Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Series: Riders of the Apocalypse #3
Rating: 4.5 stars
Life for fifteen year old Billy Ballard is not easy. He’s the kid who everyone picks on, the one who the teachers either overlook or “make an example” of. He doesn’t even get a break at home, living with his single mother who’s always working to make ends meet, and his Alzheimer’s suffering grandfather, who can sometimes be worse than the school bullies. If it wasn’t for his friend, Marianne, he’d probably go mad – though never working up the courage to ask her out might drive him to madness anyway.
Then Death visits Billy. He wants Billy to stand in as Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as the original White Rider has gone missing. Billy agrees, thinking this could be his chance to get back at his tormentors, and takes the Bow which allows him to strike disease. But when he accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis, Billy realises he can’t handle this kind of power, and must hunt out the previous White Rider, who is hiding in the memories of his long, strange life. After years of causing death and disease, the White Rider has become insane, and plans on an outbreak more terrifying than any the earth has seen before…
Loss is another excellent book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, which deals with teenagers struggling with different problems who then become one of the riders, and their experiences with their new powers and responsibilities. Though all part of a series, each book can be read as a stand alone, and nothing is lost by reading them out of order. This book’s protagonist, Billy, is a very sympathetic character. Watching his life of abuse and pain is moving, especially if you (like myself) have experienced bullying in the past. Even if you haven’t, the frustration, anger, and self loathing that Billy feels is written in a clear and very convincing way, and I found myself desperately hoping for a scene where Billy stands up and finally gets his own back. Though this doesn’t actually happen in Loss, the battles Billy does win, over his own self doubt and outlook on life, are much more important. This is not a book about revenge, it’s about accepting yourself no matter what others think – which can often be harder than getting your own back.
The world building in this book is fascinating and well researched, the story of King Mita tying in very well with the Riders’ biblical tale. The character Death and the other horsemen are all entertaining and it is a very good thing they all get their own books, as you cannot help but want to know more about them all. There is also a very funny and cute scene from the point of view of the White Horse, who is excited to have not one but two riders now. Death himself is an amazing character, and though he doesn’t get as much focus in this book as I would have liked, this is not his story (thankfully, Death’s story is the next and final book in this series Breath).
Billy’s story is one of struggles and triumphs, both over other people and yourself. It’s moving and very satisfying, and I can’t recommend it enough.