Dead Girl Walking
Royal Reaper Book 1
Patchwork Press, April 2014
Note: a re-issue that came out in November 2014 from Booktrope is available (and apparently includes a prequel) but this review is based on the original version provided to me. I do not know what changes might have been made.
From the publisher—
Forget everything you know about grim reapers.
Princess Ophelia Dacre sneaks out of the castle to visit her boyfriend in secret. A perfect night cut short when she’s brutally murdered.
Ophelia is given the rare chance to become a grim reaper. She must become Leila Bele, cut ties with her old life, and follow the rules of the reapers. Her greatest adventure begins with death.
When first we meet Ophelia Dacre, she’s a typical young princess in the fourteenth century who falls in love with a commoner, Larkin, and is afraid to tell her father, King Philip, ruler of the small kingdom of Casmerelda. He would execute Larkin, even though the boy has no idea that Leila is really the princess. This particular problem loses a lot of its punch, though, when Ophelia is murdered during a date with Larkin at a local tavern and an older man named Edon Montgomery offers her a position as grim reaper for the coming two or three hundred years. In the meantime, she can have no contact with her family or Larkin but she’ll have a chance to see how her life might have been. Once she signs the contract, she becomes Leila Bele in name and in new physical appearance.
And the fun—and some very bad things—begin. Naturally, Leila can’t stay away from her family so the new look is handy but she creates even more problems with her meddling. As a princess who defied the king, she already has the rule-breaking mindset and it’ll take a few mishaps to get her to understand the need for rules as a reaper. There are more than a few questions to be answered, though, and this new reaper is determined to find out who murdered her and why.
I can’t say that Leila is my favorite character ever, mainly because she’s a little too interested in a potential new love not long after being snatched away from her beloved Larkin, bordering on the dreaded insta-love. All of the characters fell a little flat for me in varying degrees and the most appealing (to me) were Mara and the other reapers—Violetta Mercier, Emblyn Vernon, Jasper Elers and Wynter Gael. I didn’t dislike Leila, just didn’t have a strong connection.
There’s a table of contents and a nice little map, always a benefit, showing Casmerelda and the surrounding area, including the country of Vera, home to the asylum. I really appreciate it when an author includes these little touches. I do have to confess something a little odd: I was first drawn to this book because of the name, Leila, so close to but not quite my own name. I could spend part of every day telling people they’re spelling my name wrong but I haven’t got that kind of time 😉 Did I fall in love with this book? No, not really, but I liked it very much and will want to read more, especially after the way Dead Girl Walking ends. Ruth Silver is a talented writer and I’m quite sure I’ll continue to enjoy her work.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.