It's been two years since I tried to overthrow Death...
Now, all I have to show for it is a life in exile without my lover and personal Grim Reaper, Brent Hume. He bargained his soul for my safety. If I could get him back, I would, but I don't don't have the first idea how. So I live for the night when Reaper's bring nightmares to the living-and Brent visits me in mine. Doesn't make for a good night's sleep, but I'll take what little of him I can get.
When Death comes calling, sending me into an old foe's camp as a spy, my inner rebel awakens once more. If I play my cards right, I might improve upon my growing Master Scrivener powers and finally free Brent so that we can be together for good. I know he'll do anything to keep me safe-even if it means I'll never see him again. And that scares the Hell out of me.
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Read an Excerpt
The Reaper's Sacrifice
A Deathmark Novel
By Abigail Baker, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Abigail Baker
All rights reserved.
"Can I get a skull?" asked a girl with two hip-length blonde braids, wearing a Glacier National Park T-shirt. Nursing a steaming cup of apple cider in one hand, she couldn't have been more than ten years old. "You know, like a Day of the Dead skull?"
Her clarification was appreciated. It allowed me to form an immediate picture in my head of the exact type of skull I would do for her, the intricate layers of purple and red with hints of gold on the trim. This one would be perfect for a brisk day in October during the northwestern Montana city of Kalispell's annual Harvest Festival, which celebrated food, the end of summer, and, of course, the pièces de résistance of autumn, Halloween and El Día de Los Muertos.
"I want my whole face, too. Not just on my right cheek like her." Braids plopped herself down in the chair across from me before I had a chance to clean up from the previous client's skull request. The other client stood not too far away, arms folded across her chest, glaring through one normal eye and one skull eye. The reason that this new client wanted a skull on her entire face was because her friend, or possibly frenemy, the grimacing blue-eyed brunette with bobbed hair and freckles on her nose and cheeks, had opted for a skull on half of her face. The brunette was obvious competition, and I was the only way Braids would settle their score.
So after twenty minutes of my hard work, Braids sprung from her chair, observed the masterpiece on her face in a little mirror hanging over my table, and then ran to her rival to compare notes.
"It's creepy," my adoptive father, Stone Balanchine, said to me, sitting at my side with Dudley, my thirty-pound black-and-white mutt curled up on his lap. For the entirety of our day at Kalispell's fall festival, he hadn't uttered a word. He sat, slouched in his chair, massive arms folded across my dog's back, watching people and the occasional undercover Watchman pass by my table. Most people looked at him with a smile because of Dudley. It was the Watchmen — Death's police force, in black suits with gold scythe pins on their collars — who never smiled. Every time a Watchman came near us, the vein under the dark-chocolate skin of Papa's forehead pulsed with anger.
"What else am I supposed to do?" I replied as I began packing my supplies into an empty L.L. Bean shoebox. "Those kids don't know my Deathmark is a skull."
"You shouldn't tempt fate, Ollie."
"It's face paint, Papa. It won't call their Reaper."
While I look like a normal human, I'm a Scrivener from the world between life and the hereafter that we call Styx. When a human's time on Earth is through, the assigned Grim Reaper ferries his or her soul to the Afterlife. But people who prove elusive will get a sudden urge to come see me, and I'll tattoo my Deathmark on them. The magic in it helps the Reaper find the prey. My particular Deathmark is a skull — other Scriveners have other designs. Our jobs aren't happy ones, but we help keep the human population from becoming too much for the planet to handle. But Deathmarks only work if I tattoo my clients. Face paint won't hurt anyone.
Papa unfolded and then refolded his arms as he let out a long hiss of a sigh. Dudley lifted his head and gave him an annoyed glance. Dudley wanted an uninterrupted nap. Papa just didn't get that.
To quell my father's temper, I added, "I wouldn't paint skulls on kids' faces if there was any inkling of a risk. Okay?"
"I know you wouldn't, baby girl." There was more to his words, like a fear that the Watchmen might see face painting as a violation of some obscure Stygian law. To Papa, there always was some reason to be concerned about incurring the Watchmen's scrutiny. He had been like this ever since the week I became one of Styx's only rebels to survive a death sentence imposed by Head Reaper Marin, Styx's ruler. My Stygian ID has a coveted red and black "rebel" sticker for a Level Ten Offense, the worst there is.
