by Daniel T. Dodaro
The Grim Reaper is not at all like legends describe. In reality, he is a debonair gardener by the name of Mot. Every person’s life is bound to a rose in his garden, and every person’s death occurs when their rose is snipped. Every person but one.
When Cloth wakes up in Mot’s garden, she quickly learns that she has broken all sorts of rules by returning as the first-ever ghost. Her rose was snipped, yet she has surprisingly not passed on. And, to make matters worse, the shock of dying has caused her to lose all the memories of her life.
In desperate need of an assassin, Mot decides to look past Cloth’s mysterious predicament and make her an offer: he’ll help her pass on, but, in exchange, she must hunt and kill three thieves for him. However, these are no ordinary thieves; each of them has stolen a rose from Mot’s garden and, in doing so, has gained immortality.
If Cloth stands any chance of succeeding, she must don Mot’s fabled cloak and shears to become a true emissary of Death. Can she assassinate her three targets without losing sight of who she was while alive?
This is a masterfully told story. Like the best fantasy, this one devours genre: mystery, epic journey, cosmic chase, and romance among others. It’s worldbuilding at its finest, depicted in cinematically bright tones. A modern edifice built on the bones of antiquity, Dodaro’s novel offers a spellbinding plot that ventures in and at the edges of time. Conjuring a cast of mischievous and enchanting characters, the plot negotiates the complexities of living and dying—with Death at the fore, as a refined-if-dandified country squire. In the end, the mystery that compels readers to hasten through a maze of game-like complexities meets resistance in twists that entice closer inspection. — Greg Jackson, Professor of English, Rutgers University