🌻 Pestilence (The Four Horsemen, #1) – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Content/Trigger Warnings: Trauma/PTSD, war themes, graphic violence, death, loss of a loved one, grief, decapitation, talk of rape/attempted rape, sexual assault, assault, animal cruelty/death of animals, loss/death of a child, and much more!
“Miriam Elmahdy’s Guide to Staying the Fuck Alive: (1) Bend the rules—but don’t break them. (2) Stick to the truth. (3) Avoid notice. (4) Listen to your instincts. (5) Be brave.”
They came to earth—Pestilence, War, Famine, Death—four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.
Miriam Elmahdy has suffered enough tragedy, enough trauma in her life. Each day is a game of survival and scavenging for anything that is bound to help keep her safe. It also helps to have five rules to make sure you stay safe and make it through the day. Until War descend upon her village and suddenly she becomes his main target. Now she’s thrown into a strange whirlwind of life at War’s camp and he’s suddenly claiming she’s his wife. Now thrown into a new game of survival, how will Miriam pull through all of this blood shed? And more importantly, can War find peace and will love prevail from all the bones and ruin?
Dearest reader, I truly thought I was going to fall in love with this book. It’s with a heavy heart that I have to say I have never been more disappointed, more horrified, more furious than I have with any other romance book. Between my dearest friend (who buddy read this book with me) and myself, I definitely appreciate and liked this book more than her. However, my heart is so heavy because I truly wanted to love this book more than Pestilence.
“Oh man, step one is some asshole claiming you’re his wife, and step two, shit suddenly gets real.”
Year 13 of the Horsemen. After Pestilence fell at the hands of love, War has descended upon the Earth and is here to deliver judgment. His course is set of Jerusalem, New Palestine and that’s where he encounters Miriam. Miriam has lost everyone and everything she cares most about. Now on the day she decides to go out to scavenge for materials and parts, she will face a bigger challenge than she’s ever has to before. Facing off with War, Miriam quickly realizes she’s in over her head and now she’s been taken prisoner. Before long, War is claiming she is his wife and is desperately trying to court her. Only Miriam is having none of that. Miriam does anything she can to say the lives of innocence, but she’s just one person trying to stop the chaos War delivers to mankind.
Once again, it was incredibly easy to fall in love with War. I stated this in Pestilence, but I will stated it again here. If you go into this book knowing who War is, what his purpose is, and know that he has only ever experienced the worst desires of humankind’s hearts then you’ll have no trouble at all falling in love with War. He’s a tall, rippling muscular, olive skinned man with dark hair and wears dark eyeliner. What more could you want?! Oh yeah, he also has the power to raise the dead and I’m living for the necromancy! What I loved most about War was he had never truly experienced the kindness and love of humankind before. He had never witnessed someone who would defy all odds to save others over themselves nor has he ever experienced the softness a human heart can hold. He has only ever found hate and evil intentions in the hearts of the majority of humankind. However, in this book we see War learn about the softness of a human heart, experience love, grow a conscience, and learn what it means to lose something you hold dear to your heart. I really loved his character development and I thought he was a well developed part of this book.
I briefly mentioned necromancy and I have to take a pause to elaborate on why I loved this element so much! One, necromancy is such an underrated power, in my opinion. It’s not often shown in books and I have a little appreciation of necromancy because it’s one of my spouse’s favorite powers. And secondly, I went into this book expecting everything that comes with war. I knew there was going to be graphic content, there would be death and loss, and I knew there was going to be a lot happening. What I wasn’t expecting was necromancy and how the power of necromancy comes into play in this book! I loved that twist and is was one of the most pleasant surprises I encountered in this book.
Also, as a little side tangent, this is a little appreciation that we get some information on Pestilence in this book as well as another cameo of my favorite boy, Thanatos (otherwise known as the horseman, Death). All the blessings and if you can’t picture Thanatos being a sassy, no nonsense kind of guy then I don’t know what you’re doing!
“No,” I say, my eyes meeting his in the near-darkness. “Not love itself.” Everything I’ve ever loved I’ve lost. There’s no beauty in that. “It’s the power of love that I find beautiful.” It can change so many things—For better, or worse.”
Even with a lot of the good and world development this book, I still had issues with this book. In fact, I had a lot more issues with this book than I did with Pestilence. And please, even though I stated the content and trigger warnings at the beginning of this review, please use caution with this book. There is a lot of graphic content and a lot of scenes that had affected my mental health while reading this book. So please make sure you practice self-care before, during, and after reading this and be in the right head space.
