Without the dead, she'd be no one.
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 soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees?
Fighting alongside her fellow mages--and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating--Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.
Perfect for fans of Three Dark Crowns and Red Queen, Reign of the Fallen is a gutsy, unpredictable read with a surprising and breathtaking LGBT romance at its core.
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2018 Sarah Glenn Marsh
REIGN OF THE FALLEN
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.
When Evander and I finally stride through the wide palace doors, shouldering the burden of the king’s corpse between us, the sun is a gash on the horizon. It stains the jagged clouds, the palace’s marble walls, and every blade of grass with red as we trudge downhill toward the sea. King Wylding always likes a sea view when we necromancers bring him back to life.
I wonder how much of the rolling waves he can even glimpse through his mask and death shroud, but maybe it’s the sound of the crashing surf or the smell of the salt air he craves. Either way, I don’t question the man. And not just because he’s been ruling Karthia for two whole centuries. I can’t stand the rasp of his voice, dry as the wind rattling bare branches.
“Here we are.” Evander sets the king’s feet down before stretching to his full height. He reminds me of a crow in his fitted black necromancer’s clothes and long dark cloak, which covers his gloriously broad shoulders and the hard lines of muscle in his arms as he makes a sweeping gesture. “The best view in Grenwyr Province, Majesty.” His lips twitch as he catches my eye roll. “What?”
I grin and ease His Majesty’s head onto a bed of grass. Evander knows as well as I do that the king can’t hear us. Not yet. I just hope his spirit hasn’t gone too deep into the Deadlands, the spirits’ world.
I glance back toward the palace on the hill, but the path there is empty. None of the royal residents—living or Dead—have yet emerged. And we can’t raise the king, or anyone else, without one of their kin.
“I don’t remember a Wylding heir ever being late for a raising,” I say. “Even the nervous ones show up on time. Think something’s wrong?”
“I’m not worried.” Evander winks, then scans the overgrown field at our backs. Slipping an arm around my waist, he draws me against his side. “If you’re interested, I know a way to make the wait fly by, my lady—I mean, Master Odessa.”
I cringe and shove him away as irritation flutters in my chest. He’s been relentless with using our titles since we woke up today. “How many times do I have to punch you before you’ll stop calling me ‘Master’?”
“I’m sorry,” he says, a shiver of amusement in his voice. “Forgive me, Sparrow.” He presses a light kiss to my forehead, brushing his fingers over each of the birds tattooed above my elbows.
I meet his eyes. Then his lips. The heat of our kiss is almost enough to make me forget the dead king at our feet, who looks like someone’s lost, forgotten shadow in his dark shroud.
“I’m just proud of you,” he amends against my mouth. “Of us. We might be Grenwyr’s newest necromancers, but we’re definitely the best-looking.” He twines his ivory fingers through my brown ones. I’ve always loved the way they looked together, a tangle of dark and light. I shoot him a look that demands seriousness, and when he speaks again, all traces of merriment have fled. “We’re finally mages, Sparrow. That’s more than most people can say. We should shout it to all of Karthia!”
He’s right, of course. We’ve been training for this since I was a ten-year-old pest, and he, twelve. This job is all I’ve ever wanted—at least, it was all I wanted until two years ago, when Evander and I first kissed at the Festival of the Face of Cloud. If only being with him were as simple as moving between our world and the Deadlands.
“Careful,” I warn, only half joking. “Doesn’t your mother forbid such talk?”
Evander rests a hand on my back and gives me the look he’s perfected over time, the one that always wins me over, where his midnight-blue eyes soften like he’s letting me see inside him. All necromancers have blue eyes, but I’d never seen a hue that dark until I met Evander.
He drops his voice to a whisper, the kind that makes things clench low in my stomach. “Since when do you care about what’s forbidden by anyone?”
“Ha,” I say weakly, remembering a supper just a few nights ago when Evander’s mother spoke of her hopes for her only son to marry above his station. A countess, a duchess, someone with a fortune. But really, I think any girl would do—a baroness, or per-haps even a royal chambermaid—as long as she’s not a necromancer. Unlike the rest of Karthia, I think she’d rather die than allow another necromancer into her family, especially after she’s fought so hard against Evander’s chosen career these past seven years.
