So I recently picked up Downcast by Cait Reynolds. In the spirit of transparency, I am going to let you know we have the same publisher, but that in no way has affected my review. If I don't like something I don't review it, plain and simple. So here's my rave.
In Downcast we meet Stephanie Starr. You remember that poor girl in high school whose mother made all her clothes? That's Stephanie. But she comes with a whole world of other baggage, including an oppressive mother-daughter relationship that really is something of mythic proportions.
Pretty fast we meet Zach and Haley, two new boys who've recently moved to the area. Stephanie is smart, but she's insecure and convinced any motive behind a popular person's attention to her means they're messing with her, just waiting to humiliate her the moment she gives into the belief anyone outside of her small circle of friends would be interested in her. And yet, from the moment deep, mysterious, dark, and good-looking Haley lays his eyes on her, he seems transfixed, an interest she doesn't encourage, but one that draws her in the longer it endures.
Pretty fast the reader realizes a myth is being played out in modern day high school—Persephone and Hades. What I loved about Reynold's writing wasn't just how deeply embroiled I became from almost the first page, but I loved her characterization. Stephanie truly was one of the most interesting characters because she wasn't immediately the most beautiful or interesting girl at school. She initially is submissive, insecure, and only when Haley comes around does she seem to assert any sort of agency. And yet, as the story unravels, she evolves dramatically.
Outside of everything else involved in this unique take on an old Greek myth, the romance was STEAMY. I would love to date Haley ... if he wasn't a high school boy (in the book) and I wasn't already married (in real life) and deeply devoted to my long-time book boyfriend (Tarod from Louise Cooper's Time Master Trilogy). Reynolds is a master of the romantic build up, something that seems lacking or almost non-existent in so many books today.
I turned and turned those pages, and so should you if you're a fan of Greek mythology twists, YA romance, and interesting heroines to boot. You can find Downcast on Amazon for $3.99 in Kindle and $16.95 in paperback. While Reynolds is busy at work on the sequel in the Olympus Falling series, she has since released Angel Hands, a standalone. Stay tuned for an interview with the lovely Cait Reynolds later this week.
In honor of Downcast's one year anniversary, Reynolds will release a special director's cut of deleted scenes with the launch of her newsletter at the end of May, and it will feature almost 50k of content that never made it into the book!
**You can also read this review and others at Cellar Door Lit Rants & Reviews
What would you do when faced with an impossible truth? Written with heart and passion, Downcast by Cait Reynolds is ripe with twists you never saw coming and love that defies the odds in this intense new Paranormal Romance retelling one of mythology’s greatest love stories.
It’s the start of Stephanie Starr’s senior year of high school, but sadly, this is no life of the prom queen. Stuck at the bottom of the high school social totem pole, Stephanie is forced by her domineering mother to wear lumpy linen dresses and eat organic tofu for lunch in a world of mini-skirts and pizza.
What Stephanie doesn’t anticipate is gorgeous and cocky Haley Smith who breaks social convention and pursues her with a determination that is both terrifying and flattering. Afraid that Haley is simply trying to set her up for massive humiliation, Stephanie does her best to push him away. But the more attention he pays to her, the more she runs, and the more everyone else begins to notice.
Instead of a loving family to support her as the mean girls make their play, Stephanie’s mother begins to unravel mentally, her possessiveness of Stephanie spiraling to new and frightening extremes. Stephanie is forced to grow up, find herself, and learn the truth about her past in order to save her mother, her friends, and her town. When the truth is revealed, nothing can prepare her for the outrageous reality of her existence…and nothing can save her from her fate.
As part of the October Frights Blog Hop, I'm posting a short story from the world of my YA Paranormal novel, The Reaper's Daughter. You don't have to have read my book to follow this, because this story stands on its own. It's more like the beginning, a prequel, so to speak. This is the story of the Grim Reaper's banishment from the underworld.
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“I dare you.” His rough, hard face creased with a taunting smirk, his narrow dark eyes flickering with challenge. From his hand hung a sword, the whistle of steel meeting air still echoing from where he’d only moments before tried to slice off her arm—the one that held the scythe.
Grim laughed, the sound bouncing off the glittering crystals and craggy rock of the caverns. They had come to the walkway of the dead, near where Styx guarded the doorway between the underworld and the land of the living. The guardian deity hadn’t intervened yet, and for that Grim was thankful. She was ready to end the death deity war Hades had set in motion.
Hefting the scythe she so easily held in her hand over her shoulder, she shook her head, gazing at him imperiously although he dwarfed her by the mass of his bulk, his shadow almost vanquishing hers. “I will not kill my brethren, and you are that, even if I find you … well, I’ll be honest, repulsive,” she said dryly, arching a dark brow.
He smiled, and Grim stared at him impassively, eyeing the sweat clinging to his long hair and glistening against the pale of his skin with an inward distaste. She had always disliked the deity and his brutish ways, never felt he carried with him the compassion for those he crossed, and she didn't respect his need for power. Now, his eyes glittered black and he held her gaze, his focus only wavering away from hers for a moment to focus on the gleam of the silver scythe she held. He gestured beyond himself. “If you are to stop me, you will have to kill me.” From the shadows stepped his army, more than she could count.
“Your devil’s spawn,” she said, inclining her head in acknowledgement.
“Oh, well I’m hurt you would refer to innocent children so,” he said calmly, a mocking thread running through his tone.
“Innocent? I could say the living are happy when they see me, but that doesn’t make it true.” She smiled humorlessly, glancing to the figures of Hades’s children standing behind him, around her, with weapons in their hands and ambition in their souls. Glancing back to Hades, she caught the gleam of his sword slicing through the air, sending her into motion, her hands folding securely around the scythe and swinging it, the clang of metal reverberating off stone pierced the night with death.
“War then,” he said.
“You and yours began this,” she said, gritting her teeth and shoving him back with the force of her weapon, making him stumble back, a grimace of surprise flashing across his face.
Grim grinned, the power from the scythe crackling within her. How could he think he’d beat—a wind slapped her, and from the corner of her eye she caught the mass that was Hades barreling toward her, his hybrid goons closing in on her.
Thought wasn’t an option, and she swiveled, instinctively putting the power of the scythe into physical action by stepping forward and slamming the blunt part of the weapon into his chest. A crack of bone shattering filled the cavern, and Hades was sent flying back into a part of the wall that jutted out, his body hitting it with a slap. A strange expression flickered across his face, his black eyes losing the steel twist of corruption for the briefest of moments, and then he slid down to the ground, his eyes closing.
That must have hurt, she thought, glancing dismissively at the deity. He was immortal, so he’d heal fast enough, and he would be punished for his crimes, she would see to it. Grim eyed the kids moving in on her and sighed softly. Indoctrinated by Hades with his hate and misdirected power grab, and as many as there were, they’d be a challenge, but ultimately, they’d be no match for her.
A moan drew her attention back to Hades, who sat up slowly from his spot on the ground and rubbed a large knuckled hand over his chest. “Feeling under the weather?” she asked, wondering when the council would show and provide her the support to bring him and his brood to justice. But when he looked at her, she was startled by the creases of pain that worried his face. “He’s quiet … I can’t hear him … You-you killed him!” he growled.
“Killed who?” she asked slowly, watching him carefully, the scythe still clutched in her hands. He couldn’t possibly mean--
“You killed my brother. Pluto’s dead.”
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Stay tuned for Part II, which I'll post on Sunday.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.