Reaper's Gamble

Of Black Sand and Ash

Fiction - Fantasy - Urban
358 Pages
Reviewed on 07/03/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Miche Arendse for Readers' Favorite

Reaper's Gamble: Of Black Sand and Ash by R.E. Holding follows Loren B. Turtingas, a young man who is seen as anything but ambitious especially when compared with his sister Eva. All Lor wants is to join the non-guild roundsmen; however, his step-father Gale has other ideas. He forces Lor to join the guild program on Heart Island. Despite his reservations, Lor decides to give in to his stepfather’s wishes, and that might be both the best and worst decision of his life. It is now up to him to discover his destiny.

I didn’t know what to expect when starting Reaper's Gamble by R.E. Holding. The synopsis was intriguing but I didn’t expect to be pulled into this story the way I was. Holding is an amazing writer and I really enjoyed how naturally this story progressed. You are introduced to the amazing world of Audun with all its intricacies at a decent pace and without the book focusing too much on actually explaining it. The narrative was definitely more show than tell, which I greatly appreciated. The characters were also all unique and well-fleshed-out. Each character really stood out and even though I didn’t initially like Paerli’s character when she was first introduced, her sassiness grew on me. That was the best part of Reaper’s Gamble; slowly falling in love with the characters despite their quirks. Overall, I think this was an amazing story and I really hope there will more books from this author in the future.

Divine Zape

In Reaper's Gamble: Of Black Sand and Ash by R.E. Holding, Loren “Lor” B. Turtingas is a 16-year-old boy living with his stepfather Gale in a small house on the outskirts of Audun. Lor struggles to find his place in the world and is torn between pursuing a career as a Roundsman (a type of warrior) or attending the prestigious Peakwood Academy to develop his “gift.” Gale, a medic, is pushing Lor to join the program, but Lor is hesitant due to concerns about the cost and the potential for failure. He has read letters from his sister Eva about the program. But when his worldview is challenged, he's sent to Heart Island for the Guild program, where he meets a new group of friends and the enigmatic Paerli Harea. As they navigate the program, a mysterious incident forces them to confront the risks and secrets surrounding their involvement. Will Loren find his true purpose or succumb to the allure of the unknown?

Reaper's Gamble promises entertainment that keeps readers turning the pages. The setting is wonderfully accomplished, and images like the Audun capitol tower standing in the far distance, barely visible against the horizon, stay in readers' minds. The sense of time and place is expertly realized. The world-building is rich and offers glimpses into a world where Guilds and non-guild factions coexist. The story has compelling plot points, including Gale's insistence on enrolling Lor in a program, which suggests there may be more to this program than initially apparent, Lor’s reluctance to join the program, fueled by his desire to avoid failure and the potential consequences, and Gregory's death, which seems to hold some significance for Gale and may be related to Lor's future. The author exhibits a gift for character development, and Loren is portrayed as a laid-back, somewhat rebellious individual who values his independence and is wary of authority. R.E. Holding writes well about the struggle for individuality and autonomy in a society governed by factions. The novel explores the tension between personal desires and external expectations, the weight of family secrets, and the consequences of failure. This is an enjoyable read.

K.C. Finn

Reaper's Gamble: Of Black Sand and Ash is a work of fiction in the urban fantasy, action, and adventure genres. Penned by author R.E. Holding, the plot follows Loren, a young man content with his unambitious life in his stepfather's basement. Unlike his sister Eva, a Guild member, Loren aspires to be a non-Guild roundsman of Law. Forced to attend the Guild program on Heart Island, near the mysterious Mount Gehenna, Loren meets new friends, including the intriguing Paerli Harea. As he adjusts to his new life, a strange incident challenges him to confront the dangers of the Guild program and what it truly means to be a member. The story features a vibrant world, accidental romance, and hidden identities.

Author R.E. Holding has crafted an intriguing journey into a richly crafted fantasy world with plenty of atmospheric detail and descriptions that enhance the emotional tensions of the plot perfectly. Loren’s character was relatable from the start with his initially apathetic and resistant attitude, which made his growth throughout all the more compelling. The close narrative focus with plenty of details allows us to see the changes that happen to him with every exciting plot challenge. The setting of Heart Island and the enigmatic Mount Gehenna provide a captivating backdrop for these poignant moments. The slow-burn romance between Loren and Paerli was also well-developed as a result of this detailed descriptive technique, adding an emotional layer to the adventure that helps you to root for the hero’s happy future even more. The themes of ambition, identity, and the consequences of choices were thoughtfully explored, making the story resonate beyond its fantasy elements and sink deep into readers’ hearts. Overall, Reaper's Gamble was a delightful read, leaving me excited for more from this vivid and immersive series.