Don’t be fooled by the pink cover– Sarah Glenn Marsh’s Reign of the Fallen is dark, gritty, and deceptive, set in a lush fantasy realm. Filled with monsters, death, and magic, this novel offers up kickass characters and a fresh world for readers to devour.
Set in a kingdom ruled by the living dead from centuries past, the story follows Odessa, a necromancer who finds her people in more danger than ever as the dead, most of whom are royals, are manipulated and turned into monstrous, bloodthirsty creatures known as Shades. Odessa and her fellow necromancers will have to unlock the secrets behind the rising number of Shades then defeat the twisted creatures… or die trying. The story is intriguing, for sure. It’s fast-paced, twisty, and delicious, but it’s not just the plot that reels you in. Reign of the Fallen is a well-rounded epic in every sense of the word.
Let’s start with the characters. Odessa is a total BAMF, but not tough girl stereotype. She certainly has her faults, but she navigates them in a way that makes you feel for her. Like her fellow necromancers, she’s highly skilled and efficient, but that doesn’t make her perfect and untouchable. Her character arc has depth, heavily aided by a heartbreakingly realistic portrayal of grief surrounding all the wit and grit. Her friends are her tribe, each with a distinct personality that makes you love them. There’s Evander, who loves Odessa, thirsts for adventure, and worries his life will never quite be what he wants (more on that later.) Simeon is the optimist, the thinker. He and his boyfriend, Danial, are so amazing together, and as a healer, Danial sacrifices a lot for the group. Jax is rough-around-the-edges and perhaps a bit socially clumsy, but he would risk it all for his friends. Finally, there’s Valoria, a living princess who sparks up an unexpected connection with the group after helping them revive her “eldest grandfather,” King Wylding.
Karthia is a kingdom of its own design, ruled largely by one interesting concept: Nothing can change. This isn’t just extreme traditionalism. The kingdom’s deity is Vaia the five-faced god, and one of his faces represents change. The face of change has not shifted in nearly 200 years, and the people believe their god will punish them for any systematic changes. That’s why the king and queen from centuries past still rule, why no one is searching for the cure for the fever ravaging the kingdom, why society survives on the same rules and edicts. Valoria is seen as a bit of a radical in the court, despite being introverted and studious, because she designs inventions and thus challenges Vaia.
Thankfully, on a sociopolitical front, Karthia is one hell of a society! It celebrates all people, open to them no matter their race, gender, or sexuality. While the story is far from erotic, sex isn’t treated as an ugly taboo or a source of shame. Despite having a King, Karthia is also a largely matriarchal society, which flips the social dynamic in really interesting ways, particularly in Evander’s life. There’s gay, lesbian, and bi rep, mental illness rep, and feminist themes woven throughout. Basically, remove the hellish fever and deadly monsters sweeping the land and we are ALL IN.
With the exception of one minor bump, the plot moves at a rapid-fire pace and makes for an intensely readable book. Shades aren’t just nasty, annoying creatures, they’re terrifying. So whenever they’re involved we get suspense, unpredictability, and often a badass action sequence. Their creation adds some excellent political tension that a less conscious novel would have skipped over altogether. Even when they’re not around, there’s the mystery of their sudden resurgence to be solved and it adds layers to the world and the character. The one super obvious outcome in this book, for me, was the reveal of the antagonist. I couldn’t really see the tension at hand being orchestrated by anyone but that particular character, so that drew me out of a big, climatic scene just a bit. It’s for that reason that I can’t quite give the book five stars, but fear not– This is still the being of a fully-realized, entrancing fantasy adventure and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel already!
RATING: 4.75 OUT OF 5 STARS
Reign of the Fallen hits bookshelves on January 23, 2018. You can preorder it now via…
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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?