Reign of the Fallen

Reign of the Fallen

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 hi...

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Title:Reign of the Fallen
Author:Sarah Glenn Marsh
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Edition Language:English

Reign of the Fallen Reviews

  • destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, and it did not disappoint at all. The world of Karthia was so unique and intriguing, and the cast of characters were diverse and tremendously lovable. More than anything, this story took me by surprise with how dark it was; I knew going into it that it involved necromancy, but I never expected how much it would focus on grief and healing.

    If you asked me what the primary focus of

    was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, and it did not disappoint at all. The world of Karthia was so unique and intriguing, and the cast of characters were diverse and tremendously lovable. More than anything, this story took me by surprise with how dark it was; I knew going into it that it involved necromancy, but I never expected how much it would focus on grief and healing.

    If you asked me what the primary focus of this book is, I wouldn’t say it’s zombies, or necromancy – I would say that its primary focus is how to move on from the loss of a loved one, and how to find ourselves again after losing ourselves in our pain.

    The world of Karthia feels small, but well-developed. It has reached a standstill due to the King’s fear of change; his reluctance for progress has halted any forms of inventions or medical advancements, as well as refusing any heirs from taking the throne. Instead, King Wylding and his court reign eternal as the shrouded Dead.

    Alongside the living and the Dead are those with magic, and I genuinely loved the setup of the magic system in the world of Karthia: individuals have inclinations for specific abilities based on their eye colors. Blue eyes lend to necromancy, while green eyes are for beast-masters, grey eyes indicate weather mages, and so on. Not every individual chooses to use their gifts, but those who do, train to become Masters and are regarded with the utmost respect.

    Our narrator, Odessa, is a necromancer bearing the title “Sparrow”, as she’s incredibly talented at finding her way home (which is not always an easy task in the ever-shifting Deadlands). Not only is she proficient, but she’s a delightful narrator: she’s strong, fierce, passionate, loving, and loyal – all of these, at times, to a fault. During the events of the book, Odessa loses someone very dear to her, and that’s where the depiction of grief comes in.

    I have read so many books about grief that I thought I’d seen every portrayal, good or bad, but

    took me entirely by surprise. Odessa’s grief is written so genuinely, so authentically, that despite my personal ambivalent feelings for the character who passed away, I found myself mourning them

    her. Her heartbreak oozes off the pages, and when she becomes addicted to the potions that numb her aches and offer her comforting hallucinations, you can’t help but understand why she’s using them as a coping mechanism. It’s the only way Odessa knows how to survive for quite some time, and because it feels so raw and is built up so thoroughly, her inevitable success in conquering her addiction made me want to jump up and cheer for her.

    One thing I would like to comment on is that I’ve seen other reviewers say they felt it was unnecessary to depict addiction in a YA novel or a fantasy story, and I’d like to offer another perspective on that. Substance abuse addiction is a very

    issue that humans face everyday, in all walks of life and all parts of the world. It is tremendously misunderstood, and many people struggling with addictions are looked down upon, as though they have intentionally brought it upon themselves.

    showcases a perfect example of how easy it can be to become addicted to a substance, especially in an instance like Odessa’s, when the tonics she craves are the only thing that can keep her from drowning in her grief and guilt.

    I strongly believe one of the greatest things about books – and the YA community, as of late – is the opportunity to normalize subjects that are viewed as “taboo”, and by normalizing them, readers can learn how to empathize and to understand. Having watched my loved ones’ lives fall to pieces due to addictions, Odessa’s struggles resonated so soundly with me, and I am eternally grateful to Sarah for being willing to

    Besides Odessa, this story is absolutely filled to the brim with side characters, so lovable that they deserved their own sections:

    • Odessa’s boyfriend, Evander, who frustrated me at times, early in the story, but is incredibly caring and a talented necromancer

    • There’s Jax, who plays a bit of the “big jock” stereotype at times, but is a formidable ally and someone that Odessa never regrets having in her corner

    • Kasmira, the beautiful ship captain whose preferred pasttimes seem to be trading illicit goods (like coffee beans) for gold and a bit of flirting (no lie, I shipped her and Odessa so hard at the beginning!)

