Published: 23 January 2018
Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/LGBT+ (Bisexual MC, Gay & Lesbian side characters)
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?
Rating: 2 Stars
Visually, Reign of the Fallen was intricate and stunning. There were colors everywhere and different lifeforms were described beautifully. Even the Deadlands were attractive in an eerie sort of way, with their blooms, meadows, and gardens, though lacking the color and scent of living plants. Food and drink were described in a way that made it easy to envision the feast laid out before the attendees, to almost smell it coming off the page.
Odessa was a difficult character to get to like, though like might be a bit of a stretch. I forgot her name only a little bit into the book because the point of view is first person and it hardly came up. Having to flip back and figure out who the main character was doesn’t bode well, especially as early as 13%. Then there was her personality, which felt all over the place. One moment she’s a strong bad necromancer, the next she’s easily offended by a comment Evander makes that she misread. Yes you can have variances in personality, soft moments among the rough, but that wasn’t what was going on. I felt like she made a lot of foolish decisions, not thinking things through, and that muddied any positive feelings I might have had.
The relationship between her and Evander felt very forced to me. The way they interacted came across as stilted, like a textbook head over heels couple but without any spark, any life to make me believe in them. There were very few moments in which to see them as being together; most of the time they were in groups which I think hindered any attempt to get me to care about them.
After a certain event happened, I was reminded very strongly of Bella’s situation in New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. Odessa took a page out of her book with the calming draft she became addicted to and doing so came across as infuriating and ridiculous, a waste of whatever strength Marsh wanted us to believe resided in Odessa. Her giving into grief was a combination of Bella and Padme (in Revenge of the Sith). There are a variety of ways to experience grief in reality, that I can admit to, but Odessa, on top of the fact that I couldn’t really get to like her to start with, felt like someone I couldn’t care much about after this.
The secondary relationship felt very convenient, like it had to be there and the person involved, other than Odessa, was the most “logical” choice. It could have been something, maybe, but the way it sort-of developed, sort-of floundered contributed to an apathetic feeling about the whole thing.
Valoria was easily my favorite character. In a kingdom that has forbidden change for the last two hundred years, she’s secretly working on inventions and improvements for the city. As the second living heir to the king, she’s in a unique position to be able to work on these illegal items and hide them away, waiting for a chance to enact a new canal system to help prevent the common plague or stable enlargement for animal comfort. She was brilliant and intense and the only one of Odessa’s circle to push her to give up the calming draft that brings hallucinations of Evander and imaginary monsters.
Something I didn’t understand about this world was: if there are so few blue-eyed people (the only ones who can see Deadlands gates) and even fewer that are chosen to do necromancer training, why aren’t they protected more? Why aren’t they guarded so that they don’t get hurt or try to leave the country, as Evander wanted to do? Even though there were times when Odessa would mention other mages, such as beast mages or weather mages, they also seemed to have slight populations and yet no one besides Odessa talks about that. It seemed weird to have so few magical people and yet have no protections in place, even if they were misguided or bad methods.
Another thing was when Odessa made an observation about the nobles trying to forget that a necromancer had been ripped from their lives, that they were sorrowful. I didn’t feel like this observation, or any of Odessa’s about the citizens level of despair toward Master Nicanor’s death rings true. Necromancers are a close group and they’re valued for their skill, but as people they don’t seem important to nobles. I think the citizens are fine so long as there are more necromancers and Odessa thinking they’re drowning their sorrow in cake comes off fake because we don’t see any emotional connection to the necromancers as people.
I had issues with the pacing of the book. Things seemed to alternately happen too slowly or jump ahead too quickly, making for a jarring experience. The characters added to my blase feeling about the plot line. I was more interested in the secondary characters than the primary ones, which made it difficult to really get into the story as I spent a lot time focusing on the “wrong” people. There were at least a couple of inconsistencies with the information given, scene changes and the like, that irked me as well.
There was also the matter of the villain of the piece, the big bad that’s supposed to be on the “wrong” side and be the person we cheer against. The villain in Reign of the Fallen was more than a little disappointing. I felt like they came across as petulant and boring. It’s as if, while I was reading, I saw the name and thought “Oh, then. Okay then, moving on.” There was no shock, no suspense, nothing to have me invested in the hero finally discovering the identity of their enemy and trying to defeat them.
I can easily see why this book would attract fans, as it’s written well enough, but not to my liking. I hope a lot of people can find enjoyment in it, but for me, I think I’ll go back and read Marsh’s earlier book Fear the Drowning Deep.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.