Rage (The Horseman of the Apocalypse: The Rider’s Quartet #2)

RageBy Jackie Kessler

Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Publication Date: April 8, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Source: Publisher

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

Goodreads Summary

*There are some minor spoilers for Hunger, the first book in the Rider’s Quartet series in this review*

Death approaches Missy in her own backyard as she’s bowed by grief over the death of her cat at her own bloody hands.  He hands her a white box and knowing exactly who he is, when she asks why, his answer is that she was going to hit an artery and she would have died.  He compels her to take the box, but before he can task her with being a Rider, she runs from him.

Goth girl, emo – or more often, cutterslut – Melissa Miller is a self-cutter.  When her emotions become too much to bear, she reaches for the safety of the lockbox in her closet that holds a familiar razor blade and blood-stained towel.  Her Ozzie and Harriet family is oblivious, satisfied that Missy’s getting good grades and doing well on the soccer team and not looking past the surface.

A week after her visit from Death, Missy’s managed to mostly forget about the white box she put in her closet.  Under some pressure from a suddenly re-interested ex-boyfriend Adam, she goes to a house party where he plays a humiliating, cruel joke on Missy, exposing her body and its scars to everyone.  Stumbling home dirty and half-naked, she does what she always does when she’s in pain – she reaches for the blade.  Death has been patiently waiting for her and now he’s ready to give her the job as the Red Rider, War.

I read the first book in the series, Hunger, right before beginning Rage and decided to do the reviews back to back as well.  There’s a note in the back of Rage where Kessler discusses how quickly she was able to write Hunger but how difficult it was to get the characters for this book out.  For me, Missy, War, Death and the entire concept of the Riders had a clarity and degree of personality here that was slightly lacking in the first book.

Famine was something Lisa needed to learn how to be in Hunger.  War is something Missy has to learn how to control and accept in Rage.  She was such a brilliant character, I loved her.  She was filled with all of this amazing strength she literally thought she had in a bottle inside of her – she was bullied relentlessly at school and ignored at home – but she still got up every morning and braved the gauntlet.  When her bottle cracked, she cut.

When War was last seen in Hunger, she was half-deranged and trying to kill Famine (when she was Lisa).  More of what makes the Riders who and what they are is revealed here when Missy takes her sword and is overwhelmed by the vocal demands of the Rider, War – who conveniently for reading’s sake, speaks in all caps.  For every slight dealt to Missy, War screams at her to mete out punishment.  She urges Missy to Ride and cause destruction and Missy’s forced to wrestle against War’s instincts over and over.  Like Famine, her lesson is to learn control and balance and that being War doesn’t necessarily mean all she does is destroy.

There’s also more of Death revealed in Rage.  He still looks like Kurt Cobain, but he spends more time with Missy and as he said in Hunger, “War and Death work very…very well together.”  He’s patient, amused, proud, and there’s an implied attraction to Missy.  He’s gentle with her and explains more about what being a Rider means and what her future could be.

My Summary: Rage carries a dark emotional story loaded with social issues and lessons about acceptance.  Even alone, it would be enough to recommend the story, but I love the added paranormal twist of the Rider elements, which have grown tremendously in this book.  While I was moved by Hunger, Rage has left me very anxiously waiting for the next book which I’m assuming will be the White Rider’s, Pestilence.

My Rating: A-




  1. Wow, sounds even more interesting! Great review!

  2. Thank you, Julia! I really liked this one – it's a different tone from Hunger, although it still has a similar message. Much of it's the nature of the Rider, but this seemed more vibrant.I'm really interested to see what Kessler will do with Death's book. I can't even imagine where that one will go!

  3. Can't wait to read it! I just got Rage for review.

  4. I hope you like it, Karen! I know my American Vampire rec was a little iffy with you, lol.

  5. Maybe I'm missing the boat here, but it seems slightly disturbing that the fate of the world is in the hands of teenage girls. Or something to that effect. Teenage girls are crazy, even in the best of circumstances. and then to give them such powerful Rider responsibilities? Seems a little terrifying to me! Teenage girls are crazy even in the best of circumstances. Plus, isn't it a little weird that Death, who may be attractive and who I also imagine to be a bazillion years old, to be attracted to a teenage girl? Does it come off creepy in the book?

  6. Re: the weight of the responsibility being left to teenage girls: Rage explains it at the end, which is why it's so much better as a series book than Hunger was. Well, it doesn't explain why, since this is YA, but it gives the mechanics of how it works.Death isn't written as any kind of stereotype that I can think of. He's funny and sarcastic (scary once in a while when he has to be) and in this book in particular, I think I would say he's attractive – if I pretend he doesn't look like Kurt Cobain, lol. There's an element of War (outside of Missy) that attracts Death, but he also likes Missy's spirit. It's really not creepy at all.There's a really good line after Missy's accepted the sword. She's sort of in awe of what she's become and she looks in the mirror and says, "I'm War," and in her head, she hears Death say, "Rock on." It's sort of the way they communicate and kind of indicative of the way he talks.

  7. Okay, now I want to start the series just to find out the mechanics. I'm mystified as to why the author chose teenage girls (and really about the whole premise), but if she explains it than maybe these books won't confuse me so much!

  8. If you start, remember Hunger is a lot different from Rage as far as setting up the series goes. :)They're really good books – great subjects apart from the Rider stuff, although I admit I really like that element.

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