    • Valoria, the princess, is far brighter and more innovative than any “princess in the castle” stereotype you’ve ever seen

    • Odessa’s adopted brother Simeon, and his partner Danial, are the precious cinnamon rolls of the story, and I loved them both to pieces and wanted so much more interaction with them

    • Meredy, the clever, fiery beast-master, and her bonded companion, an intuitive grizzly bear named Lysander, with a personality as big as his body

    I loved how diverse this cast of characters was. Sarah wrote a world in which racial tensions are nonexistent (on that note, Kasmira is black, and while I’m unsure of Odessa’s race, she describes her skin as being a dark brown in the beginning), and heteronormativity is never mentioned once – Odessa is bisexual (own-voice rep), Meredy and Kasmira are both attracted to women, and Simeon and Danial are gay. I loved how completely normalized and casual the representation was! As a queer woman, I

    for normalized rep, especially in fantasy novels.

    I went into this book with a strong suspicion that I would love it, and I absolutely did. I think I was only a few chapters in the first time I predicted that I would be giving it 5 stars in the end, and here we are. I thought this was a phenomenal beginning to a series, and I cannot wait to see where Sarah takes Odessa in the next piece of the story. If you enjoy dark fantasy and authentic representation, plus a lot of necromancy and dead things, do not walk,

    to pick up a copy of this incredible story.

  • C.G. Drews

    Necromancers are sorely awesome beings and Odessa was simply

    . It's WAY too early to do a proper review so here's just some things to look forward to:

    • epic fantasy world where gender equality is the NORM and women do. not. have. to. prove. themselves (GOD BLESS AND AMEN)

    • world were nearly everyone is queer

    • necromancers

    • dark monsters that want to eat your face off

    • epic women friendships

    • super swe

    Necromancers are sorely awesome beings and Odessa was simply

    . It's WAY too early to do a proper review so here's just some things to look forward to:

    • epic fantasy world where gender equality is the NORM and women do. not. have. to. prove. themselves (GOD BLESS AND AMEN)

    • world were nearly everyone is queer

    • necromancers

    • dark monsters that want to eat your face off

    • epic women friendships

    • super sweet romances

    • deadlands

    • swords

    • your feels shrieking from the rooftops

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    Because oh boy, I

    a lot of concepts and ideas here. Odessa's story of grief and addiction, a romance I enjoyed, fantastic worldbuilding around change... and yet, I was underwhelmed. I really feel like this book was a too-much-buildup beginning to what I'm sure will be a sublime series.

    I've been a middle-book person since the beginning of time. I know, I know, call me crazy, but middle book s

    Because oh boy, I

    a lot of concepts and ideas here. Odessa's story of grief and addiction, a romance I enjoyed, fantastic worldbuilding around change... and yet, I was underwhelmed. I really feel like this book was a too-much-buildup beginning to what I'm sure will be a sublime series.

    I've been a middle-book person since the beginning of time. I know, I know, call me crazy, but middle book syndrome is such a myth. If the second book doesn't reach farther, go deeper, push at boundaries more than book one, book three will almost certainly be worse.

    , anyone?

    ? So honestly, I'm not surprised book one was a disappointment. But do I wish this could've been more developed and less full of buildup? Yes. Fun fact, though: this could actually work as a standalone. Just, you know, a three-star one rather than a four-star. 

    Her arc around addiction and grief is so sublime and A+, I don't even know what to say. And not only that, but she is a

    . Some of the other side characters, like Valoria and Kasmira, were definitely interesting as well and deserved more pagetime.

    I want to avoid spoilers, so skip this if you really want to avoid knowing anything. But I also want to tell you that this has a major romance between two girls, despite first impressions. As for how that romance played out - I

    it. The two characters in question have a lot of chemistry and work well as a couple. All that being said, it took me a while to really the

    between them. Maybe the issue is I kept looking out for romance between Odessa and every other girl character. An easy resolution?

    I loved the ideas here - a city of discriminated-against necromancers, dead returning, poverty and social dynamics - but I found the world itself forgettable as a certified fantasy map nerd. That being said, there were a few thematic elements within the worldbuilding I absolutely

    - the idea of change being considered a bad thing within this kingdom struck me as especially interesting. Just be aware that the focus here lies on themes, not detail.

    Quite good. I expected the writing of this novel to be somewhat mediocre, honestly, considering it's only a second book, but I thought the writing here was lovely.

