Book: Reign of The Fallen (Reign of The Fallen #1)
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Kasmira and Odessa have a conversation about the world outside Karthia.
Content Warnings: Grief, substance abuse, death
This was my #RockMyTBR book for December, and much like An Enchantment of Ravens, I didn’t really know much about it, I knew going in that it was about necromancers, and had an f/f romance, and that the cover was gorgeous but that was about it. I thought I would really love it, and I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, I thought it was going to be a really fun, zombie adventure romp and it was a more quiet, introspective look at death and grief, which was fine but not really what I was reading it for. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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 loved the idea behind this book, it’s definitely one of the most unique fantasies that I’ve ever read, I mean necromancers that can bring the dead back, but if they don’t remain shrouded then they turn into killer zombies? It’s definitely a cool idea, and it’s not just necromancers, the people in this world all have different powers depending on what colour eyes they have, so there are lots of different types of powers, including people who can control animals and people who can control the weather.
I did think that the magic system was pretty underdeveloped, you have the basic concept of power corresponding with eye colour, but no one knows how the relationship between the two work, how exactly does having blue eyes, manifest itself as necromancer powers. No one in the world tries to explore it either, so you as the reader are just kind of left wondering as to why exactly this specific magic system came to be.
I also thought that the world was underdeveloped as well, I had so many questions! It hasn’t changed in 200 years and everyone is just fine with that, despite the fact that people are dying, and no one cares that the King isn’t doing anything about it? Also the monarch hasn’t changed in 200 years and there doesn’t seem to be any implications from that? Also the nobles constantly throw parties whilst the peasants are starving and there’s no rioting? And these people can all become super powerful mages by 17, meaning they start training to do this at 7? There were just a lot of little things like that which didn’t seem to have been thought through.
I loved that there was so much LGBTQ+ representation in this, a large part of the cast is LGBTQ+, you have a bisexual girl, a lesbian, and two gay guys, and the world is not homophobic in the slightest, which is brilliant. There’s also some POC rep, with Odessa and Danial, though there could have been a bit more. It was really great to have a fantasy world that didn’t reflect society’s prejudices, as well as no homophobia, it wasn’t a sexist or racist world either, which was brilliant.
Another sufferer in the not developed enough camp, was Odessa’s friendships. We’re told that she has this really tight knit friendship group, but we don’t really get to see any evidence of it, we’re just told, “Oh I’ve been friends with these people since I was a kid” but I never really felt any closeness between them? Same goes with Master Cymbre, we’re told by Odessa that they’re really close but we barely see them interact!
I thought the necromancy aspect was really cool, but I thought it was going to be explored more, and yet it seemed almost incidental in comparison to Odessa’s grief and her romances. I can’t really explain this too well without giving away spoilers, but the Shade attacks that much of the book revolves around are obviously related to necromancy and I didn’t really understand a certain aspect of how all the worked because the necromancers’ powers weren’t really explained all that well.
Odessa’s grief is obviously a key plot point in this novel, and whilst I thought it was explored well, it’s kind of dull to read about! I also felt that because we didn’t really get to know the people she was grieving for, I just didn’t really feel it. I think it’s also that Odessa as the POV character in the novel, does kind of keep you at arms length, I can’t really say I got to know her that well, so I think that also affected things.
The side characters, and there were a lot of them, weren’t really developed all that much either, unfortunately. I would have loved some of the characters, like Valoria, or Kasmira, to be expanded on more, because I really liked them, Valoria is an inventor which is pretty awesome and Kasmira is a pirate, such awesomeness and we did not get enough of it! The villain, I didn’t feel was developed all that well either, they actually didn’t really seem all that unreasonable, they go about things the wrong way sure, but I thought they had a point for what they were wanting to do.
The pacing wasn’t great, it’s pretty slow, takes about 100 odd pages for the real inciting incident to happen, and even then, it’s definitely a slow burn kind of a book, which is fine, it just wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be. The stakes never really felt particularly high either, they have a healer on side to attend to all their scrapes (there’s an ableist moment where Odessa temporarily goes blind and is magical healed by it).
I wasn’t massively keen on either of the romances in this book, Odessa’s first relationship, with Evander, just wasn’t really developed enough, we don’t get to see enough of him to root for it and her second relationship, I didn’t think was exactly healthy and they’re both grieving….plus wait for it….she’s Evander’s sister! Which is incredibly icky.
The writing style was decent, nothing monumental but it was easy enough to read and aside from some repetition in places, there was nothing glaringly annoying.
I did also just find it kind of miserable? There’s a lot of sadness and grief in this book, and whilst that’s fine, I find in sad or dark books, I need at least some levity otherwise I feel too despairing.
The ending was also kind of anti-climactic, everything is resolved, it all seems to have been tied up neatly and then we get thrown into a situation that is clearly setting up for a next book, which I obviously knew as the next book is already out, but it kind of felt like an afterthought rather than something that the book at had been working towards.
Overall, this was a decent enough book and I loved the concept, but I definitely felt as if some things could have been executed better and whilst I think I will read the sequel, I don’t think that my expectations will be that high.
My Rating: 3.5/5
My next review will be of my final read of 2019, Hunting Prince Dracula by Keri Maniscalco, the sequel to Stalking Jack The Ripper.