Thank you very much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
A thousand years in the future, the world has fallen to war, famine, disease and mutations, except the Kingdom of Cutta. There the last of humanity lives in comfort and ease beneath the guiding hand of the King. As the daughter of the King’s Hangman, Catherine’s life has been easy, ordered, and comfortable – the only thorn in her side is Nate, the older brother of the man she loves, and an open dissenter against the King’s regime. Only the influence of his powerful family has kept Nate from execution, but not from prison, and even after two years, Catherine has never forgiven him for the pain he caused. But it seems her troubles with Nate have only just begun, and a single wrong move shatters their entire lives. Hunted by the King’s guards, they have no other choice but to escape to the one place the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands, wild, untamed, and filled with mutants and rabids.
It’s pretty rare for me to pick up anything set in a dystopian future these days. Maybe it was because of how many YA books used that as their setting (Hunger Games and the Divergent series to name a few), or maybe it’s a result of my eternally optimistic, Star Trek inspired hope for the future, but either way, the setting ended up feeling a little tired to me after a while.
But when the author of A Touch of Death reached out to me for a review, the story sounded just like something I would enjoy. And luckily for me I wasn’t disappointed. This is also the author’s debut novel, the first of an already completed pentalogy, so I am also a little in awe over how much she’s already accomplished.
The characters were by far my favourite part. Nate and Catherine in particular felt very solid and real to me, and some of their reactions and exchanges felt so full of passion, heart and depth that it literally took my breath away. The relationship between these two was so much fun, watching as they go from barely tolerating each other – at least as far as Catherine is concerned – to having a real, believable partnership was just amazing to witness. At first I was a little worried that this would be yet ANOTHER love triangle in a dystopian setting (are there really no other options around in the ruins of civilization, guys?) but the relationships between Catherine, Nate, and his brother Thom are handled in such a refreshing way. I won’t spoil what happens – mostly because I’m not one-hundred percent sure of what really happened (but in a good, way!) – but I can safely say that Catherine is certainly no Bella Swan. And thank goodness for that!
“Those are dangerous words,” said Nate, his eyes alight with mischief and admiration. “I like you like this.”
“Rebellious. I always knew you were a fighter. Seeing it… I like it. Don’t ever let them tell you what to think.”― Rebecca Crunden, A Touch of Death
The one thing I felt was lacking was the world around the stellar main cast. Where the characters feel very fleshed out, the Kingdom of Cutta felt less than fully realized. Some parts were excellent, such as the opening prologue, which really brought me into the setting. But in others, I didn’t feel the same sense of engagement. We are told a great deal about the splendor of the capital and the poverty of the rest of the kingdom, but while I did get that sense of luxury from the rich areas, I never really felt that sense of poverty or despair. The totalitarian, dystopian nature of the world is surprisingly subdued – everything seems to happen just offscreen – and the book loses some of its tension as a result between a pulse-pounding opening and an absolutely gripping finale.
Also, this may be more of a personal nit-pick, but there are very few chapter breaks in this book – I think I got from just after the opening scene to midway through the book before I had a definitive spot to stop. I think this is more my own personal preference, but I need room to breathe between all these emotions. I had so many feelings to process!
She wanted, absurdly, for him to make everything better, to fix this somehow, as he had fixed everything else. He had always known what to do, when to run, where to go. He had been her rock for so long she wished furiously that he would brace against this new storm and hold her steady.― Rebecca Crunden, A Touch of Death
Nit-picking aside, I’m still very happy I picked up this book. The overall plot was gripping and engaging enough to keep any reader very satisfied, and there was barely a dull moment to be found. This author has a great sense of character building and pacing and she balances both beautifully. Nowhere is this more apparent than the ending. The narrative builds up and the final chapters are absolutely packed full of drama, despair, heartbreak, and just the tiniest dash of hope – it made me want to immediately grab hold of the next book and start reading what happens next.
And really, I don’t think I need to say any more than that.
Final Thoughts: Rebellious, daring, and packed to the brim with emotion, A Touch of Death is overall a fun and enjoyable debut novel with enough drama, mystery, and touching moments to satisfy any reader.
Thanks for reading everyone.