davis, and some fans may feel a bit put off by its darker, more mature, thematic content. That being said, it’s also a novel that proves the dystopian genre hasn’t run out fresh concepts to offer (and nor has the grim reaper persona, for that matter).

That, and this is one dystopian tale that doesn’t end on a low note. There’s a glimmer of hope in its final pages, and that light in the distance makes this dark, danger-filled journey feel more than worth your while.


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Author: Casey Covel View all posts by
Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

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