Book Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

by - 7:15:00 PM

Title: Reign of the Fallen
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Pages: 384
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: 23 January 2018
From Goodreads: "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?"
Thank you to Razorbill for providing me with a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I've read two books so far this year and both have been five-star reads. I think it's safe to say that 2018 has been good to me (reading wise) so far! I was so excited when I was approved for this title on NetGalley because one, that synopsis, and two, that cover. Put the two together and you have one fantastic book! Also, this quote from the author may have made me immediately drop my current read and pick this one up. Possibly. Definitely.


Plot:
Reign of the Fallen follows Odessa, the king of Karthia's most treasured necromancers. When nobles die, it's Odessa's job to travel into the Deadlands and retrieve their souls and return them to "life." But there is a cost- the Dead must remain shrouded or risk being turned into a zombie-life monster called a Shade. If even a sliver of the Dead's flesh is revealed, the transformation into a Shade begins and there is no way to stop it. When a rise in Shade attacks begin, fear and doubt creep into Odessa's necromancer community. The loss of one of their own brings to light a conspiracy: someone is creating Shades by tearing off their shrouds and training them to attack the living. Odessa is then faced with a terrifying question: will her magic be what brings about the destruction of Karthia?

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THIS BOOK THIS BOOK YOU GUYS THIS BOOK. Okay, now that I've had a moment to be unprofessional, let's get serious. This was a highly anticipated book for me this year and it definitely did not disappoint. Reign of the Fallen is beautiful on the outside and on the inside. Just watch out for the blood and gore between the pages. Of course, going into this I knew to expect necromancers and scary Shade monsters. And also that this book is "queer AF" as per the incredible quote from the author above. Seriously, I dropped everything and picked this up after reading that. What I did not expect was a crazy cool magic system, the dark and bloody events that occur throughout, the main character to fall and then rise again even stronger and more amazing than she was before. I cannot lie, I went through a lot of emotions while reading this book and yes, I did cry. But I also laughed and danced and celebrated one of my all-time favorite relationships/friendships I've ever read about. Trust me, it's cute as heck. This book moved at such a great pace that I didn't want to put it down. Everything, from the Shade conspiracy to the relationships and even Odessa's fall and rise, was delivered in such a great way that I never felt myself wanting to push ahead and read more about something else. Sarah Glenn Marsh did an incredible job at drawing the reader in and making you want to know more about every aspect of the story- even the hard parts.

Speaking of the hard parts, let's talk briefly about the addiction/depression portion of the story. This was a topic I was not expecting to read about in this book at all. I mean, it's a fantasy story so why would it be a part of the plot, right? It's such an important part of this story and I was so happy that the author included it. Depression and addiction are very real topics that happen to a lot of people, so why would a character in a fantasy world be excluded from experiencing them? Odessa loses someone very close to her and falls to absolute rock bottom. She's sad all the time and does nothing but walk around the castle in a haze thanks to a potion she takes to stay numb to the pain. Her friends try to help her and she lashes out at them because she doesn't want to stop taking the potion, she doesn't want to feel anything. This is such a huge topic to be covered in a YA book and I truly think that the author did a very great job with handling Odessa's depression and addiction. Not only does she eventually overcome it, but she overcomes it on her own. She's not saved by anyone (well, she does have the help of two friends but her treatment is cut short due to an incident) but rather realizes that she has to overcome her addiction and grief and deal with it in a healthier way because she needs to be there to help her friends, her king, and her people. I was just so happy to see not only a raw, real, accurate depiction of addiction and depression, but also that the author didn't have love save her or change her, but rather had her save herself. It was beautiful and I could easily give a thousand hugs to the author for not only tackling this topic but not taking the easy way out when resolving it. 

