Published by Razorbill on January 23rd 2018
Genres: young adult, fantasy
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
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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?
Last year I read Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut, Fear the Drowning Deep. I appreciated the ideas presented in that book, but it wasn’t my favorite. Before I cross an author off my list, I read three of their books to make sure we don’t mesh. I was on the fence about reading Reign of the Fallen because I wasn’t sure the premise was for me, but I actually ended up really, really enjoying it.
Odessa is a necromancer in a kingdom where all the nobles and ruling class are dead. Even the king is dead, and every few years Odessa has to kill him before he turns into a Shade. She then goes into the Deadlands to find the king’s spirit, and brings him back through the gateway and into his body. The only problem with raising the dead this way–and it’s a HUGE problem–is that they can easily become Shades if any part of their body becomes exposed to the air. The dead have to wear a shroud and cover their entire bodies to maintain their current state. Shades are aggressive, flesh-eating beasts–basically they are a lot like zombies, so you definitely don’t want to become one. For many, many years the kingdom has been ruled by the same king, and change is completely outlawed. no new laws on the books, no new inventions, the same old tired treatments for illnesses and poverty, etc.
What Reign of the Fallen really is, is a book about gray areas and moral ambiguity. I think that’s maybe why parts of this book didn’t completely work for me. I mean, I still really liked it, but View Spoiler »I didn’t believe in what the protagonist was doing, because the dead truly were dangerous, and I thought that they should probably not be raised, because this clearly wasn’t working. Now to be fair, the antagonist was a maniacal idiot, but I did believe in his ideas (definitely not his approach though). « Hide Spoiler That’s why I’m conflicted. I loved the protagonist and I thought the slow burn lesbian relationship was incredibly well done (I just wish it had happened sooner), and I know the antagonist should be more than one-dimensional, but should my views line up with theirs? I just feel very odd about that.
In the end though, I think I’m okay with it because of the way the book ends. Also, I Just really loved the writing. I thought the author did a brilliant job of bringing Odessa’s thoughts and emotion and pain to life. It felt really realistic–Odessa jumped right off the page. I would have liked a little more time to be spent on the secondary characters, but I thought Meredy, Odessa’s love interest, was also well done, plus I loved that she was a beast master and in control of a grizzly bear. I liked that a person’s eye color determined what kind of magic they were going to have: green, beast master; blue, necromancer; gray, weather mage; etc.
I thought this was a standalone, but it turns out it isn’t, so what I would like to see in the next book is more time spent on the different types of magic, and more time spent on Valoria’s inventions. I’m also not really sure what the plot for the next book is going to be since I felt this was pretty much a complete story arc and not in need of a sequel, but I’m definitely on board for more of these characters and this world.