Rogue Rider (Lords of Deliverance)
“. . . a satisfying read tidily concluding the storyline—but also ending with a cliffhanger that will undoubtedly lead to another book.”
Rogue Rider is the fourth and final book in Larissa Ione’s Lords of Deliverance series.
Jillian Cardiff, recovering from a demon attack and a failed relationship, retreats to a solitary farm in a small mountain town. One fateful day, she stumbles across a man—naked and buried in the snow—whom she rescues and takes back to her remote cabin. He knows nothing of himself or his past except his name: Reseph.
Reseph, unbeknownst to him as the book opens, is also known as Pestilence, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the three previous books in the series, Reseph—as Pestilence—wreaked havoc all over the world as he tried to singlehandedly bring about the End of Days. He murdered, raped, and tortured with impunity, but Reseph remembers nothing of his past.
As Jillian and Reseph get to know each other (and fall in love) they attempt to find out about Reseph’s past. They discover nothing, but start to build a quiet, peaceful life together in the mountains.
Once Reseph’s siblings, the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, find him, his memory is fully restored. Unfortunately, that memory includes everything Reseph did while he was Pestilence.
“Hell was neverending pain. It was a fog the color of blood. It was a set of sharp claws that ripped into the brain and shredded it . . . With every dig of the claws came a new memory, and with every new memory, Reseph screamed.”
While the time Ms. Ione takes to build up the story and the relationship between Jillian and Reseph is necessary and works well, when Reseph gets his memory back is when the story really takes off. His guilt and agony about the pain and suffering he’d caused while he was Pestilence jumps off the page, as does the anger of those around him who suffered at his hands. His siblings, Ares, Limos, and Thanatos, love him, but they no longer trust him and exclude him from their lives, afraid he will once again become the demon they all despise.
They were the people Reseph was closest to in the world before Jillian, and when they shun him, his pain and loneliness is palpable and heartbreaking. Yes, even after he nearly destroyed civilization, Reseph being shunned by his siblings is like a kick in the gut.
“Logically, we all know it wasn’t you. But the wounds are deep. We get it. We love you. But we can’t trust you.”
Reseph’s stomach plummeted. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying we’ll help you as best we can. But you need to go somewhere else. We can’t risk Pestilence returning and hurting our families.”
Ms. Ione has given herself quite a task in attempting to make this character sympathetic. As Pestilence, Reseph was responsible for the deaths of millions and worldwide destruction, and almost brought about the Biblical Apocalypse. He was stopped in the previous book and returned to his old self, just plain old Reseph, with his memories erased by an angel called Reaver.
To her credit, the author seems to fully understand that nothing Reseph can do will ever completely make up for what he did as Pestilence, and she doesn’t attempt to convince us otherwise. But she brings him as far along and has him do as much as she can without it feeling contrived or over the top.
As Reseph tries to make up for all the misery he caused and be a man he feels is worthy of Jillian, there is a final battle with Lucifer and a demon horde that wraps up the book nicely. And while Reseph’s actions during the battle don’t erase all of his sins, it’s a believable start on the road to his redemption.
Unfortunately, the relationship between Jillian and Reseph doesn’t quite work from the outset. When Jillian finds Reseph, he has amnesia, but he’s a complete stranger to her who right off the bat laces almost everything he says with sexual innuendo. Jillian is a woman living by herself in a remote area. Any woman with half a brain cell would have run screaming from him.
When he first wakes up after she finds him and brings him back to her cabin, he grabs her and pins her under him on the bed.
“Look, maybe you should, ah, get off me, and we’ll discuss everything over dinner.”
“Dinner?” He grinned, and good Lord, he was stunning when he wasn’t scaring her half to death. “Totally on board with that. I’m starving. Maybe we could fuck first?”
That this is one of their first conversations, and Jillian allows Reseph to continue to live with her, is disturbing at best.
Once that relationship is established, however, Ms. Ione does a good job of making the relationship believable, and of showing Reseph’s journey as he goes from arrogant jerk to a man who wants to atone for his sins–even if they’re not all his own.
The final book of the series was a satisfying read tidily concluding the storyline—but also ending with a cliffhanger that will undoubtedly lead to another book.