    Eh. I have to say, while I solidly enjoyed the plot of this book, it didn't feel like anything particularly special. There were several twists I

    saw coming, many of which seemed as if you're supposed to see it coming. On one hand, that's good - the author doesn't treat readers as if they're idiots. But on the other hand, it just felt like a very un-mindblowing read to me.

    BOTTOM LINE: Give it a try if the concept sounds interesting, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. But don't raise your expectations too high if you're used to loving series more as they go on and less in their opening stages.

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  • Melanie

    (Thank you so much, the spider queen,

    ! ❤)

    I could probably get away with just saying “bisexual necromancer main character” for this review and it would hopefully entice you all enough to pick this up, but this truly was a really enjoyable story that I am very happy I was able to read before release.

    (Thank you so much, the spider queen,

    ! ❤)

    I could probably get away with just saying “bisexual necromancer main character” for this review and it would hopefully entice you all enough to pick this up, but this truly was a really enjoyable story that I am very happy I was able to read before release.

    : substance abuse, talk of suicide, violence, death, and sexual content, but nothing explicit whatsoever.

    opens up with our main character, Odessa, AKA: Sparrow, because she seamlessly flies between the realms of the living and dead, killing and resurrecting the king of Karthia, so he will be able to rule for even longer than he already has. The people love him though, and he trusts Odessa because she truly is one of the best, yet youngest, necromancers this world has to offer.

    In this world, people are able to train to become different types of mages depending on their eye color. And we get to see Odessa and her seven friends doing different things because of their different eye colors.

    –has blue eyes, so she was able to learn how to enter the Deadlands, even though it does come with an extra price. Odessa is also openly bisexual and I was living for it.

    – also has blue eyes and is a necromancer. Evander is also Odessa’s lover.

    – has green eyes, so she is a beast master with an adorable bear companion named Lysander! Meredy is also queer and is also Evander’s sister.

    – has brown eyes and is an inventor, but also the princess of Karthia!

    – has greener blue eyes, and he seems to be good at tracking, and is best friends with Odessa.

    – has lighter blue eyes, so he is also a necromancer who enters the Deadlands with Jax (because you have to have a partner to enter and be safe!) and is a gay man! Odessa also considers him her brother.

    – has hazel eyes, therefore he has the ability to use his magic for healing! He is also a gay male that is dating Simeon, and their relationship was so cute. I love them both.

    – has dark grey eyes and is a weather mage! She is also a pirate, and is black, and is easily my favorite character besides Meredy! Like, give me an entire book about this soon to be pirate queen, please!

    I loved this cast of characters, and I honestly want a book about each of them. But what would a book about necromancers be, if things didn’t start to go wrong? And even though there has been peace between the living people of Kathia and the dead that walk among them for many, many years, we start to figure out that maybe not everyone feels that way.

    In this world, even though the dead walk among the living, they are forced to hide every part of their body under clothes. If anyone even catches a glimpse at what is underneath a dead person’s clothes, the dead person will become a shade. Shades are monsters, who can’t control themselves or their actions, and will kill anything that gets in their path. Also, once someone becomes a shade, they can no longer be raised again.

    But twists and turns ensue, and Odessa gets forced into the mystery, because she’s one of the best necromancer around. Yet, my biggest criticism of this book is that 1.) there isn’t enough necromancy for my undead-raising-heart, and 2.) I feel like the villain was a little too obvious for my personal liking. I didn’t feel like there was much of a mystery, but I still loved the story so very much, because:

    This is one of the most sex positive YA stories I’ve ever read in my entire life. Odessa has sex with more than just one person, and she doesn’t apologize or feel shame for the act itself, ever. We need so many more stories like this and it warmed my heart so very much to read.

    This book also heavily talks about substance abuse and addiction. And I have no words for people who think that those elements don’t belong in YA, because that is a reality for so many kids. I know this is a fantasy novel, but it very much highlights the impact that addiction brings, not only to the person consuming the drugs, but to all the people that care about the individual, as well. This discussion is important, and needed, and it meant so very much for me to read.

    This book also puts trauma, grief, and loss at the forefront of this story. Seeing Odessa’s pain is very hard to read, but that’s because it is very realistically done. I shed so many tears while reading this book, because the loss and sadness feel so very tangible. This book for sure doesn’t shy away from hard topics, but they are all so needed topics, too.

