Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publication date: 23 January 2018
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This review is spoiler-free, with the exception of one marked section.
I didn’t know much about Reign of the Fallen, but I absolutely loved its gorgeous cover and had heard good things about it from my friend Judith. In fact, her review is the only one I have seen. I chose to listen to the audiobook, but for the first time on this blog I don’t think I would recommend that. The narrator was just okay and made some strange choices with voices and accents that I found a bit distracting.
Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?
For me, the main strength of this book is the world building. Marsh does an excellent job of establishing the wide and diverse kingdom of Karthia without dumping information on the reader and interrupting the story. I particularly loved the intricacies of the city, from the opulent palace to the slums, and the descriptions of both the living and dead residents. The magic system in Reign of the Fallen is one of my new favourites in YA because it is just so fascinating! I love books that deal with necromancy or any kind of magic that deals with death, particularly if it is viewed in a positive light. In fact, the way she dealt with all magic in this book was really fantastic and the small details really made it work.
Odessa, or The Sparrow, was a great, if difficult, heroine. I actually found her quite off-putting while I was reading the book, but changed my mind after considering her experiences. She’s incredibly selfish and self-centered, but the other characters call her out on her actions and she shows so much growth over the course of the book. I also liked the fact that she has friends and those friends are important to the story — they’re not just there to make her more interesting. Although her gang of necromancer pals could be a bit silly, I really enjoyed their camaraderie.
***This next bit will have some small spoilers for the book, so feel free to skip ahead.***
The only aspect of the book that I really struggled with was the romance. Evander is the long-term love interest at the beginning of the book. We don’t really get to know him too well, and as a result he feels a little flat and underwhelming. He is killed, sending Odessa into a spiral of grief and addiction, but she ends up finding another love interest. While I really, really liked Meredy and loved that there was a romance between these two strong women, Meredy is Evander’s sister. His sister! I’m here for characters recovering from loss and finding a new love, but she’s his sister! I could get past this if it were dealt with more seriously, but it is kind of brushed over in a ‘well he wouldn’t mind’ kind of way. I really struggled with this aspect of the book, although I know this wont bother other readers as much as it did me.
***end of spoilers***
Overall, I really liked Reign of the Fallen and had so much fun reading it. While I wouldn’t recommend the audiobook, the story flies by and you can absolutely devour it in a day. I’d especially recommend this book for anyone looking for a f/f romance or bisexual representation. I cannot wait to pick up a copy of the newly-released sequel, Song of the Dead!
Want to give Reign of the Fallen a try? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):