Reign of the Fallen, by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publish Date: January 23, 2018
Published by: Razorbill
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an ARC from the publisher as a Bookseller for Barnes & Noble in return for an honest review.**
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?
When I first came across this book I was extremely stoked and excited to read it. It quickly became one of my highly anticipated reads for 2018, and when I managed to get me hands on an ARC of it, I was ecstatic. But sadly, it just didn’t work for me in the long-run.
While the world-building was great, minus a few hiccups here and there where the author added in one or two concepts that hadn’t been mentioned before at all and seemed randomly convenient for the storytelling, the characters and the plot felt like they were rushed. In fact, most of the story ended up being about the relationships (the LGBTQ part was great – no issues there, and I loved that Odessa is bisexual), pushing the plot to the wayside more often than not, and even then the relationships weren’t that well developed. The characters were introduced quickly, with most of their defining traits given within the first introduction, and then from there not a lot of growth was seen, or if it was, it felt like it jumped from one personality to another with barely any actual transition between. And, in conjunction, the relationships felt the same – one minute two people are kissing, the next they are silently agreeing they are better off as platonic friends and never really mentioning the fact that they kissed ever again (making me question the importance of that mini-romance in the overall plot). [SPOILER] Not to mention that this whole kissing stuff happens after the death of Odessa’s boyfriend, whom she is supposedly in utter grief over, yet she and his best friend are still feeling hot and heavy for each other? Then Odessa meets Meredy, Evander’s sister, who starts off clearly hating Odessa, and then suddenly about one or two days later, there’s a bunch of sexual tension in the air as she feeds Odessa some coffee beans. Considering that the supposed love-of-her-life Evander just died, it seemed to me like Odessa moved on pretty quickly, and at that, with someone she barely even knows. [END SPOILER] The relationships just jumped around like time and growth meant nothing.
The writing overall was okay, with some cheesy lines and self-reflections here and there, but like everything else it felt a little rushed. Several of the action/fight scenes just happened too quickly and with very little description, leaving me unenthused about what was happening. The plot concerning the missing Dead and the Shades felt like it fell by the wayside after a certain event, and pushed into the spotlight Odessa’s sudden substance abuse and idiotic decisions. Yes, the grief was important and how everyone grieves is different, but in one quick chapter she goes through withdrawal, is cured of her substance abuse, and then the mystery part of the plot proceeds once again. It just felt like…every major part of the plot was too overly separated from each other, with the stuff about the missing Dead and Shade attacks clearly bracketing the part in the middle where Odessa deals mostly with her grief.
Basically my overall feelings are these: the world building was good and easy to follow, but the characters and the relationships just felt too rushed for me, and took over far too much of the plot to really make the rest of it interesting. By the time I was halfway through the book, I just wanted it to end already because I felt like nothing was happening any more. And when things finally did come to a head, the Big Bad was too easy to guess at and the climax happened quickly, just like everything else in the book to be honest. Overall, I just wasn’t that impressed with this book, and wished it hadn’t felt as rushed as it did.