A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Publication Date: 23rd February 2017

Page Count: 306 pages

Genre: Dystopian / Science Fiction

A Touch of Death

‘I’m fine. It’s only a touch of death…’

Set in the distant future, A Touch of Death  is an unforgiving dystopian novel, where the maintenance of conformity, control, and continuation outweigh discussions of freedom and history. With an uncompromising monarchy at its core, Crunden has been able to not only critically evaluate themes surrounding rich and poor, choice and destiny, but has also allowed readers the opportunity to be immersed in an original and intriguing landscape.

Published in February 2017, A Touch of Death is the first of five novels, which follows the story of Nate Anteros and Catherine Taenia. Having accidentally found themselves contaminated with an unknown disease, both protagonists must give up their lives as they know it for the sake of survival.

Unlike similar books in this genre, I found it interesting how Crunden, instead of going for a dual perspective between rich (Anaitian) and poor focused on the differences between two Anaitian characters, and the trials they have faced despite their supposed elite upbringings. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the contrast between Catherine, who, as a daughter of the King’s Hangman, has lived life comfortably and in order, and Nate, who, despite being a son of the King’s favourite, continues to openly dissent, regardless of whether it equals in execution or prison.

In themselves, both Catherine and Nate are incredibly well-developed characters, their backgrounds fleshed out throughout the pages. Moreover, such character details are littered consistently, rather than presented as sparse “information-dumps”. Their dynamic is engaging – tolerance and dislike soon giving way to understanding and a close bond.

The landscape Crunden has developed is also wonderful. From the first page, the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta, and its capital city, Anais, provide stark contrast from what Nate and Catherine view on their adventures. The city, a place of supposed safety from famine and disease, is presented as uncompromising and diabolical.

Overall, I am very excited to continue reading this pentalogy, and can’t wait to see how Catherine and Nate’s story develops further!

About the author

Crunden’s website can be found here.

Her Twitter can be found here.

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