If it weren’t for the fact that we need his mother’s blessing for any Karthian priest to marry us, Evander and I would be wearing each other’s rings by now.
Pushing Baroness Crowther to the blackest corners of my mind, I run a hand through Evander’s close-cropped dark hair, making him smile. I won’t let her ruin a moment that she’s not part of. I kiss him breathless, filled with a longing and a recklessness that seem to be growing stronger every time we’re together.
A faint noise jolts us apart.
There’s no telling how long we’ve been standing here entwined, except that the sky is pure lavender now—but then, time always seems fluid when we’re together like this, as strange and unpredictable as the way hours pass in the Deadlands.
“Stop, Van,” I murmur, forcing the word out as cold grips me from head to toe. High on the palace ramparts, a black-shrouded figure turns to face us. My face warms, banishing some of the cold. “They’re finally here.”
Evander’s cheek presses against mine, scratching me with the stubble on his jaw. “Another day, another raising.” He keeps his voice low as he watches the distant figures.
Another shadow flits onto the ramparts, then another. I count perhaps twenty masked and shrouded nobles, all impossible to tell apart by height alone. Dead princes and princesses, deceased dukes and their wives, and of course, Her Majesty. All brought back by necromancers so that those who know Karthia best can continue to run it the way they always have, each one wearing a dark shroud for the protection of living and Dead alike. If a living person were to see even a sliver of a Dead one’s flesh, the Dead person would become a Shade—a monster notoriously difficult to kill.
“Wonder who’s making the sacrifice this time,” Evander mutters, shaking me from my thoughts. “Remember Prince Myk?”
I wrinkle my nose, tearing my gaze away from the Dead royals to look at him. “The one who started crying before we’d even reached the gate?”
Evander’s roguish grin returns. “Indeed. You’d think that for all the time they spend around the Dead, the Wylding descendants would be a little . . .”
“Braver?” I supply, narrowing my eyes at the palace’s wrought- iron gates. They slowly swing open to reveal a girl almost as tall as me, dressed in flowing red silk. A golden diadem set with a single teardrop-shaped opal rests at the peak of her forehead, flashing in the low light, marking her status as one of the king’s living heirs. As she strides toward us, the wind lifts her long blond hair behind her like a banner.
“I hope you’ve got a handkerchief ready,” I whisper to Evander. But as the princess glides nearer and I meet her brown eyes, bright with determination, I doubt we’ll be reliving the crying prince incident today.
“You must forgive my lateness,” she gushes as she reaches us. Even when standing still, she has an air of constant motion that makes me dizzy. “I was working. I’m afraid I lost track of the time.”
Evander and I exchange a look. Since when do any of the palace’s living occupants apologize for anything? For that matter, when do any of them work? All they do is sit around eating fancy cheeses and planning parties and art festivals. Maybe that’s what royalty calls “work,” though.
Up close, the ashen pallor of her skin and the smudges beneath her eyes are unmissable. Twin red lines on her cheeks suggest she wears glasses, but she seems to have forgotten them in her rush to meet us. Stranger still, she’s paler than Evander, and that’s saying something. Either she’s sick, or she doesn’t spend much time outside.
“It’s no trouble at all, Highness,” Evander assures her, smiling politely. With a glance at the shadowy figures watching from the palace walls in the distance, he gives the princess a deep bow. “I’m—”
“Evander Crowther. And this is your partner, Odessa of Grenwyr,” the princess chimes in, smiling as though pleased with herself. “I’ve heard all about you from my brother.”
“We’ll be helping you raise the king tonight,” Evander continues, sounding slightly amused. “Or rather, you’ll be helping us.”
The princess nods in answer, watching me with a keen gaze as I roll up my sleeves. She’s probably waiting for me to greet her properly, too.
I make a much quicker version of Evander’s bow, mostly because I can get away with it. Everyone expects fine manners from Baron Crowther’s only son, but from an orphan dumped in a convent’s garden, they’re usually amazed I don’t eat with my hands.
