by Laura Thalassa
Book 1 in The Four Horsemen series
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.
When Pestilence comes for Sara Burn’s town, one thing is certain: everyone she knows and loves is marked for death. Unless, of course, the angelic-looking horseman is stopped, which is exactly what Sara has in mind when she shoots the unholy beast off his steed.
Too bad no one told her Pestilence can’t be killed.
Now the horseman, very much alive and very pissed off, has taken her prisoner, and he’s eager to make her suffer. Only, the longer she’s with him, the more uncertain she is about his true feelings towards her … and hers towards him.
And now, well, Sara might still be able to save the world, but in order to do so, she'll have to sacrifice her heart in the process.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Violent Mythical-Fantasy Interesting
TRIGGER WARNING: Many situations where MC is around plague victims of all ages. Many violent situations. Please be advised.
Pestilence is the first book in Laura Thalassa's Four Horsemen series. Pestilence centers around 21-year old Sara Burns, who encounters Pestilence, when in an effort to save the world from the plague, she shoots him off his horse. Unfortunately, Sara learns that Pestilence cannot die, and Pestilence, more than irked that he has once again been attacked (and proving further than humanity cannot be saved, and his task is right), decides instead of killing her, he will make her his prisoner, and make her suffer as she made him. As they travel, and get to know one another, Sara doesn't know whether to hate him, or like him, and he doesn't know what to make of her. Can Sara convince Pestilence to stop his task, and reverse the plague, or will she need to break her own heart to save the world?
This is another divergence from my tbr list, technically, and a series I have seen over and over on #BookToc. After reading some of the reviews, I was a bit hesitant to start it, but I decided to go ahead with it anyway. I actually really enjoyed it. I'm NOT saying there isn't problems - there totally is. Starting out, I want to list what I liked about it. First - originality. I have not read a post-apocalyptic romance quite like this one. Not only because it features biblical figures like the four horseman, but the story itself is original. And interesting! I finished it in a day. The writing is great, which I find sometimes is not the case when a book is on kindle unlimited. It had a nice flow throughout the novel, which I always appreciate. Lastly, it invoked emotion in me - sometimes I laughed at Sara's inner crass thoughts, sometimes I was crying, or angry and disgusted. I think it takes a talented writer to make the reader feel real emotions while immersing themselves in the story, and Laura Thalassa is a talented writer.
As I said, there are problems though. Without spoiling (because this is said right in the synopsis), we can't ignore the fact that this is an unhealthy relationship. She is his prisoner for a large portion of the book, and it just screams Stockholm syndrome. There are many times where he truly damages her - physically and mentally - and at one point, I noted "How the fuck does this become a romance?" The only way I am able to get past this, and actually end up liking this book, is reminding myself that Pestilence is not human. He was created for one purpose - to end the world. He doesn't think like a human, but a tool of God, who believes humanity must be purified. As we spend more time with him, we learn he doesn't like his task. Through Sara, he gets to see the best in humanity, and starts to become more human himself. While their romance is built on something truly horrific and unhealthy - where they end up is in a good place. Pestilence becomes human, if not in body, where it counts.
Another problem - Pestilence is a murderer. He doesn't just spread a painful, horrific plague - he controls it. It's severity, how long the victims can last with it, and even protect someone from it and other infection - like in the case of Sara. Some of the hardest parts of this novel is the ugliness of the disease. Specifically, when good people become infected. Families. Children. The children are the hardest. While Sara does her best tend to the victims, it is hard to get over that fact that Pestilence kills children. I can argue with myself, and remind myself that God has given him this task, he doesn't like doing it, and his own reasoning - if he just infected the adults, the children would ultimately die slowly, and painfully in other ways, like starvation. But it still bothers me, and while logically, I understand why Pestilence is written the way he is, emotionally, I can't get over that.
Another issue I have is the ending, in which we get into spoilers. It is never explained how Pestilence --------------> "completed his task." Did he commune with God? Was falling in love and finding that despite the bad, there is good in humanity as well the completion of his task? <------------ I really want to know! Without knowing, it is just a convenient way to end the story without explanation.
While there is a lot of debate on whether or not Pestilence is worth putting aside the problematic themes, I am glad I gave it a chance. It is dark and twisty, but in the end, it has an interesting story and an intense romance with lots of sexual tension and steam. If you can get past the darker parts of this novel, I think you will enjoy it. I know I can't wait to start the next book: War.
Pestilence coming out of the bath completely naked, and Sara's reaction
Pestilence finally deciding to try food for the first time when Sara finds apple pie she is really excited about - and proceeds to eat most of it.
