Review: On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

On A Pale Horse

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Del Rey
Series: Incarnations of Immortality #1
 Paperback, 325 Pages
 Science Fiction Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository  

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

On a Pale Horse was a readalong pick for a group on Litsy and I always leap at the chance to read more notable genre authors that I haven’t tried before, so I bought myself a copy. In the end, however, I felt mostly disappointed and irritated by the story and unsure if I will continue the series at all.

On a Pale Horse focuses on Zane who kills Death and is expected to take over the office, and we are set on a journey through his acceptance of the job to his rivalry with Satan. I really like some of the ideas in this. The idea of the different immortal ideas like Death, Nature, and Time being offices that can be taken over by mortals is kind of cool. And I liked the portions that dealt directly with this. However, it was overshadowed by so many problems.

The first is subjective, but I didn’t like the writing style…which read so much younger than the actual content. I can see why so many people consider this a series for teens, but parts of it are so problematic that I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it to anyone. There is a ton of sexism and it is blatant. Every woman is judged based on her looks, and it is mentioned that women are purely emotional and don’t have a logical bone in their body. There are small instances racism and there is a moment that crosses the line when it comes to age of consent. He makes excuses for it in an off-handed way that just didn’t sit right with me. Add all of this to a somewhat bland writing style that doesn’t allow for actual character development or definition and you end up with a dud.

I am curious to see how he handles the later books which focus on the female avatars of Immortality but I feel like I would really struggle to get to that point. Even with the interesting concept somethings were several steps too far for me.

1 star

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2 Responses to Review: On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

  1. I am trying to remember if I have read any Piers Anthony. If I did it was back during the summers between college semesters. I’ll have to go have a look at his list of works on Goodreads to see if anything jars my memory. He doesn’t sound like an author I would spend any time on now. Thanks for sharing your review. 👍✨

    • If I had read this at a younger age I would have been okay because some of it probably wouldn’t have been obvious to me. But now as an adult, it just made my skin crawl. On the off chance you do pick up something by him, be wary of Firefly. In my digging on the creepy age of consent crap that happened in this one, I saw that it was 100% worse.

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