Also, I want to tackle the magic system really fast. This was probably the coolest magic system I've ever read about! In this world, the goddess Vaia has five faces and there are five powers that individuals can have. But, and this is the cool part, the magic is determined by eye color! Blue eyes are necromancers, grey are weather mages, green are beastmasters, hazel are healers, and brown are creators/inventors. While not everyone chooses to to use the gifts that they have, some do and, like Odessa, train to become Masters of their magic. I just thought it was such a unique concept and one I don't recall ever reading about before! I was so happy to be able to encounter a character with each eye color and learn a little bit about their magic and what they could do. I'm crossing my fingers that we get to encounter more magic in the sequel!

Characters:
Odessa is one of my favorite characters that I've ever read about. Not only is she a necromancer, but she's also so incredibly strong. And also hilariously sassy, which I absolutely adore sassy main characters. She experiences the loss of someone she loves and falls into a deep depression, becoming addicted to something that helps relieve her of her pain. This takes up a pretty good chunk of the book and while it was sad and hard to read about (not because it was bad, but because I genuinely cared about Odessa and seeing her so distraught was just heartbreaking) it was so well-written. Odessa goes through some pretty incredible character development during this part of the book and it was so great to be able to read about. She goes from falling into a depression that spawns a destructive addiction, refusing help from her friends, and even going so far as to lash out at them for trying to help her, to overcoming her sadness, saving the kingdom, and finding out who she wants to be. It's such an amazing thing to watch Odessa change throughout this book and overcome the destructive habit she fell into and become this incredibly strong and independent person that is able to decide what's best for her and pursue the path she feels is right. Odessa is just an overall fantastic and inspiring character to read about and I really think she will quickly become a favorite of anyone who reads this book.

The other characters in this book were also so much fun to read about! I loved Odessa's interactions with her necromancer friends/family as well as with the king and princess. While Odessa was clearly my favorite character, I definitely appreciated that the other characters were so well developed and a big part of Odessa's life. She had such a wonderful friendship with the princess and her fellow necromancers and I just loved each interaction she had with all of them. The princess was adorable and incredibly smart and I am so excited to see where her character goes in the sequel! And Odessa's necromancer friends were also so supportive and caring and it was just wonderful to see such positive relationships within this book. There was also a slow-burning sort of relationship between Odessa and another character and I am forever grateful that this was not a case of insta-love but rather something that was rocky and complicated and had to be worked with as the book went on. Also, I really enjoyed that sexuality in this book was so open and not judged or frowned upon! Odessa is bisexual and there is a gay couple and neither of them are ever scrutinized or experience hatred in any way. It was great to see that this is a world that's accepting of all kinds of love, even if it is a fantasy world where necromancers bring the Dead back to life. The fact that Odessa is attracted to males and females is never an issue but rather is just a part of her. Basically, this book is full of wonderfully diverse and unforgettable characters that you're sure to fall in love with!

Writing:
If words like diverse characters, queer necromancer, blood and gore, or scary monsters haven't caught your attention yet, then the writing most definitely will. I've gone on and on about how amazing this book is, and it really is, but the writing just brings it to a whole new level. It's elegant and creepy and beautiful and really makes this book a work of art. Sarah Glenn Marsh does a fantastic job at not only creating the world of Karthia and the characters that inhabit it but also bringing it to life. The visuals created with her words are beyond anything I've ever read. You can really feel the scary vibes that the Shades put off when they're around or the tension between Odessa and another character. The feelings evoked from the writing will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions while you read, but it will be the best ride you've ever experiences. Reign of the Fallen is a dark fantasy that tackles loss, grief, learning how to find yourself within the grief, and adapting to (even overcoming and becoming stronger in spite of) the pain incurred by the loss. It's unlike anything you'll ever read and won't be a book that you'll soon forget.

To sum it all up, Reign of the Fallen is a book that will surely appeal to all types of readers. It has such a wonderfully diverse cast, a plot that will keep you turning the pages late into the night, and writing that will evoke every emotion you could ever imagine. This is one I will strongly recommend to every and anyone looking for a new read this year, whether you're looking for an incredibly dark fantasy or just a book with some incredibly accurate representation on many fronts. Definitely don't' miss out on this one!


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