Two years ago, I broke into Head Reaper Marin's underground lair and gave him the middle-finger salute on live Stygian broadcasting in an attempt to loosen his despotic control over our world. Instead of fostering the balance between life and death, Marin craved power — and he killed innocent Stygians all the time to get it, generally for breaking one of his many draconian "rules" and committing a high-level Offense. The rebellion — my rebellion — had ultimately failed, but Marin made sure I feared his wrath. He and his Watchmen kept me living inside a petri dish, zeroing in on every move I made out in rural Montana. Committing minor infractions wasn't wise these days. I picked and choose my battles.
Although, I didn't have much fight left in me anymore. I grew tired and weary much earlier than normal. I seemed to have half of everything — energy, time, and determination. Sleepwalking through life was an apt description. Only I couldn't wake up.
I never would so long as Brent Hume — the only living Grim Reaper in Styx besides Papa whom I loved — carried the other half of my soul. Brent was my assigned Grim Reaper, meaning only he would someday have the honor of ferrying me to an Afterlife when it's my time. No other Reaper, no matter how powerful — not even Head Reaper Marin — could ferry me anywhere. And Brent, being a die-hard rebel, used that technicality to remind Head Reaper Marin that he did not hold all the cards in this game of life and death.
Two years ago, after capturing my band of rebels, my parents, and me, Marin had offered us a choice: accept banishment from our home city of Québec and live under his thumb, or die. Mama had chosen death. I had, as well, but Brent refused to ferry my soul. Instead, he'd absorbed half of it, as the natural rules of Styx dictated that no other Stygian could ferry a half-ferried soul. The Reaper who'd begun the job had to finish it — not even Marin could get around that one.
And I loved Brent for this. I really did. Which made the fact that I might never see him again all the more painful. At least Papa had agreed to banishment so he could stay with me.
A shadow fell across the table, breaking into my thoughts. "What can we do for you?" Papa asked, too busy adjusting Dudley so the dog's nails didn't cut into his thighs to look up and offer a polite greeting. I shoved the rest of my art supplies into the shoebox. I was ready to leave and had been since mid-afternoon.
"So this is Scrivener Olivia Dormier's table, eh?" said a familiar, but unwelcome, French-Canadian voice.
Before I could control my expression, my eyes snapped up to meet the face I'd wanted to crush with a two-by-four for years. Chadwick was an Eidolon Reaper like Brent. Eidolons were Grim Reapers put on earth solely to ferry Stygians like Papa and me — either to Erebus, a hellish Afterlife for our kind, or Elysia, an Afterlife of sunshine, unicorns, and bright white lights of peace and love. But what Brent had in compassion and love and good looks, Chad sorely lacked. Whenever the blond douchebag appeared, with his yellow-stained teeth and usual smell of decay and cigarettes, there was trouble afoot.
After I took a moment to compose myself and let out a deep, annoyed sigh, I zipped up my backpack, slung it over my shoulders, and gave Chad a proper frown. Papa did too, only his was far more intimidating. Even Dudley should've given Chad the ol' hairy eyeball, but he ran under the table instead, which was a smart move on his part.
Chad was tall, thin, and wore a black suit exactly as he had when I first met him in Québec City — the day he coerced me into tattooing a Deathmark onto my beloved friend, Eve Cassidy.
Papa moved closer to my side, a foot taller than me, twice as wide from muscle, and stared Chad down with venomous intent. He wasn't an Eidolon — just a regular Grim Reaper, which meant Chad outranked him. But he was never one to let a hierarchy shut him down. He cracked his knuckles in preparation for hollowing out Chad's skull if he had a moment to strike. That is, if I didn't get to him first.
"Fancy seeing you here, Scrivie, acting all human around those kiddos," Chad carried on, in his French-Canadian accent.
"I don't see why you're surprised to find me, Chad," I hissed. "I was banished here by Marin. Kalispell is the only place I'm allowed to be."
"You're giving out skulls. That's got to be ..." Chad's face contorted as he tried to think of what to call the skull-faced children who raced about the festival.
"That's face paint. It doesn't qualify as a Deathmark or a violation. You ready, Papa?" I asked my foster father, who had, as Chad and I went back and forth, begun looking around for Dudley. His alarm grew palpable as he glanced underneath the table and then from one side to the other.