“Remind me of your name,” I say as I straighten. I’ve seen the princess around, of course, but she makes herself scarce enough that we’ve never been properly introduced. She’s the oldest living princess at the palace, one of two, and while it’s on the tip of my tongue—Vala? Vandra?—I can’t dredge it up just now.
She rubs her temples, gazing out over the water like she didn’t hear me. “Oh!” she says at last, turning back to us and blinking. “I’m Princess Valoria Juline Wylding. It’s an honor to meet you, both of you.”
I steal a quick look at Evander, who seems to be thinking along the same lines as I am: We shouldn’t take this dreamy-eyed girl to the perilous Deadlands.
“Highness?” Evander clears his throat. “Are you sure you’re feeling up to this? I could run to the palace and fetch someone to take your place. It’d be no trouble. You look—”
“Dead on your feet,” I finish for him, grinning at Princess Valoria while Evander groans at my joke. “Here.” I fish a few of my beloved coffee beans from my pocket and offer them to her. “Eat these. They should wake you up.”
“Don’t touch them!” Evander says sharply as the princess reaches out a hand. She hesitates, and Evander blinks at me in disbelief. “I mean, she could be allergic,” he says, a telltale flush creeping up his neck as he tries to avoid the princess’s questioning glance. “What were you thinking?”
“I’m thinking anyone who’s going into the Deadlands for the first time needs their wits about them,” I say firmly. But Evander’s just worried the princess will tell her however-many-times-great- grandfather the king that I offered her illegally imported goods. Evander’s trying to protect me, because he must not see what I do in Princess Valoria’s keen eyes.
“What are they?” Princess Valoria closes her pale hand over the coffee beans, surprising me with callused fingers that scrape my skin as she pulls away. She brings the beans to her nose and inhales. “They don’t smell poisonous.” For the first time, she smiles. “I’ll try anything to help me stay awake while I finish my project.”
“Project?” I kneel beside the king’s shrouded body and tie back my wavy dark brown hair, ready to get to work—and not the party-planning kind.
Evander relaxes his shoulders, seeming to realize that the princess isn’t about to run screaming to her kin over my dirty little coffee habit.
“An invention. I’ve been tinkering with it all summer. I’m so close to finishing that I’ve not been sleeping much. I’m hoping . . .” Princess Valoria pauses, popping a coffee bean into her mouth and crunching it. She makes a face at the bitterness. “I’m hoping Eldest Grandfather comes back to us in good spirits. I thought if I went to the Deadlands to fetch him this time, he might be grateful enough to let me share this one with the people of Karthia.”
Evander glances up midway through crouching beside me to help prepare the king’s body and almost topples onto the dead man. He falls to the side at the last moment, knocking the king’s left arm askew. “You’re an inventor?” he growls, brushing off bits of grass. “I never thought I’d see one in the flesh. I mean, I heard a story about a man who invented a new recipe for a duke once. It didn’t end well, though . . .”
As we learn from birth, the slightest change from the old ways is forbidden in Karthia. No leaving the country. No new recipes, no new forms of art, no new fashions, and especially no inventions. “Progress,” the king always says when he gives his twice-yearly public address, “is a slow-acting poison that will ensure Karthia’s eventual death.”
Princess Valoria’s expression is defiant. “He’s not happy about it.” She points to the king, but doesn’t look at him. “But so long as I hide everything in my room and don’t show anyone, he doesn’t complain about it anymore. Not much, anyway.” She glances away, toward the sea again. “I spend most of my time alone, working.”
Now I know why I’ve never seen her at parties. Pity. I have the feeling her stubborn streak matches mine. We could have fun together.
“I thought you might understand,” she adds, nodding to the contraband coffee beans tucked in my pocket, “as you don’t seem to mind bending rules.”
“You could say that.” I break the stare, fiddling with the double-sapphire pin on my tunic. The pin is a gift given to every mage when they become a master, the gems representing our blue eyes that mark us as necromancers. Mine is still new enough that it feels oddly heavy at times. “Now let’s get this over with so you can return to your inventing, Highness.”
