Before reading this review or these books, if you have triggers about eating-disorders, suicide, self-harm or bullying, please note that these books and as such this review, will contain mentionings of those subjects.
Series: Riders of the Apocalypse #3
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Graphia Books
Version Read: ebook
Publication Date: October 18th 2010
Category: Young-Adult, Fiction, Health Issues, Mythology
Summary (Goodreads): Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on, from the school bullies to the teachers. But things change drastically when Death tells Billy he must stand in as Pestilence, the White Rider of the Apocalypse. Now armed with a Bow that allows him to strike with disease from a distance, Billy lashes out at his tormentors…and accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis. Horrified by his actions, Billy begs Death to take back the Bow. For that to happen, says Death, Billy must track down the real White Rider—who is lost in his memories.
In his search, Billy travels through White Rider’s life: from ancient Phrygia, where the man called King Mita agrees to wear the White Rider’s Crown, to Sherwood Forest, where Pestilence figures out how to cheat Death; from the docks of Alexandria, where cartons of infested grain are being packed onto a ship that will carry the plague, to the Children’s Crusade in France—all the way to what may be the end of the world. When Billy finally finds the White Rider, the teen convinces the man to return to the real world.
But now the insane White Rider plans to unleash something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black Death look like a summer cold. Billy has a choice: he can live his life and pretend he doesn’t know what’s coming, or he can challenge the White Rider for his Crown. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand his ground—and the courage to save the world?
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Famine, War, Pestilience & Death. Some of the most feared figures in religion (the legend is containted in the Book of Revlations in the New Testament of the Bible although they are Famine, War, Conquest & Death in that version) and mythology as it is said they will bring forth a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgement. But are they really all that bad? Not in this series.
Billy Ballard is the last of the Horsemen we will meet until Breath comes out in a few months. Loss is not just about Billy being bullied at school by someone who used to be his friend, and him hiding it from his mother. It’s also about the loss that comes from seeing someone you love dearly being consumed by Alzheimer’s. Billy’s grandfather has the disease, and half the time doesn’t even remember who Billy is, or is extremely violent towards him. Billy is often forced to take on the role of caretaker to his grandfather because his mother is working so much to try and pay the bills. Oddly it’s not a suicide or accident that brings Death to Billy. It’s Billy playing in a sadnpit when he was 5 and accidently accepted the mantle of the White Rider when it was time.
After wielding his power – in the form of a bow & crown, and accidently letting forth a case of meningitis, Billy begs Death to take back the powers of the White Rider. Death agrees to do so on one condition; Billy has to retrieve the absent Pestilence from where he has wandered off to in his mind and bring him back. Unfortunately, Pestilence has other ideas and makes it very difficult for Billy to find him. Finding him was not best of ideas though, because Pestilience has decided he is going to single-handedly end the world, because that is what the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are supposed to do. In a terrfic showdown, Billy eventually wins – and becomes Pestilience.
The journey that Billy takes through Pestilience’s mind in a way mirrors what happens to someone when they get Alzheimer’s. Pestilence goes back to his early memories and stays there – as do people with Alzheimer’s, although they don’t do this intentionally. This decline in mental state in his grandfather is what makes Billy the ideal protagonist for this story – he understands, the best that people who aren’t doctors can, how Alzheimer’s affects the memory, and is able to figure it out as he chases Pestilience through his memories.
In all, the Rider of the Apocalypse series are really good books, part of proceeds of which are being dontated to various charities. Breath, the final book of the four, has an expected publication date of April 16th, 2013.