The four horsemen of the Apocalypse came to Earth and in their wake, there was destruction. Engines stopped working, planes fell from the sky, technology sputtered and the internet failed. There was chaos, and then people learned to adapt. Five years later, only one horseman is active – Pestilence the Conqueror, who rides the length and breadth of the American continent, with whole cities dying where he’s appeared. In a small settlement in Canada, Sara Burns is a volunteer firefighter who literally drew the short straw when she and her remaining colleagues decided who was to sacrifice themselves to kill the horseman. While it goes against her every instinct to harm anyone, in order to save the rest of humanity, Sara is willing to do what she can to stop Pestilence. She lays an ambush and shoots the horseman off his horse, dousing him with petrol and setting him on fire for good measure. Unfortunately, the horseman cannot be killed and is rather furious at the treatment he received.
Once the horseman has regenerated, he takes Sara prisoner and is determined to make her suffer. Normally anyone who gets anywhere near Pestilence takes ill and dies within four days, but Sara stays untouched by the plague that normally affects people. She’s tied up and forced to run behind the horseman’s steed until she collapses with exhaustion. When she tries to escape, he shoots her multiple times with his arrows and then patches her back up again, refusing to let her die. For trying to murder him, and refusing to show mercy when he asked it of her, he will keep her alive, forcing her to see up close the ravages of the disease he spreads on the people they encounter on their journey. While Sara may not get sick, she still requires food and shelter and can get dangerously chilled if they don’t stop to let her eat and rest. While many houses are abandoned (communities seem to send out evacuation notices when they know that Pestilence and his horse are near), they frequently find people in the houses they enter. These people are not spared from sickness and Sara has to live with the knowledge that her human needs are what brings Pestilence into their homes. She has to watch men, women and children sicken and die, usually cursing her as they suffer.
Trying to escape is futile, yet as she spends more time with the unstoppable horseman and his horse, she finds out more about him and his feelings towards his gruesome task. Before taking her prisoner, it’s quite clear Pestilence knew little of humans, and had a very pessimistic view of humanity as a whole. The longer they spend together, the more the lines blur in their relationship. Feelings begin to develop between them, unwilling as they both are to admit attraction to the other. How can Sara love a creature sent to bestow divine punishment on humanity? And can Pestilence be stopped from fulfilling his duty, allowing some of humankind to survive?
Full review on my blog.