This War book review follows in the footsteps of our Pestilence book review, only now it’s time to tackle the second book in the Four Horsemen series by Laura Thalassa.
After being pleasantly surprised by Pestilence, I knew I wanted to read the rest of Laura Thalassa’s Four Horsemen series. Not only are these well-written in terms of character and romance, but there’s a heaviness to them that I wasn’t expecting. As much as these books are about love, they are also about humanity’s capacity for both good and evil—and whether the former outweighs the latter. Is there any hope for our redemption?
Much like Pestilence, War tackles these same questions. Instead of being set in the United States, this book mostly takes place in Israel. Considering the country’s history, it makes sense that War would set down here first, though it hardly matters because he’s got his sights set on the rest of the world. His job is to wipe out humanity, after all.
Where Pestilence wasn’t discerning about who he killed (aside from Sara, of course), War allows select humans to join his ranks to fight in his army. Moving across the country, he attacks each city in turn, burning their aviaries and ensuring no one escapes to warn the next townspeople of their inevitable fate. He even has a surefire way of preventing any survivors from slipping through his grasp, but that’s all I’ll say in order to keep this War book review spoiler-free.
The novel opens on Miriam Elmahdy as War rides into Jerusalem. As her city falls around her, she attempts to stay out of sight in order to survive to fight another day. But this is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and he soon corners her with her back against a wall. Unexpectedly, War calls Miriam his wife and spares her life, taking her back to his camp.
One of my favorite tropes is fake/arranged/forced marriages, and though this aspect of the book didn’t hit quite as hard as it has in other novels, I still loved that War was smitten with Miriam from the get-go. Try as she might to resist him, she can’t deny her attraction or their chemistry.
In fact, the most surprising aspect of this book was that War was nothing like I expected. Though he is the embodiment of violence and has no issue brutally murdering anyone who crosses him, he is a kind and gentle man when he’s with Miriam. He believes God sent her to him, and yet he never crosses a boundary she doesn’t willingly drag him over. Even when she’s begging, he has enough restraint to stop himself from doing anything until she fully surrenders to him—mind, body, and soul.
Though the story plays out similarly to Pestilence—a human woman crosses paths with a horseman and shows him humanity can be redeemed—War is a very difference person from his brother. He mentions several times that he, as the embodiment of war, was borne from human hearts, and therefore he knows the true nature of our species. Unlike Pestilence, War is experienced in all manner of human culture, including, food, drink, and sex. However, that doesn’t mean he understands the breadth of our emotions or what the true definition of love really is. And that’s what Miriam is there to teach him.
I cannot end this War book review without speaking to Laura Thalassa’s ability to endear us to someone like War. Like his brother, War believes that his nature cannot change until he experiences it firsthand. Miriam, like the reader, understands the atrocities that War has committed against humanity, and yet she sees a different side to him than anyone else. She knows he is as redeemable in her eyes as humans are in his, and that is what she fights for throughout this book.
I always find it difficult to truly convey how well a book like this is written. War is responsible for killing millions of people, and while we will never forget what he is capable of, when we come across evidence that he’s changed, all can be forgiven. After all, it is not his fault he was created to serve this purpose. Yet it is his choice to become a different person, just as it is our choice to do the same.
This book is quite a bit bigger than the last one, and I’ve seen a few people talk about how the middle was a bit of a slog. I’m here to stand on the other side of the fence because the tension carried me through the story in just a couple of days. If their relationship had happened any faster, I don’t think I would’ve found it as believable.
That said, this book contains within it one of my least favorite tropes. In honor of keeping this War book review spoiler-free, I’m not going to mention it here, but I do want to say that it didn’t take away my enjoyment of the book or its ending. In fact, I felt that it was the perfect catalyst to send someone like War over the edge and convince him to lay down his weapon.
With another satisfying end and a hint at what’s to come, I simply cannot wait to dig into Famine. I’ve seen quite a few people saying that book is their favorite, and so I’m more than ready to dive in and find out how another one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse will be convinced of humanity’s potential for greatness.
‘War’ by Laura Thalassa published on August 15, 2023
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