Pestilence making Sara jam sandwiches
Pestilence saving Sara, and Sara taking care of an injured Pestilence
Pestilence and Sara drinking together, and Pestilence looking at Sara with obvious attraction
Their first kiss
Pestilence telling Sara how he feels about her while he thinks she is sleeping
Ruth and Rob welcoming Pestilence and Sara into their home, because they decided it would be better to die together, and both Pestilence and Sara caring for them.
Sara and Pestilence's bath together and holy sexual tension batman
Pestilence telling Sara she is his favorite person
Their first time
Sara and Pestilence being there for one another despite their injuries after being attacked
What Pestilence does to be with Sara
Pestilence strides right up to the front door and, lifting a foot, kicks it inward. That's one way to open a door. The other way is trying the fucking knob like a normal person.
Sara: "You do know the moment I'm out of your sight, I'm going to try to escape."
Pestilence: "Do I look worried, human?"
Sara: "I can't tell, too many bits are missing."
Sara: "Look, if you're regretting keeping me alive, then kill me, but if you are married to this idea of yours, I'd really appreciate it if you'd pull my goddamned pants down."
Alright, perhaps tolerate is a better word. We're tolerating each other despite openly hating each other's guts. It's an odd relationship, but since he refuses to die and he won't kill me, we're stuck with each other.
Sara: "What are you doing?"
Sara: "So ... you like it?"
Pestilence: "Do you want a formal apology? Would you like for me to admit I was wrong?"
I'd like for you to not enjoy my stolen pie, thankyouverymuch.
Sara: "I thought you mentioned food was a slippery slope into mortal depravity?"
I say, sliding the pie pan back to my side of the table and taking a bite of it. It's a bit stale, and I prefer my pie hot, but it is, in a word, heaven. The horseman drags the pie back to his side of the table.
Pestilence: "I mused on the matter."
He scoops another forkful. Another bite just ... gone to this beast.
Pestilence: "Food in and of itself is not wicked."
I slide the pan back to me.
Sara: "Indulgence probably is."
Pestilence: "I don't like watching them die."
Sara: "Why didn't you force us to keep moving?"
Pestilence: "You needed the rest."
Sara: "But you still infect them."
Pestilence: "I still infect them. And I will continue to infect them until my time has passed. But I do not like watching them die."
After I put Pestilence's crown on my head (motherfucking queen right here), I hook my arms under his shoulders.
Pestilence: "Do you want me to suffer?"
Sara: "I never wanted you to suffer. Not even when I shot you down."
Pestilence: "This really does taste awful."
I give a soft laugh.
Sara: "Then why are you drinking it?"
He meets my eyes. There's a lot of weight in them.
Pestilence: "You gave already altered my mind. I wish to alter is back."
Pestilence: "I feel ... something when I look at you."
My mind flashes back to the bathroom and the heated expression on his face. A blush creeps up my neck, the alcohol making it burn hotter and spread wider than it would if I were sober. I force my eyes to stay on his face when all they really want to do is dip down to his torso.
Pestilence: "I cannot figure out what that something is. And hear me Sara, it is driving me mad."
Join the motherfucking club. We're taking applicants.
Pestilence: "You're human. I don't like your kind. I'm not supposed to like you".
Sara: "But you do?"
His eyes drop to my mouth. He touches my lower lip with his thumb, rubbing it gently.
Pestilence: "God forgive me, I do."
Sara: "It's rude to stare at someone."
Pestilence: "Are you offended?"
I'm flattered. And that offends me.
A woman should not be oddly pleasing. She should be a ball-busting, skull-crushing, badass motherfucker who is impossible to forget.
Pestilence: "I can not decide if you are a toxin or a tonic. Only that you plague my thoughts and fill my veins."
Pestilence could really work on his compliments.
Pestilence: "This is not lust I feel, dear Sara. And I hope you are half as frightened of it as I am."
Pestilence: "Love, lust, longing - you cannot refashion my feelings. I know my heart, Sara, even if it's alien to you."
What did I walk myself into?
Sara: "What do you want from me?"
Pestilence: "Nothing! Everything! Fuck. This is so confusing."
I'm about to speak when he cuts in.
Pestilence: "I want to taste your lips again. I want to hold you like I did in the tent. I don't understand why I want these things, only that I do."
Is it wrong to feel flattered when Pestilence is clearly having an existential crisis? No? Alright.
Ruth: "And what is right?"
Pestilence: "That I and my brothers have come to conquer this land, and unless humans change, all will be laid to waste, and your day of judgement will fall swiftly upon you."
He could really lube us up for entry, rather than just shoving shit at us like that.
Pestilence: "When you ignore me, I burn with restlessness; it feels as though the sun has turned its back on the world. And when you smile at me - when you gaze at me like you can see my soul - I feel ... I feel like I am lit on fire, like you have been called by God to raze my world. For good or for ill, I have been indelibly changed by you."
