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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.
YOUR TURN: What did you think of Breath? Which Horseman would you be?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”