The first thing I feel like I have to address is the animal cruelty/death of animals. While I won’t go into too much detail, there is a lot of talk and descriptions of aviaries being set on fire, birds being harmed, and other depictions. As someone who loves birds, is very sentimental about birds, does bird watching, and really appreciates birds and what they stand for, this was content that I didn’t want to read about. I got really emotional, I cried a few times, I had immense anxiety reading about these parts, and it was soul shattering. I never want to read this kind of content ever again.
Now that we’ve cleared that out of the way, Miriam became my first true issue with this book. Before you break out pitch forks and torches, let me explain why she became a problem character. For the first half of this book, I never really had an issue with her actions or how she was treating certain situations. Until the three-quarter mark of this book, The minute she stole Deimos, I knew the way I was going to view Miriam was going to change. Then shortly after that moment, Miriam decided to take War’s own sword and try to kill him, with his own weapon, while he was sleeping, unarmed. That was the moment I started reevaluating my view of Miriam and everything thing she had done up to this point. I say this all the time, but I will say it again; I will never, ever support characters who try to do harm to another character who is unarmed or they’re not in a situation that is life threatening. This scene was completely unacceptable and honestly, I wish Miriam’s “punishment” had been more extreme. And I say that due to the fact that War has literally done everything for Miriam. From coming to her rescue, to sparing her life multiple times, to giving her the aviaries, all the way to preventing her from dying; Miriam took all of it for granted. She used sex as a weapon to have pull and sway over War, she used love itself as a weapon to make War go against his purpose/very nature and took it away from him as a form of punishment if he didn’t do as she asked, she undermined War and his men every chance she got, she disobeyed War when he was trying to protect her from getting hurt, and there were plenty more moments than that throughout this entire book. The entire three-quarters of this book is literally Miriam doing all of this or complaining how she shouldn’t care about a horseman of the apocalypse. It was a lot to push through.
My second biggest issue of this book was the length of the book itself. As I mentioned, three-quarters was mostly the same thing happening over and over again. Miriam doing anything and everything to undermine War. However, that’s not the only issue. It takes half of the book before we even see any intimate, sexual action between War and the main heroine. There wasn’t even any sexual tension built that would encourage the reader to continue reading. You could tell there was sexual tension between the main characters, but for the first half of this book it was block after block of nothing happening. Also, the first three-quarters of this mostly camp life or War and his men rushing off to destroy another city. It become really repetitive and aside from isolated incidents that happen in certain locations, it’s the same pattern of camp life, destroy a city, camp life, travel to the next city. It’s very repetitive. We don’t actually see a distinct change in everything until a little bit past the three-quarter mark which introduces a whole new issue.
My last and final issue I had with this book is a spoiler so I will keep this as spoiler free as possible. This issue basically consists of a trope that immensely bothers me especially when it’s thrown into the end of a book. More specifically, it felt like this trope was thrown near the end of the book to help push the story forward and help the wrap up of this book. I honestly felt like this could have been thrown in sooner which could have helped with the length of this book, but it wasn’t and it was really hard to try and push through it. Even more so due to the scene that is very triggering and I will state this now for anyone who it might trigger or effect, that triggering scene consists the death/loss of a child. So beware of that! I’m very thankful I was warned about that scene because even though I knew about it going in, it made me sick to my stomach and it was incredibly hard to finish the end of this book because of that scene. I never want to read that kind of situation again. Ever.
“Loss is a wound that never heals. Never never never. It scabs over, and for a time you can almost forget it’s there, but then something—a smell, a sound, a memory—will split that wound right open, and you’ll be reminded again that you’re not whole. That you’ll never fully be whole again.”
Overall, I did enjoy this book to a certain extent and this was the hardest three stars I ever gave. I truly wanted to love this book more than the first book in this series. However, there was a lot of content that became very problematic for me and sadly, this didn’t even uphold the four stars that I wanted to give. And in all honesty, I’m not sure if I want to finish this series because of the sour taste this book left in my mouth. I really want to read the next two books especially because Death is so far my favorite out of all the horsemen, but I’m really unsure at the moment. If you do find yourself getting into this series, definitely be aware of all the content and trigger warnings, and please, be in the right head space while reading these books.