Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh (Audiobook Review)

Reign of the FallenReign of the Fallen (Reign of the Fallen #1)
By Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publisher: Listening Library
Narrator: Alex McKenna
Unabridged: 12 Hrs 52 Min.
ISBN: 9780525531692
Genre: YA Fantasy/LGBTQ+

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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…


My Thoughts

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.

The skinny.. 

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.

tea cup

I enjoyed this with a wide variety of blends, as I feel you should too 😉

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com  Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

to_kill_a_kingdomTo Kill a Kingdom
By Alexandra Christo
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Kindle ASIN: B074T2H1SH
Pages: 346
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Retelling

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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most–a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen and or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby–it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good–But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


My Thoughts

Can I be frank for a moment? I loved this book with all of my bookish heart. I am going to sing its praise like the song of the sirens and encourage all of you to pick it up if you are a fan of retellings.  I devoured it! Holding the strongest affection for fairy tales and deep-sea settings with plots that revolve around mermaids and sirens, I felt as if To Kill a Kingdom were written for me. Of course, it wasn’t, but we paired beautifully.

The skinny..

Princess Lira is a fierce and revered siren. She also happens to be the daughter of the Sea Witch Queen and heir to the throne. Known as the Prince’s Bane for collecting the hearts of princes (17, one for every year she has lived) she is the deadliest. But when she breaks that tradition by bringing back her 18th heart early, she is punished by the Queen and transformed into the very creature they abhor, a human. Now she has until the Winter Solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart or remain a human and lost to her home forever.

Prince Elian, also heir to the throne of his kingdom Midas, knows no other true home than his ship and crew. He sails the seas in search of sirens, seeking to destroy each and every last one in an effort to put an end to the Prince’s Bane and many deaths that occur at their hands. When he rescues a strange woman from the sea who happens to speak the language of the sirens and promises to help him in his quest, he is unsure to as whether he can trust her. But can he risk missing the opportunity to end the mankind’s greatest threat in the sea?

“I’ve spent my life trying to be just what my mother wanted—the worst of us all—in an effort to show that I’m worthy of the trident. I became the Princes’ Bane, a title that defines me throughout the world. For the kingdom—for my mother—I am ruthless.”

What I appreciated..

  • I feel like I could just keep this simple and say EVERYTHING!
  • Lira is a cruel and fierce and completely unapologetic. She goes against the YA grain in terms of protagonist offering something new and refreshing that borders antagonist but never quite reaches that point. I savored every moment of her opposition and cunningness.
  • Prince Elian is admirable, exhibiting an ardent loyalty to his crew and life at the sea while maintaining great respect and love for his own family and the life he does not feel he belongs with. But he is not the perfect gentleman always, as he is a pirate at heart which is often exhibited through a tough exterior and often hard-edged attitude.
  • The world building is established through rich exploration of history and lore that provides a vivid portrayal of life both on land and off. Sirens and mermaids are clearly defined as two separate and hauntingly mesmerizing species that I could not get enough of.
  • Told through alternating perspectives, the writing is seamless and captivating, offering an original take on the familiar while avoiding the typical insta-love trope (thank you for this Alexandra Christo!)

“In the pits of our souls – if I amuse myself with the notion that I have a soul – Elian and I aren’t so different. Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.” 

Challenges some may encounter..

  • There are times the pacing slows down briefly, but chapters are succinct and it recovers easily.
  • There is some violence and graphic content.

To Kill a Kingdom is a stunning reimagination of a classic tale that rewards readers with something original. It’s quick, clever and brimming with enchantment and action! It will find an appreciated home among the shelves of YA Fantasy fans who enjoy a dark and savory retelling and leave them craving more.

tea cup

Serves well with a dark, spiced plum tea.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com  Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer

winter_glassWinter Glass (Spindle Fire #2)
By Lexa Hillyer
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN: 9780062440907
Pages: 352
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling

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A curse comes undone. A kingdom shatters. But some bonds can’t be broken.

Princess Aurora, torn from the dream world, plots to assassinate the faerie queen Malfleur, only to confront temptations she never expected. Isabelle, meanwhile, opens her heart to Prince William as they attempt to unite their kingdoms and wage war against Malfleur’s army. But when the appearance of an unbreakable glass slipper prompts Isabelle to discover more about her lineage, her true identity begins to take shape and her legacy becomes as clear as ice.

Devoted half-sisters Isabelle and Aurora will grapple with their understanding of love and loyalty as they face a threat even greater than that of the evil queen—the threat of losing each other forever.


My Thoughts

Spindle Fire was a success for me in terms of YA Fantasy & Retellings. I savored every moment of the dark and atmospheric dream world Hillyer had so poetically crafted. I was also a fan of incorporating to sisters and more complex relationships into a reimagined story of Sleeping Beauty. Winter Glass seamlessly picks up where its predecessor concluded and expands on it adding significant depth to Isbe’s and Aurora’s journey.

The skinny.. 

Driven from the dreamworld Sommeil and from Heath, Aurora vows vengeance and seeks to destroy Malfleur once and for all. But in doing so, she will face greater temptations than she has ever known. During Aurora’s efforts to assassinate the faerie queen, Isbe sets out with Prince William in an attempt to unite the kingdom against Malfleur and her armies. However, when Isbe is given a mysteriously indestructible glass slipper, she embarks on a quest that will reveal the truth of her own past and legacy. Now as both girls seek to make sense of it all and save the kingdom, they face their greatest fear, potentially losing one another.

“Sleep is a vast and dreamless dark. But then: tiny lights, like seeds, shower across a corner of the black. Something has snagged its claws in the soft flesh of night.”

What I appreciated..

  • The author’s poetry skills lend a lyrical and melodic prose to her work that adds a dreamlike quality to the story and heightens the “fairy tale” experience.
  • While it is more action driven, we are given a storyline that continues to successfully develop and grow Aurora and Isbe not only as individuals but as half sisters, exploring the complexities and challenges that arises from their love, loyalties, and differences.
  • A female-driven plotline that examines the strengths and weakness of the protagonists through a multifaceted lens.
  • Hillyer’s world building surrenders the reader to the Kingdom of Deluce and beyond, transporting them into an atmospheric and fully engaging experience.
  • Winter Glass is a melting pot of fantasy offering mystery, action, romance, magic, and the traditional good vs evil with stunning finesse and grace.
  •  It builds on its elegant predecessor and beautifully enhances it, offering something richer and new for fans while retaining the beloved and familiar elements of Spindle Fire.

“One night reviled, before break of morn… the shadow and the child were born.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • Does leaving Sommeil behind count? Because I did miss it.
  • Trying to avoid spoilers but maybe shifting love interests will be a problem for some. I will add though that I am on the fence with this as I favored the change but maybe not how it happened (hard to discuss without divulging important details). Just be warned, if you are a “shipper” you are in for some ups and downs!
  • The pacing slows down at times, but that’s okay. Go with it and savor it, my friends.

Winter Glass is remarkable journey woven between dreams and reality. It paints an imaginative and poetic picture of a timeless tale in new light, creating something unique and rewarding for fans of retellings and fairy tales. Grab a warm cup and allow yourself to be immersed.

tea cup

Serves well with a nice cup of herbal mint tea.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com  Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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