    There is also a very big highlight on found family in

    , and if you guys have been following my reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that that is something very near and dear to my heart. This book is truly a love letter to found families everywhere and how blood truly will never mean anything, but finding people who unconditionally love you means everything.

    And, maybe my favorite part, this book stars a bisexual on page character. This isn’t a coming out story, no one is mean to Odessa for being bisexual, or causes her grief over it; Odessa is just beautifully bisexual and I don’t even have words for how much I love knowing that young adults, who are trying to discover their sexuality, are going to get a YA fantasy novel where it is normalized, accepted, and celebrated.

    This world is magical and unique, these characters are diverse and wonderful, the topics and themes are important and needed, and I recommend this book with all that I am. Odessa is a character that I could very much connect with in my late twenties and this book meant a lot to me for very many reasons. I truly loved this book and I hope so many people pick it up and also feel connected with Odessa’s journey. I also cannot wait to see whatever else Sarah Glenn Marsh comes up with, because she’s also one of the sweetest and kindest people I follow on social media. I hope you all pick up

    this Tuesday!

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  • Chelsea Humphrey

    I'll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I agreed to review this book, at least initially, based on a ferocious case of cover love with a side dish of FOMO. I know that the fear of missing out isn't a valid reason to pick up a book, but I'll bet it happens more times than we'd like to admit in our journey as readers.

    - look at the cover, in all it's pink, shimmery glory! <3 I've also been actively searching out writers in the NoVa area to support, and it just so happe

    I'll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I agreed to review this book, at least initially, based on a ferocious case of cover love with a side dish of FOMO. I know that the fear of missing out isn't a valid reason to pick up a book, but I'll bet it happens more times than we'd like to admit in our journey as readers.

    - look at the cover, in all it's pink, shimmery glory! <3 I've also been actively searching out writers in the NoVa area to support, and it just so happens Sarah Glenn Marsh is practically my neighbor! Finally, there has been so much hype surrounding this book pre-publication that I had to find out if it was really all it's been cracked up to be.

    I found this to be a solid start to a new series that I'm committed to continuing on.

    Obviously zombies have been popular subject matter well before

    was created (although I'm sure the series helped spread the buzz to mainstream level), but if you're expecting TWD level chaos, you won't find that here. Instead, picture a more elegant, court intrigue form of zombies and you'll have the right idea. All the rules have changed here, giving the story a more complex and unique flow than you're typical chasers of brain matter. In fact, these zombies' mental facilities are completely intact, so long as they keep their decaying physical form shrouded completely from the living's naked eye. No immodest clothing for these suckers; show a little leg and you've got a shade on your hand. 

     These nasty creatures feast on the living and undead alike and they are a huge problem for the necromancers. Someone is purposefully turning the undead into monsters, but who?

    Going into this book, I tried to stay away from too many reviews or specifics, but it seemed that most readers who didn't enjoy this story came from a place of expecting something other than what

    is. You'd think that there would be loads of action-packed fight scenes and nail biting suspense as to what is the driving factor behind the deliberate changing of shades, but you'd be wrong. This one is a slow burn people, and as others before me have stated, this is at heart a character study on grief and loss. Maybe I was able to enjoy this more than others due to my being aware of this going in, but I found the writing just exquisite. Our main character suffers a traumatic loss in the first third of the book, and as we follow her journey of working through (and dare I say past) this grief, we follow a format of writing that is both delicate and raw, almost like we are at times walking on egg shells and then jumping into an angry, boiling pot of water. I must have picked this up at just the right time, because the broken grief that Odessa felt soared clearly off the pages and into my soul.

    While there were a few other side notes I felt unnecessary and I did figure out the "who" and "why" early on, as a whole I really enjoyed this.

    contained fantastic

    lgbt representation. When I was discussing what I was reading and who the characters were with Mr. Humphrey in the car, he pointed out that more major characters than not were on that spectrum, something I hadn't even picked up on as I read. Usually, I feel like books pick out the one gay character and paint them so flamboyantly (Look! I'm gay! I included a gay person in my story! I'm diverse!), but here it was just natural and not centered around "coming out". I'm still digesting the ending, as almost this entire book read as a standalone and the final chapter connected to where I assume the next installment will continue, but it appears to be new subject matter with continuing characters. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it almost a week ago, so I feel that's a sign that this is a fantasy that will stay on my book shelf and a series I'd like to continue on with. Recommended to those looking to spice up the usual trope-filled, YA fantasy with something heavy but with heart.