"Where's Duds?" Papa said.
"He was just under the table. Where could he have gone?" I said, jumping into a sudden panic as we searched for my dog, with Chadwick the Eidolon watching smugly on.
"He never leaves our sides." Papa was quick to begin tearing apart our little station at the festival and, as a result, butting into our neighbors' tables in his rush to find my dog. But he was right. Dudley never left our sides. He was the laziest creature I had ever known. "He couldn't have gotten far."
"I don't know, Papa Bear," Chad sneered. "That dog could be anywhere. Look at all these humans and booths."
"You have something to do with this." I was quick to accuse Chad, and I felt no guilt in that.
"Please, Scrivie, I care little about your stupid pet." With that, Chad the Eidolon, the Reaper responsible for sending Mama to Erebus, strutted away with his head high with his minor vindication. I was on his least favorite Stygians list, and I was proud of that honor. Word among the rebel channels was Chad had been demoted because of my almost-successful rebellion, which had occurred on his watch. Demoted because of little ol' me. That disgrace had to hurt. Chad likely sought revenge because he was the revenge-seeking type, the Eidolon who would make sure I felt the same pain he'd endured after losing favor with Head Reaper Marin. But would he steal my dog? The idea felt silly.
"Ollie, over here!" Papa cried out from three rows of booths away. He stood among a crowd of humans that surrounded a booth displaying and selling authentic Native American artwork. This was David's booth, a man I had met several times during Kalispell's many summer and autumn festivals. I had planned to pop by David's table before the end of the day, but I had a bad feeling the reason for my visit now was sinister in nature.
I shoved my way through the growing crowd, listening to people barking "he's having a heart attack," or "he's dying," or "we need an ambulance," into their cell phones. Eyes closed, David was sprawled on the ground next to his collection of artwork, lifeless and pale. Dudley was at David's side, nudging his feet with his black, wet nose. Relief at having found Dudley quickly became horror when I spotted the fresh skull tattoo on David's forearm. Then my stomach turned inside out.
The skull was glowing, a trick that only Stygians like Papa and me could see, and there was only one reason why.
David, one of the friendliest men I'd ever met, had come to my Kalispell tattoo shop three weeks ago. From our two-hour conversation, I had learned he had an unrivaled passion for skulls. He had asked me for an appointment to tattoo a Jolly Roger on his arm. He had put down a deposit and left, never to return. It wasn't uncommon for clients to make an appointment instead of immediately plopping down in my chair — I did good work, if I say so myself, so some people were attracted to the art of my Deathmarks. But if it wasn't their time to go, they'd put it off, saying they like to think about their new artwork, to let the idea settle in. Scheduling an appointment and getting a deposit was my way of seeming obedient to the Head Reaper's demands that I tattoo as many clients as possible. Then I had tangible evidence that I tried to get them to go through with a Deathmark, even if I might have verbally encouraged them to wait.
So I hadn't placed a Deathmark on him, something that brought me comfort now. Yet here I was, weeks later, staring into the face of what was my work — or the work of a copycat.
David. How? I was the only Scrivener that I knew of whose Deathmark was a skull. I was on my knees at his side, squeezed between two women who were slapping him gently on each cheek in an attempt to rouse him from unconsciousness. I looked up at Papa, whose face was contorted in both grief and confusion. He knew I hadn't put my Deathmark on David. I had told Papa last week that David missed his appointment. So where did this mark come from, and why was it working like my own Deathmark?
My racing heart broke into an uneven cadence when among the growing crowd circling David appeared the numerous gold eyes of advancing Reapers — mostly Watchmen, and the one nutsack who always seemed to pop up in grim moments, Chadwick the Eidolon. Each Reaper was drawn to the sparkling tattoo on David's arm, wishing he or she would be the fortunate one to send this man's soul to the Afterlife — and earn a valuable payout. Death had assigned David to only one of them, but each Reaper seemed ravenous enough to ignore the law and take him for their prize.
The crowd of humans was blissfully unaware of who was in their proximity. Happily for them, they didn't recognize Grim Reapers or Scriveners, seeing us as murmuring, concerned humans and not Death's workforce trying to keep the human population on the straight and narrow.
