Today I am reviewing the two prequel novellas in the upcoming Scythe series: Until His Beginning Ends by Kiki Clark and Until His Soul Awakens by E.M. Lindsey. The stories are currently available for free as part of the year-long Your Book Boyfriend giveaway on Prolific Works for all of 2022. The first book in the series, Until His Last Goodbye, releases tomorrow, so I thought this would be a good time to check out the prequels.
Both stories take place around the timeline of the first book and feature couples who appear as side characters in the main series, but they are designed to stand alone and be read in any order. Goodreads lists Clark’s story as .5 and Lindsey’s as .6 in the series and that is the order in which I read them. I think it works well in the sense that Clark’s story seems to have more world building set up (though perhaps it felt that way because I read it first). However, from a timeline perspective, Lindsey’s characters are already a couple in Clark’s book and in Until His Last Goodbye, so from a timeline standpoint that story is technically first. All that said, truly I think you can read these in whatever order you want.
The stories feature a similar structure in that first we meet one character in life, then see him die and become a reaper, and ultimately then meet his human mate. The novellas and the first book also feature at least one character from the same town of Avalon Springs and some of the characters know one another. I am not sure if the story structure, location, or timeline carry on through the rest of the series or not, however. I’ll also note that while the first book in the series is co-written (and I believe the others are as well), the authors have written the novellas individually. So it was interesting to get a story from both Clark and Lindsey and see their take on the series separately.
Last note before I jump into the reviews. These stories fill an unusual space in that they are both prequels for a series, but also designed to stand alone. So they clearly connect to the main series, but are not officially within it. They are also shorter stories, not full-length romances. So I have kept both of those things in mind when reviewing these and giving my rating. Given that these stories are both enjoyable and are being offered for free, I would definitely recommend both if you are interested in reading on into the main series. They have gotten me very excited to check out the first book and I can’t wait to jump into the series. Once again, you can find both here on Prolific Works for free during all of 2022.
Until His Beginning Ends by Kiki Clark
Rating: 3.75 stars
Theodore Davis never had his father’s approval, was never enough of a “man” for him, even after fighting in the war in Korea. So when Theo died and was offered a chance to become a reaper, he took it. As a reaper, he would be able to live a new life, have a new family of fellow reapers, and best of all, live as his true self, free to love whomever he wanted.
It has now been 70 years since Theo became a reaper and he has returned to his home town where he finds himself drawn to the library at the university he attended before being drafted. There, Theo encounters a man named Enzo studying. Enzo is able to see Theo and speak to him — which shouldn’t be possible as a normal human. Theo knows he shouldn’t be engaging with Enzo; Theo is not part of the human world and interacting too much could be dangerous. But he also knows he is incredibly drawn to Enzo and as much as he is tries to stay away, he feels compelled to be with him. As Theo and Enzo get to know one another, it seems the attraction is mutual. Now Theo and Enzo must figure out if there is a way they can take their connection and turn it into something more.
Until His Beginning Ends was my introduction to this world and I picked up the book knowing nothing about the story or the series. Clark does a nice job with the set up to the world building here and I was able to easily follow along as Theo becomes a reaper and we are introduced to what that means and the various lore surrounding them. We learn that humans should not be able to see reapers, so there is some exploration here of why Enzo can interact with Theo, and that part got a little bit confusing for me. But overall, I felt like Clark set things up nicely here to understand Theo’s background, his past as a reaper, and what type of future could be possible for him and Enzo.
From a romance end, things are not super well developed in the sense that everything feels pretty casual between Theo and Enzo until suddenly they are together for life. I feel like the pacing was a little too weighted on the front end toward set up, which didn’t leave much time for relationship development in this shorter story. We also get to know Enzo a lot less than we do Theo throughout the story, so this definitely felt more like Theo’s journey. But overall, I enjoyed this one and it was a great introduction to the series.
Until His Soul Awakens by E.M. Lindsey
Rating: 4 stars
For as long as he can remember, Anthony has felt drawn to Egypt, his mother’s homeland. He dreams of the sands and the river, and feels connected to the culture. Anthony has made a career out of studying Egyptian language and artifacts and hopes one day to travel there and uncover more about the world. In the meantime, he works for the local university where he is overlooked and ignored for being deaf, and where his colleagues steal his research and claim it as their own. One day, while studying a box of artifacts found abandoned in a museum basement, Anthony uncovers a historic find. It is a scroll that was written by an Egyptian priest, sharing his feelings for his deaf lover. The discovery is not only historically significant, but it also speaks to Anthony as he learns more about a deaf man in Egyptian culture.
Inkaef was an Egyptian priest in the time of the Pharaohs. He had a family and a lover, living a happy life until he died of an infection and became a reaper. Now, so many years later, Kae finds himself drawn to a man researching Egyptian artifacts. Kae is shocked to realize that the scroll Anthony is studying is none other than his very own, a tribute to his long ago lover. As Kae watches Anthony, he can’t help but feel drawn to the man, even though he knows he can’t reveal his existence to Anthony.
Anthony’s discovery is enough to give him the chance to finally go to Egypt, to lead a dig to try to find more of Kae’s artifacts. Anthony feels like he truly belongs for the first time, particularly as he finds himself connecting with the Egyptian priest in his dreams. And when Anthony’s life is threatened, he just may have the chance to follow that connection to a future he never imagined.
I haven’t read many romances set in Egypt, particularly with both a present and a historical setting, so I really enjoyed digging into this one. I liked the way the location ties in with both men, Kae because that is where he lived his life, and Anthony for the emotional and familial connection he has to the country. I particularly liked the way Anthony feels an added connection as he learns that Kae’s lover was also deaf. Anthony has been so pushed aside his entire life for his deafness, first by his family, then by his colleagues. So seeing that this ancient priest loved a deaf man, that his lover was considered special, means a lot to Anthony. I also really appreciated that while Anthony studies the ancient world and is very interested in learning about it, he has respect for these cultures and acknowledges their rights to their own history — meaning that the story notes the Western role in digging up these sites and taking the artifacts for their own museums and exhibits.
As with Clark’s story, the romance here develops on the slower end, and most of the book is getting to know these men individually. But I think the way we see Anthony connecting with Kae, both through the history as well as through dreams and other paranormal means, helps to give a sense of a growing relationship. So even though things happen quickly once the men meet, it didn’t feel as abrupt to me for some reason. Or maybe it’s because I read Clark’s story first where these men are already a couple, so I had a sense of them before I started this book. Either way, I really liked both of these characters and found them nicely explored for a shorter length book. Things come together well in the way the relationship plays out and I appreciate that there is time for Anthony to come to terms with it all before things really take off between them. This story was a nice way to get to know this world and some of the side characters and made me eager to read on to the main series.