Ruth: "You don't have an easy task ahead of you. For whatever reason, the Lord deemed fit for you to feel what it is to be human - the loss, the heartbreak, all of it."
Ruth: "That boy out there"
-only Ruth would have the wherewithal to call ageless Pestilence a boy-
Ruth: "has seen a lot of human nature, the bulk of it ugly. He's only now seeing the beauty of it, and largely through you."
She gives my hand another squeeze.
Ruth: "Show him what we shine with. Show him humanity is worthy of redemption."
Pestilence: "Do most humans take baths together?"
Just the stupid ones.
He squeezes my foot.
Pestilence: "Then why did you invite me in?"
Sara: "Because I like being close to you."
Pestilence: "You are compassionate to even the worst of your lot. You give aid to the dying. You care fiercely, so fiercely. These are no ordinary feats. And this is not touching on what you mean to me. You have managed what no one else has: you have awoken my heart. So, no, Sara, of all the words I'd use to describe you, fascinating would definitely be on of them."
Handlebar Mustache: "Why have you forsaken your own people for that thing?"
Sara: "I haven't forsaken you. God has."
Pestilence: "You have my mercy, my mind, my adoration, my body, my ... life."
Pestilence: "I like making love to you, Sara Burns. I think it might be my new favorite thing in the world, next to this."
His hold briefly tightens. I run my hand over his chest and down his abs, smiling softly.
Sara: "You prefer this to my mad conversation skills?"
Pestilence: "Ask me again tomorrow when we're in the saddle."
he says, grinning.
Pestilence: "I'm sure my answer will change."
That smile! The sight of it causes my breath to hitch.
Sara: "You're just saying that to get on my good side."
Pestilence: "Sara, you only have good sides. I'm saying this because each moment with you is my new favorite."
Sara: "What've you done to me?"
I set out to destroy this man, not to protect him.
Pestilence: "The same thing you have done to me, I imagine."
Pestilence says, brushing a lock of my hair aside.
Pestilence: "You want your people to live, but you're unwilling for me to be harmed. I want your people to die, but I cannot harm you. Each of us is trapped between our minds and our hearts."
Sara: "It's not the same. You're only saving me because God sent you a sign."
Pestilence brushes a kiss against my temple.
Pestilence: "God might've interceded on your behalf once, but He hasn't needed to since. You are mine, and nothing - nothing - will change that."
Pestilence: "You still haven't finished reciting that Edgar Allan Poe poem."
From this morning? He actually remembers that?
Sara: "You weren't listening."
Pestilence: "I was, though I'm not sure your macabre poet is the type to pen 'A-holes' into his poetry." Pestilence: "I am the first horseman, the one who was tasked with toppling your old way of living. You and your foolish brethren believed you could outpace God. You built and innovated, and in your quest you robbed the earth of it's purity and forgot that you all had another master. You all turned your backs on God - yes, even you, dear Sara - and I am here to make you remember. I am your mortality. I am the ugly truth that your bodies are impermanent, feeble, corrupt. I am the reminder that all men must face a great and fearsome reckoning. This is who I have always been and will always be - undying, unchanging."
He falls to silence.
Sara: "That is such horseshit."
Pestilence: "If I am such a monster, then what does that make you, who have willingly fallen into my arms?"
Sara: "A fool and an idiot, but that's nothing new."
Pestilence: "I love you. Before I even understood the term, I loved you. I love your laughter and your bawdy humor. I love your compassion and your vivacity, you fierceness and your loyalty. I meant to make you suffer, and look at me now - desperate to keep you in this land."
Sara: "You didn't expect that, did you? Me loving you. Maybe I'm a fool and a traitor, but I'm yours."
Pestilence: "I'm doing this to avenge you!"
Sara: "I never asked for your vengeance. I asked for your mercy."
Pestilence: "You called me love."
Sarah: "I did."
Pestilence: "And you love me."
Sara: "I do. And it is not enough."
He staggers back a step.
Pestilence: "Not enough?"
Sara: "It's not enough to overcome whatever else lies in your heart. You clearly hate humankind more than you care for me."
Pestilence's nostrils flare, but he bites back a response.
He doesn't deny it. Ouch.
Sara: "Love is supposed to bring out the best parts of you. Not the worst."
Pestilence: "I did this because I love you."
Sara: "Love doesn't work like that."
Sara: "You stopped the plague."
Pestilence: "I did."
Pestilence: "Because love brings out the best in you."
Pestilence: "Come back to me. Quote me Poe and Byron, Dickinson and Shakespeare. Tell me your human histories, share with me your memories. Let me taste your food and let me drink your wine. Let me make love to you and hold you in my arms until dawn. Share your life with me."
Check out the rest of the Four Horsemen Series