Review of ‘Reign of the Fallen’ (Reign of the Fallen #1)

By Cynthia Ayala

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Image Credit: Goodreads

“Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it is Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. However, 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?” —Goodreads

Published January 23, 2018, by Razorbill Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh is the first in a new series with fantasy, representation, and a dash of zombie horror.

A fascinating novel with a beautiful cover that suffers just a bit of hiccups in the storytelling. What’s tenacious about the novel is the execution of the zombie-like royalty. There’s a caste system here where royalty refuses to die, allowing themselves to be brought back to life to continue ruling, keeping society somewhat stagnant. They are zombies in the sense that humanity cannot look upon them or else they turn into the very zombies commonly found in literature. It is a unique approach to telling a horror story while also not saying the z-word. It shows the reader what the creatures are through action and interaction rather than telling the reader what the shades are. Now while there are points in the story where the author does show instead of tell, but those instances are used for world building very early on in the novel to explain Odessa’s purpose and the hierarchy before it focuses on building the novel through action and the like.

What’s excellent about Odessa is her personality. When the novel opens she is this acclaimed necromancer, brightest and youngest of her age, so there is the sense that she is going to be this strong character with limited flaws. However, once she suffers a tragic loss, her foundation breaks, revealing a very human and flawed character. She loses herself to her overwhelming sense of sadness and heartbreak becoming disastrous to herself and those around her. She is suffering, and it is her suffering that makes her so relatable as a character. She is a thoughtful character, a character that expands beyond her limits, her prowess. She is ultimately flawed and trying to find herself in this world that is rapidly changing around her.

As good as the story is, it is not without flaws. There’s some scene structure that needs work because as the story moves forward, many elements blend the scenes ultimately working against the pace of the novel. It is a little disorienting because it does not root the character in the sequence. The reader quickly forgets the purpose of the scene is as they try to remember where to place the character. Moreover, as far as representation for the LGBTQ community goes, the romance in the novel does a disservice to that community. It is great that the main character is bisexual and finds a female love interest, but what hurts this budding relationship is the constant allusion to Odessa’s previous partner, who just so happens to be the brother of her new love interest. There are so many instances where Odessa is drawing so many commonalities between the two that it takes away from the relationship. There are times where the reader has to ask the question “is she falling in love with her because she reminds her of him?” and that’s not a question the reader should think about. It would have been better if the author had not laid out all the resemblances between the two, the romance and relationship would have been built stronger otherwise.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting novel. (★★★☆☆ | C+)

Product Details:

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

Page count: 384pp

Age Range: 12 & Over

ISBN: 978-0-4484-9439-5

Publisher: Razorbill

List Price:  $17.99

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