Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: Exit Kingdom (Reapers, #2)

Exit Kingdom (Reapers, #2)Author: Alden Bell
Series: Reapers, #2
Published: November 8th 2012
Publisher: Tor
Hardback, 320 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Almost two years ago, when I picked up a book called The Reapers Are the Angels (mostly because I liked the title), I never dreamed reading it would be such a life-changing, earth-shattering experience. Not only did Alden Bell (pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, author of Hummingbirds) take everything I thought I knew about genre fiction and turn it upside down, but his main characters, Temple and Moses (and what an odd pair they are) became permanent residents in my thoughts and in my heart.

Exit Kingdom is not a sequel, but a companion novel – a prequel in some ways – loosely connected through two characters: Moses and his paternal half-brother Abraham. The story begins after the events of The Reapers: Moses and Maury are sitting around a bonfire with some survivors and Moses is answering questions about their travels. When asked whether he believes in God, Moses offers to tell a story about his early adventures with his brother – one that explains why he knows with absolute certainty that God truly exists.

Like The Reapers, Exit Kingdom is very much a road novel, still influenced by Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner among others, but the philosophy hidden within is somewhat different. Temple was a ray of hope in an otherwise hopeless world, and Moses’ perspective seems rather bleak in comparison. Many factors caused this huge difference between them, but the most important one, the one that Bell himself keeps pointing out in the few interviews that can be found, is that Temple was born in a world infested with slugs, while Moses still remembers what life was like before.

Bell’s writing is unusual and breathtaking: he skillfully uses language to create the right atmosphere and to bring his readers closer to a world where education had to take the back seat to survival. It’s interesting that a language can deteriorate so badly and still be so beautiful. Add to that Moses’ unusual way of speaking – for even the most mundane sentences become noteworthy coming from his mouth – and you’ll get a prose piece that is distinctive and impossible to forget.

My brother and I, Moses says, we’re hard to offend, friar. You likely couldn’t stumble by accident upon the offence to us – you’d have to give it your full effort and strategy. So don’t fret yourself on that account. We’re happy to get whatever you feel like offerin. And we’re happy to offer services in exchange.

Exit Kingdom is a story about God, or the absence of God, but it is not a religious story. God, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. Where one sees chaos, another sees harmony. Where one sees apocalypse, another sees rebirth. I think the last sentence (it’s not a spoiler, not at all relevant to our story), will tell you more about this book than I have in my entire review:

Half the travelers are killed, but half survive.


  1. Wow! I've actually never heard of this series before (I know, I know, I must be living under a rock!), but I'm adding it to my TBR at once! I love how I can feel your passion for this series so much just within your review, Maja, and that makes me want to pick it up and devour it at once! I also love that this isn't a preachy novel. I've read two books back-to-back that have religious undertones, but neither of them have turned preachy and I love that. It makes me appreciate the novel, the author, and even the religion so much more when I don't feel as if ideals are being pressed on me. Lovely review, Maja! :)

    Also, I'm so glad you loved Seraphina! :D Not to mention I'm curious to see what you think of Bitterblue and despite my resistance, I picked up Magic Strikes last night. So. Good. Seriously, I need to pace myself otherwise I'm going to devour these novels and have to wait till next year for Book 6! (And more Curran!)

  2. Everytime you mention a book that changes you and sticks with you, I rush to see what it is, .no doubt I will be looking this up as well. Sounds like a fantastic read! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Good to know you don't have to read the first in this series to enjoy this one. I'm not sure if this is a Rachel book but I know you have impeccable taste so I know I'd probably enjoy it if I picked it up. Wonderful review Maja. :)

  4. Oh, I've been waiting for your review of this! I'm so glad that your faith was rewarded. More bleak you say? Hmmm. This might be right up my alley I think. :)

  5. I wish I had the stomach for zombies, but I can't get over that hurdle of people eating others. The Reapers was an award winning book but I don't think I'm brave enough to read it. Perhaps if I can cover my eyes or skim over the gory parts I'd be okay.

  6. Oh gosh, now I'm super excited for this to release.
    I had no idea he wrote under a pseudonym! I totally just rushed off to check out his other books and... all-girls prep school? hahaha... talk about different.
    Okay, anyways, I'm so glad you enjoyed this, your review is amazing. I can't wait to get my hands on this. :)

  7. I had to check out your review of the first book on Goodreads. I recognised the name, but haven't yet read it myself. It sounds fantastic! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this companion novel too. Wonderful review as always, Maja! :)

    1. Lisa reviewed it far better here on the blog. I hope you'll find the time to read it soon, Sam!

  8. Maja darling, this review is utterly beautiful, so eloquent and poignant. :) I quite enjoyed the bleakness and terror of The Road, so I'm really interested in seeing where Alden Bell takes this story and the previous...
    I also love how you mentioned this book was about God- the absence of God- yet it wasn't a religious novel (or preachy agenda with beliefs and views being pushed down your throat). Was it similar to Madapple in terms of that? I hope so, because I adored that book. :)

  9. On paper this does not sound like something I would pick up but there is something so stark yet alluring about the cover and I couldn't stop scrolling back up and looking at it. Also, your review is great, I love those books that you pick up with no expectations which then turn out to be brilliant!

  10. I didn't know there was a follow up / companion to The Reapers! That's one title I keep telling myself I have to read. It might be a bit too deep, a bit too serious, but I believe it's fully worth it.

    You know, this would be my first road novel ever, I think! Well, the idea of travelling is present in a lot of stories, specially those involving post-apocalyptic words (and zombies) but this sounds like it's on a different level entirely.

    Thanks for sharing!


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