Title: Reign of the Fallen
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Category: YA Fantasy (LGBTQIAP+)
Publisher/Date: Razorbill/23 January 2018
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?
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley while attending LibraryCon Live! This book has content warnings for death and addiction.
I absolutely adored this book. It started off a little slow, but I think that was more of a “me” problem than a book problem — I have a hard time while reading high fantasy because I am the literal worst at remembering names of places and people and things, and fantasy often throws a bunch of those things at me at once and I get lost really easily. Once I’d gotten a handful of pages read, though, everything started to pick up the pace, and I devoured it.
I was initially drawn to this book because of the queer characters, and I think Marsh did an excellent job of balancing the relationships between the characters with the rest of the conflict in the novel. Odessa, our MC, is bisexual, and multiple other characters are gay or lesbian as well. The relationships were prominent and important and had space to grow or have conflict, but they didn’t do it at the expense of the rest of the story. This felt incredibly well-balanced, and I really enjoyed it.
I loved the characters in this book. It felt like each character was given a lot of care and depth, and each had their own flaws and personalities. Even the villains in the story had their moments, showing that they were doing what they were doing because they believed it was best for the people. Even while we saw everything from Odessa’s point of view, we still got to really get to know the other characters.
I also really loved Odessa’s addiction arc. I thought it did an excellent job illustrating how addiction can start, why it continues, and how challenging it can be to quit and go through withdrawals and still crave. It was a little painful to read at times because I really empathized with her, and I think it was a nice touch.
While this is a story about necromancy and conspiracy, it’s also ultimately a story about grief and loss. This book is filled with heartbreak on multiple levels, and it tugs at your heartstrings as you see the characters work through their grief while trying to kill Shades and figure out why so many of them are showing up. It’s action-filled and magical and emotional, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Final rating: 5 of 5 stars