Reign of the Fallen (Reign of the Fallen #1)
By Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publisher: Listening Library
Narrator: Alex McKenna
Unabridged: 12 Hrs 52 Min.
Genre: YA Fantasy/LGBTQ+
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?
A lavish fantasy with a surprising and breathtaking LGBTQ romance at its core, REIGN OF THE FALLEN is a gutsy, unpredictable listen that will grab listeners by the throat and never let go…
Reign of the Fallen was part of my Pride Month reading list. I admit to being slightly apprehensive after reading several reviews pointing towards a flawed magic system and flat character development. Fortunately, my time with this stunning book proved to be rewarding and anything but flawed.
Odessa is a master necromancer. She serves the dead, but not just any dead, Karthia’s Reigning Dead. Tasked with overseeing the deaths of nobles, she assures that their souls are brought back from the Deadlands so that they can continue their reign over the Kingdom even after death. However, as with all things, there is a catch (right, there always is). The Dead must remain fully covered. If even the slightest hint of their flesh is revealed, they are transformed in deadly, merciless Shades who will claim victims at any cost. So when Odessa faces a devastating loss and an increase in Shades in Karthia, it becomes evident that someone is purposely creating Shades and utilizing them in attacks. But what will happen when she finds herself at the heart of the mystery questioning her very own magic and the entire profession of necromancy, the only life she has known and trained for?
“Today, for the second time in my life, I killed King Wylding. Killing’s the easy part of the job, though. He never even bleeds when a sword runs through him. It’s what comes after that gets messy.”
What I appreciated..
- World building! While somewhat confined in size, it feels complete and complex with the addition of the Deadlands. But the best part it that Karthia is very unique in the regards to appearing totally open and tolerant in terms of sexuality. This was a refreshing change of pace and key for allowing the diverse cast to unfold in a completely natural manner. Speaking of..
- That diverse cast ❤ I love how we are given necromancers, the Dead, royalty, and a bisexual protagonist accompanied by a wonderful ensemble of characters that vary in race and sexuality. Also, I should mention that Odessa is brilliantly human and deeply flawed.
- This is YA Fantasy that tackles themes of addiction and loss and I am thankful for that. While loss may be a more common theme in YA Fantasy, addiction is one I have rarely encountered. Here the author has chosen to do so and I personally applaud this decision because it is a relevant issue in the life of young adults.
- The magic system and approach to necromancing felt original and intriguing. I really do not want to spoil it all, but the author’s approach to Shades and incorporation of eye color into magical abilities felt new & unique.
- Alex McKenna’s audiobook narration was on par for me. The somewhat raspy and melancholic tone played well into the image of Odessa I felt the author was creating.
“Those finished with life crave it less over time.”
Challenges some may encounter..
- The story deals heavily with themes of substance abuse and death & grieving.
- I did find the ending to be predictable a little earlier than I would have generally preferred, but still thoroughly enjoyed it.
Reign of the Fallen is an incredibly unique and complex YA Fantasy in the fact that it delivers anything but the expected. You may go in anticipating an action-packed tale of the undead but will likely walk away with something greater. It is ultimately a tale of love and loss, of battling demons and finding strength and family in the most unlikely places. And for all of those reasons, it holds a new spot among my favorites.
I enjoyed this with a wide variety of blends, as I feel you should too 😉
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