There was a catch in my throat when I spotted a statuesque beauty moving through the crowd with purpose. Dark, wavy hair dangled from underneath her turquoise beret. The golden-eyed Reaper knelt down at David's side and placed her hand over the glistening skull with a gentleness that did not seem typical of Death's employees.
As everyone — the Reapers and yours truly — watched in both envy and relief, her eyes glowed brighter, and curls of mist, like the smoke of a campfire, spiraled out of David's body. The wisps intertwined until they formed a faceless silhouette.
Like the weight of the mounting human population had been lifted off of us, every Stygian gasped when David's soul peeled away. His disembodied mist rose higher and higher, carrying away his life to the Hereafter, whatever that was like for humans — information those of us from Styx were not privy to.
Only seconds passed before a bitterly cold squall swept around us, reminding us of the world that we lived in. Where humans saw scattered clouds with sun peeking through, we saw millions of ashen, moaning souls when Styx was in full production. No sun. No stars.
A silver coin appeared between David's lips. His Reaper tucked the coin into her jeans pocket. Payday. Her gaze settled on me as the rest of our colleagues disbanded, squawking on about the unfairness of Death's financial system. She gave me a tiny smile, a thank you for helping her pin down another elusive soul, and then she set off back to her daily routine.
But I didn't help her. I had nothing to do with this Deathmark.
I thought I was the only Scrivener with a skull for a Deathmark. How did this happen?
As these questions rattled me from the inside out, I had some respite concerning Papa and Dudley. The humans, on the other hand, held out the hope the paramedics would arrive to whisk David off to safety. Sirens in the distance beseeched him to hold on a bit longer. As far as they knew, medicine might still save David as it saved others.
What they didn't know was he was already gone.
His booth of Native American artwork would no longer appear at Kalispell's weekend farmers' markets. His short existence was stamped out in seconds because of our work, and David's ill-timed death would be chalked up to bad luck or bad genetics.
The fate of the world required that David cross over. It always happened.Like photosynthesis or the rise and fall of the tides. This was nature correcting nature, bringing about equilibrium in the human population. Someone had to die today.
But why did this seem so wrong? My Deathmark — the skull — was responsible, even if I wasn't.
Excerpted from The Reaper's Sacrifice by Abigail Baker, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2016 Abigail Baker. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read, The Reapers Kiss and I really did love the story. So when The Reapers Sacrifice came around. I was really excited for it and couldn’t wait to jump into this world gain. It’s been two years since Ollie and Brent have been together. Still under Marin’s rule. Some things start to go down in the little place she calls home currently. And she is forced to meet with a man with not such a great reputation. But all she wants is Brent. She wants the man she loves back. Although, Brent continuously tells her she needs to move on from him. But Ollie is a stubborn girl and not one to back down. Ollie learns more from the man with the not so great reputation. But the game changes. She starts to realize what she is and what her capabilities are. Though, I did enjoy this. It just seemed to falter a little. I was a bit bored during some parts and I had to struggle a little to finish. Baker really created this world and it still sits deep in my heart. The writing is well done and the characters grow throughout this story. There is always that element of evil and danger. Ollie really is a fighter. Overall, I give this book a four. I really did enjoy this and was glad I was able to see the story continue....Lissa
An interesting read! I'm sure it would've been more fun to read if I had read book 1 first, still it was pretty good. First few chapters were hard to digest, after that I caught up with the story, and it is a good one. I loved all the characters. The plot is amazing. It is full of fantasy-world, action. adventure, romance, some drama, a little mystery, and some amazing funny scenes which made me laugh. Over all I loved the book, can't wait to read the next one. Olivia has been living in exile, along with her father, for two years now. She misses home and she regrets failing at her rebellion. In any case she has a kind of life in Montana now. She tries not think about Brent and the time they have spent apart because of the Head Reaper. Her father is keeping the rebellion alive. They think that some day they might get another chance to over throw cruel Reaper who has banished them from Quebec. For now though they must follow his rule and keep a low profile as much as possible. Things start to get messy when first someone copies Olivia's Deathmark and then send Trivials after her. She must return to headquarters and face the music. what she didn't expect is to be send to a master Scrivener and negotiate for peace, on the behalf of her worst enemy no less. Master Scrivener is also not what she expected him to be. And things definitely didn't go exactly as planned. Soon she realises that they're in 'kill or die' situation. Brent comes to her aid but they must kill the Death Reaper behind this mayhem before it's too late. Will Olivia and Brent ever get the chance to be together? What will this continued rebellion bring to them? More death or perhaps victory? A lot is still to be done. This book can be read as a stand alone. But only a part of the story ends here. There is more to come. I can't await to read about what happens next in Brent and Ollie's life.
