Death – a walking skeleton armed with a scythe, a rider of the apocalypse, it has always been assumed – is a man that brings the souls of the dead to wherever they are destined to go.
But what if we got that wrong? What if he were a ghost that, instead of moving your soul on silently after you had died, actually did the hard part for you?
Death has to die, again and again, to pay for his sins, and to free trapped souls before their bodies perish – only to replace those souls, to die for them.
A Death whose existence is a curse, where the other riders of the Apocalypse are not his allies, but his enemies.
Armed only with his morals, his memories and the advice of a child teacher, Williams, a Sadeiest, travels through the deaths of other people, on his way to becoming something greater. Something that will re-define the Grim Reaper.
Death just came to life, in time to fight for a child hunted by the other horsemen of the Apocalypse.
I want to start this review off by pointing out a few important trigger warnings. The Sadeiest is about death and describes people dying in many different ways in detail (including death by suicide, disease, drowning, etc). If that is a trigger or even just an upsetting topic to you, please do not continue.
It is also important to say that while this book is about death, it is not particularly violent. There are very few scenes that portray person-to-person violence. I think that is an important distinction to make when discussing the plot of this book, because, while every chapter portrays a death of some kind, none of felt unnecessary or over-the-top for me, even though I was surprised at the level of detail at first. I looked at the Synopsis of the book before reading it so I had a general idea of what it was about, but I did not know what to expect before reading. So, let me tell you what to expect should you decide to pick up The Sadeiest: a well-thought-out, deliberately-written, darkly-toned puzzle of a narrative that includes graphic depictions of death.
Compliments to the author, Austrian Spencer, as I liked this book a lot. The real success of it in my opinion is the way the story starts off as one small event, and every subsequent happening after that unveils a little more about the situation piece-by-piece through the entire book until the reader has a full picture of it by the end. There are also some surprises along the way to keep things honest. By using this story structure, Spencer is able to create a situation that allows the readers to live in the moment (pun intended) while also looking forward to the mystery that is unfolding on a macro-level. I do not really want to get into too much more detail because I am afraid of being spoiler, but this duality kept the story intriguing and suspenseful.
The characters are also really interesting because much of the book is the reader getting to know the main actors (Williams and Heinrich) as they are getting to know themselves and each other. I cannot use the regular terms of “protagonist” and “antagonist” because they do not really fit. There is a ton of grey area in this book. It all becomes this very personal journey with the two of them (in a little bit of a buddy journey kind of way), and I just felt like I was along for the ride. I would not say by the end that I had a ton of affection for them, but I am not sure that was the point, anyway. They really felt moreso like vessels for telling this particular story, and I was fine with that.
On another note, one aspect of this story that is not immediately clear to me is the Death/Four Horseman involvement. It is brought up a few times and there a some chapters devoted to the concept, but I did not quite get its connection to the Williams/Heinrich narrative. Whether this was due to the writing or just user error I am not sure, but I do plan to reread the book to try to gain a better understanding.
All said, I think The Sadeiest is a really good read. It is very dark, mysterious, and unique. I can honestly say I have never read anything like it. The concept and content are not for everyone, but if it sounds interesting to you (and you are not triggered or bothered by detailed death scenes) I recommend picking it up.