Exit Kingdom (The Reaper Novels) by Alden Bell (book review).

‘Exit Kingdom’ is set in the same world as ‘The Reapers Are The Angels’, a post-apocalyptic zombie world. Although ‘The Reapers Are The Angels’ was written first, you could read this book on its own. Having said that, I would recommend reading ‘The Reapers Are The Angels’ first as there are one or two medium-sized spoilers.

The setting of the book is present day America, after an unspecified outbreak that turns the dead into slow-moving zombies which can only be killed by damaging their brains. The protagonist in this novel is Moses Todd, a central character from ‘The Reapers Are The Angels’ who starts the novel years after the events of that book. He tells a part of his life story to a group of people he joins on his travels.

Moses was twenty years-old when the outbreak occurred, so he remembers the world from before, unlike his little brother Abraham. He grew up in this world with only his brother as his guardian and companion as they constantly travel through America. Moses knows he is not a good man, though he lives by his own moral code and seeks a purpose other than just wandering. Abraham, on the other hand is abominable in ways best not to be described here and Moses does his best to guard others from him but he does not stop him.

On their journey from place to place, they come across loners, marauders and groups of people who have banded together and created some semblance of civilisation. They arrive at a monastery where the congregation live in silence as a form of worship. Ignatius, the monk who runs the monastery, tasks Moses and his brother with transporting the Vestal Amata to a high priest in a northern citadel. The Vestal Amata is a mysterious, unpredictable woman with many faces. She possesses a valuable gift that could change the future of humanity but she is being hunted by other humans who wish to possess her. Moses and Abraham must use all their instincts and experience to deliver her safely to the citadel.

‘Exit Kingdom’ is written in a poetic fashion, like a stream of consciousness. There were times when the book was a little too poetic for me to understand but those instances were few and easily forgotten when faced with the rest of the novel. All the main characters are complex and relatable, even Abraham, who is still pretty deplorable. I found myself looking at him the way Moses does, in a voyeur fashion, as I made my way through the book. I was not expecting to relate to the characters the way I did, especially after I had read the first book.

This is book filled with people in all shades of grey. At first I found Moses’ strange code of honour confusing, then somewhat sensible and when met with the Vestal Amata, I found it lacking. I suppose that is how life is, your opinions and even values change based on your experiences and I could understand Moses’ reasoning, even while I disagreed with them.

Although the book is in the zombie apocalyptic genre, it is more a philosophical book. There are, of course, times when the characters are fighting other humans or zombies, but for the most part it is about the struggle of living people. As bleak as it was at times, I found it refreshing. There are no obvious ‘take home’ messages, just a book that makes you think.

Supreethi Salvam

January 2018

(pub: TOR-UK/Panmacmillan, 2013. 287 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4472-1915-6)

check out website: www.panmacmillan.com

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