Birthright, by Jessica Ruddick, is an urban fantasy novel, and is the first in a series. I received this as a free e-galley from Netgalley because I was intrigued by the way “seekers” and “reapers” might be described. This book was touch-and-go for me, because while I really enjoyed the story, something about the writing rubbed me the wrong way. Check out the Goodreads summary below!
How do you live with yourself when you decide who dies?
Ava Parks would have killed for an iPod for her sixteenth birthday. Anything would have been better than coming into her birthright of being a seeker for the Grim Reaper, an arrangement made by her fallen angel ancestor in exchange for his re-admittance to heaven. And she isn’t just any seeker—she finds souls that have the potential for becoming angels and sentences them to death. A year and two souls into her role as a seeker with her conscience overflowing with guilt, Ava comes up with a plan to thwart the system. When it goes awry, she is forced to submit the name of a classmate, Cole Fowler, an ornery, rough around the edges guy who always seems to come to her rescue, whether she likes it or not. Her feelings for Cole prompt her to intervene, and she saves him from death, upsetting the Grim Reaper’s agenda.
While Ava schemes to find a way to save Cole, she learns he has some secrets of his own. She lets him believe he is protecting her, and not the other way around, until a final showdown with the Grim Reaper forces Ava to make choices Cole may never forgive.
Goodreads reviewer Kaylin described it as a “bag of potato chips. Because it’s kind of greasy, less than I want and there’s not a ton of substance— but before I know it I’ve eaten the whole bag.” That is exactly how I felt about Birthright. The relationship that develops between Ava and Cole and is honestly very likable. It throws a nice stone in the mix that forces Ava, as the protagonist, to become smarter and stronger…
…Which is good, because she is an utterly unlikeable protagonist. Ava came off as extremely annoying and entitled, in my opinion. I couldn’t understand the logic behind some of her decisions, but maybe this was poor storytelling as well. At some points, it’s like the author realized a plot hole and tried to casually insert a line to make up for it. For example, the origin behind seekers was explained hastily early in the book, and then we get a scene towards that end that is just so utterly deux ex machina and attempts to wrap everything up neatly, further explaining the origin of seekers. It was very disconnected from the rest of the story.
In my head, I docked another star for Birthright because of Xavier, the intermediary between the seekers on earth, and the Grim Reapers who need souls to collect. He is a cruel person, inexplicably and supernaturally powerful, and is so abusive to Ava and her mother for no reason whatsoever. There seems to be a backstory behind his relationship with Ava’s mother, but without knowing anything more, it’s violence without substance.
As you can see, Birthright just didn’t do it for me. The writing was choppy and plot devices horribly convenient. I disliked the protagonist, and since this is told in first person point of view, that’s very difficult to get over.
I rate Birthright 2/5 stars.