  • Emily May

    Are you considering this book because it sounds like a dynamic new fantasy with necromancers, action, mystery and a bisexual protagonist? (Also: cover love, let’s not lie.) I was too, but it didn’t quite work for me the way I’d hoped.

    I think this is partly a case of an author lingering too long on all the things we don’t care abou

    Are you considering this book because it sounds like a dynamic new fantasy with necromancers, action, mystery and a bisexual protagonist? (Also: cover love, let’s not lie.) I was too, but it didn’t quite work for me the way I’d hoped.

    I think this is partly a case of an author lingering too long on all the things we don’t care about, and partly a case of an author not developing the reader's emotional attachment enough before spending a huge chunk of the book on depressing and repetitive introspection.

    The thing is,

    is mostly a book about grief. The use of necromancers, zombie-like creatures called Shades, and the romance, are all ways of adding frills, but so much of this book is taken up by Odessa's loss of a loved one. This could have been interesting. I like the idea of exploring a real-world concept in a fantasy setting.

    .

    The opening chapters lack emotion and pull, or, at least, they did for me. There are deadly action scenes that should have been pulse-pounding, but I felt no tension or urgency behind them. There is a deep, never-ending love that gets cut short, but we are never given chance to really care about the relationship so it left me feeling cold as Odessa spiraled into depression and addiction.

    For many, many chapters in the middle of the book, the pacing plods along through Odessa's grief. Grief can be a terrible, all-consuming, paralysing thing, but there was

    that it didn’t touch me. I just wished the author would move on from the tiresome moping scenes. And, though I wished the focus on Odessa's potion addiction would end, when it finally did, it all felt more than a little abrupt.

    Eventually, things start happening again, but it is like the whole main story was forgotten for many long, boring pages in the middle. When we finally came back to the central plot - someone intentionally creating Shades who have been attacking Karthia's royalty - I was really struggling to care about the plot and characters. I was reading to get to the end.

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  • Lola

    How cool is that cover?

    Much cooler than the story, let me tell you.

    If you’re interested in this book because you expect a steamy or at least an extremely cute lesbian relationship in a world controlled by dead kings, look elsewhere.

    I stopped reading this book after 200-something pages, because I could not stand the main character being miserable, suffering silently and making bad choice after bad choice.

    Look, I understand that she’s been through a lot and lost someone she thought would be in h

    How cool is that cover?

    Much cooler than the story, let me tell you.

    If you’re interested in this book because you expect a steamy or at least an extremely cute lesbian relationship in a world controlled by dead kings, look elsewhere.

    I stopped reading this book after 200-something pages, because I could not stand the main character being miserable, suffering silently and making bad choice after bad choice.

    Look, I understand that she’s been through a lot and lost someone she thought would be in her life forever, but YA fantasy is supposed to be kickass and badass and I was certain Odessa would prove that to me. Everything was headed in the right direction… until she started to get so addicted to a potion she became a danger to herself and other people.

    Seriously? When ‘‘addiction’’ becomes a theme in my fantasy read, I know there is a problem. The thing is there is an extensive cast – people who would give anything to help Odessa. But no, she’s broken and needs to suffer on her own. Some actually do try to help her, but she becomes aggressive as one would expect.

    The pacing is fast, which means that I could definitely have finished this book if I had wanted to, but I really didn’t since the only two people I cared for were Odessa and Valoria and both ended up letting me down. Odessa by not getting help even when she realized she was losing herself and Valoria by being a boring princess with a special skill she never puts to use. She probably does or will at some point but now I don’t much care about her anymore.

    Bummer, could have been great. Maybe if there had been more than one point of view? We only met the other characters when Odessa encountered them and yet they all played a role, whether big or small. Oh well.

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  • Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

    Awh, I won a GR giveaway! How neato. Can't wait to start this!

  • Em

    ( ° ʖ °) did someone say a bisexual necromancer ( ° ʖ °)

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) did someone say a bisexual necromancer ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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