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. What a treat! Abigail Baker gives us a gripping roller coaster of a ride with this latest installment in the Deathmark Series. Book 2, The Reaper’s Sacrifice, is a superb blending of fantasy, paranormal, romance, action, and suspense that has you craving for more. Ms. Baker did a bang-up job with her unique storyline, kickass characters, and the weaving of her world that was done so realistically. I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
'The Reaper's Sacrifice' by Abigail Baker is book two in the "Deathmark" series. I have not read the previous book "The Reaper's Kiss" so that might be why I wasn't able to get into this story. Olivia (Ollie) Dormier and her father were banished after they tried to over take the head Reaper. Her mother was killed and Ollie lover/soul carrier was taken away after he gave himself for her to be spared. Ollie hasn't physically seen him in two years and it is getting harder for her. This book did keep you on your toes and overall good writing...so I was happy to have the chance to read this book. I received an eARC, from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
It’s been two years since I tried to overthrow Death... Now, all I have to show for it is a life in exile without my lover and personal Grim Reaper, Brent Hume. He bargained his soul for my safety. If I could get him back, I would, but I don't have the first idea how. So I live for the night when Reaper’s bring nightmares to the living—and Brent visits me in mine. Doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep, but I’ll take what little of him I can get. When Death comes calling, sending me into an old foe’s camp as a spy, my inner rebel awakens once more. If I play my cards right, I might improve upon my growing Master Scrivener powers and finally free Brent so that we can be together for good. I know he’ll do anything to keep me safe—even if it means I’ll never see him again. And that scares the Hell out of me. Review: Well crap, another cliff hanger ending. I love this series and its fresh take on Death, Reapers and that whole world. I was hooked from the beginning. I don't think I have read anything quite like it before, well except for the first book in the series...lol I am going to say that if you have not read the first book, you should do so before reading this one, so as not to be confused. This book starts out two years after the last book ended. Like the first book the action and drama pretty much start from the very first page. I enjoyed the action, the rebellion, the addition of Errol and the Trivials and the whole let's overthrow the bad guys, it was intriguing and kept me on the edge trying to figure out what is going to happen and who was playing for which side. There were lots of sad moments too, but I am not going to give away what happens . I liked Ollie. As the feisty, reluctant face of the rebellion, she is a strong female character. Ollie and Brent's chemistry is still strong even though they have spent the last two years apart and there is a little added tension with Errol and Ollie. I thought the baddies Chad and Marin were very well-done and very bad, again in this book. Will have to see what the next book brings since this does not have a resolution (it is a continuing story line) at the end of the story. I really enjoyed this unique story and cannot wait for the next one. 4Stars *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
Although this is the second book in the Deathmark series, Abigail Baker does such a good job with handling the back story, that you don’t feel lost at all. Although after finishing this one, I would like to go back and read the first one, The Reaper’s Kiss. Baker does a fantastic job adding to the fantasy world that she created in the first book, and her previous characters are very well developed already, while she does an excellent job developing the new ones as well. In The Reaper’s Kiss, Ollie, is a Scrivener who puts her deathmark (a tattoo of a skull) on humans, and then the person’s Reaper comes to collect them shortly afterwards. The evil powers that be find out that she is turning into a master, and want her to be contained or stopped. The Reaper’s Sacrifice picks up after the loss from the first book. Marin is the leader that tried to thwart Ollie and her friends, and after what she’s seen and done in book one, she’s trying to stay under the radar. But there wouldn’t be a story if she did, so Marin makes a deal with her, and she goes to Scotland to try and make peace with another fraction of the Reaper’s. It quickly turns bad, and Ollie along with her new allies have to try and stop Marin and his evil minions. There’s lots of twists and backstabbing, some you’ll see coming and other ones will take you by surprise. Even with the ones you know are coming, Baker still does a great job writing the scenes, so you feel the tension. There’s a touch of romance/sexy time in this one, but there is so much action going on, that the book is more focused on that.