No one knows who summoned the four horsemen, but Conquest knows he and his brothers will heed the call. When he gets reacquainted with mortals after being away for thousands of years, he is surprised the call didn’t come sooner. The mortal plane is a mess and setting the stage for his brothers War, Famine, and Death is an enticing prospect for Conquest. The task gets even more exciting when he senses a flash of enormous, heavenly power on Earth—if the Archangels are spoiling for a fight, Conquest is ready to give it to them. But instead of the mighty Uriel, Conquest finds a complete anomaly. The being is so weak it’s barely more than a mortal, has no Angelic gifts, no wings…and yet reeks of God himself. Suddenly, Conquest decides he might use this thing to send a message to the heavens. But only after Conquest thoroughly breaks and debauches it first.
Every day since Raziel ascended to the heavens, he has tried to manifest his Angelic gifts and bring forth his wings. At first, he and everyone else assumed he was just a late bloomer. But after one hundred years and zero results, Raziel has been utterly abandoned. All the other angels avoid him if they aren’t openly mocking him. Raziel is stunned when God himself assigns him a special task: go to Earth and monitor what the horseman named Conquest is doing and why he is doing it. Raziel knows he has no power to speak of, no experience on Earth, no knowledge of how to spy on a horseman, let alone fight one if need be. And the very last thing Raziel expects is for that same horseman to take him captive mere hours after Raziel arrives on Earth. Raziel’s future looks grim when Conquest attempts to leverage Raziel’s life for that of a more powerful angel and the heavens utterly fail to protect Raziel. Things take an interesting turn when the devil himself turns up, trying to lay claim to Raziel.
Conquest is the first book in The Four Horsemen series by author Sienna Moreau. It’s set in the present day and, perhaps it goes without saying, but religious themes are prominent in the book. That said, our MCs are positioned somewhat on the fringes of that world. As a result, there are nods to classic Good vs. Evil imagery and themes, but most of the story is centered on horseman, Conquest, and angel, Raziel. The former is a study in aloof competence. Conquest sees himself as above it all, but still enjoys doing his job—hobnobbing with the right political and military people to bring about social unrest and plain old-fashioned murder. He also enjoys the puzzle of trying to understand why God himself sent the utterly powerless Raziel to Earth. Similarly, Raziel is fun as an angel in name only and it’s through his eyes that we learn all the so-called real angels can and do have mortal vices just as they are blind to them.
The character Conquest was delightfully mercurial. This is most prominent when he discovers Raziel and is trying to figure out how to use Raziel to gain any advantage. Conquest first has small goals in mind—try to torgure Raziel to force a more powerful angel to come to Earth to reclaim the “thing.” But Conquest is intrigued when heaven doesn’t seem to care that Raziel’s been captured and is at Conquest’s mercy. Then, Conquest’s personal desire to cause havoc begins to take over. He wants to break Raziel, make the angel completely trust and depend on Conquest only to have Conquest throw him out like trash. It was so easy to dislike Conquest for being cruel at first. This sentiment gets reinforced by how Raziel himself struggles to understand why God and the others have so thoroughly abandoned him (despite promises to keep him safe) and to understand why Conquest is so heartless.
Of course, as Conquest and Raziel spend more time together, their opinions of one another start to change. Conquest is intrigued with how heaven and hell both seem to have a vested interest in a wholly powerless angel. Things get even more bizarre when a gift with emphatically non-heavenly origins erratically manifests from Raziel. And Conquest is only fooling himself when he thinks his plan to sexually corrupt Raziel has anything to do with “breaking” the angel. For all his dark ideas about gaslighting Raziel into complete dependence upon and trust in Conquest (all so that Conquest can ultimately betray those confidences), he is too intrigued with how, well, innocent Raziel is. This creates space for the two to get to know each other and
I thought the relationship at the end of the book spoke volumes for how much Conquest and Raziel changed. Even more delightful is the obvious shift in their power dynamic at the end, though what impact this has on how the two lovers relate to each other is not well explored on page.
One element of the book I really enjoyed was guessing why Raziel was so powerless. We get different pieces of information of varying reliability and, eventually, all sides (and me) accepted the real version of Raziel’s origin story. It actually contains something of a bombshell for Conquest, but that gets smoothed over so quickly I was left a bit underwhelmed at missing an opportunity for some hurt/comfort or high melodrama.
Finally, this book clearly ends with a cliffhanger, and one that seems to set up another of the horsemen as a likely main character. That gives me a little bit of trepidation because even though Raziel and Conquest manage to stay together, there are still some big questions in my head about what their new power dynamic is going to mean (for them as a couple and as individuals) and whether Raziel’s past connection to Conquest is actually now a moot point. But at least this story wraps up the action with an understandable draw and the promise of more answers coming in the next installment.