I pull up the hem of my long shirt and study the three glass vials on my necromancer’s belt. Milk. Honey. Blood. All three are full, two of them waiting to be called upon once we’ve traveled through one of the Deadlands’ constantly roaming gates.
But first, as always, comes the milk.
It gives strength to dead flesh, making it easier for a spirit to slip back into its shell. As I pour my vial of milk over the king’s body, the princess’s hushed voice rings in my ear. “He hates waking up all damp and sticky.”
“Well, then it’s a bad day to be him,” I mutter, stashing away the empty vial.
“What’s the honey for?” Princess Valoria’s coffee breath washes over me as she peers over my shoulder to study my belt.
I arch a brow at her. Most of the royal family members know all about raising the dead, especially since we necromancers live among them, and because so many of them are Dead themselves. But Valoria clearly keeps to herself more than most.
“The honey’s for us. So we aren’t tempted to eat anything in the Deadlands. Do that, and you’ll be trapped there forever.” Seeing the next question forming on her lips, I hurry to add, “The blood is for His Majesty’s spirit, when we find him. The spirits all crave it. It reminds them of the life they had and makes it easier to guide them back to their bodies.”
Beside me, Evander works quietly to make sure the king is completely covered by his shroud. One small slip once he wakes, one roaming pair of living eyes, and we’d have a Shade on our hands. And I really don’t feel like fighting a monster tonight. There are enough of them lurking in the Deadlands without adding one more.
“We won’t have far to walk, at least.” Evander points west, toward the sea.
There, suspended in the air above a not-too-distant rocky tree- strewn cliff, a round blue gate shimmers as clearly as the moon and stars. The gates are easiest to spot at dusk. At least, for anyone with blue eyes. To everyone else, they’re forever invisible, and my stomach clenches as I imagine what walking through this particular gate will look like for Princess Valoria.
Like leaping into the far-below sea.
“What do you see over there?” the princess demands.
“The way forward,” I answer, and her eyes widen. Sometimes I wish I’d been born with brown eyes like hers, so my Sight would show me how the parts of something worked together. I could’ve been a potioneer then, and worked in an apothecary like an ordinary Karthian. Of course, if King Wylding didn’t forbid change, I bet brown-eyed citizens would be anything but ordinary—putting their talents to work at new ideas.
Standing and stuffing a few coffee beans in my mouth, I offer a hand to Princess Valoria. “Hold tight. If we get separated, you’re doomed.”
The princess nods, but her face is pinched like she’s about to vomit.
“Relax.” I squeeze her hand. “We’ll be in and out of there in no time. You’ll see.”
The princess takes a shaky breath. “You can’t promise that.”
“Of course I can.” Grinning, I point out one of the birds etched in indigo on my arm.
“Forgive me.” Valoria rubs her eyes and blinks. “Of course I have absolute faith in you—you’re the Sparrow!”
My grin widens. “The one and only.” I got the nickname because I’m the best guide through the ever-shifting Deadlands. It’s good to know my reputation is alive and well. “Now let’s grab the king before he wanders somewhere we won’t want to follow.”
We begin the march toward the cliff nearest the gate, leaving the king’s body in the grass to await our return. Evander leads the way. Normally, I’d enjoy the view of his tight backside as he strides toward our destination, but the princess’s fingers are so icy in mine that I can think of nothing but her dread.
“Did your family explain the price of walking into the Deadlands, Highness?” I whisper. I still don’t like how pale she is. Or, I realize for the first time, how young. She can’t be quite as old as my seventeen years.
“Fertility,” she whispers back.
I nod. Entering the realm of death demands life, at least for those without blue eyes. Necromancers like Evander and me can walk through the Deadlands without a cost, but not many realize the price we must pay later. When we die, our spirits never reach the Deadlands. We can raise the dead time and again, but no one will be able to give us a second chance at life.
Valoria squeezes my hand tighter. “Will it hurt? Losing my—ah—?” She looks queasier than ever, pressing her free hand against her stomach.
I hold back a smile with practiced ease. Our clients always ask that. “No. And fertility means a lot of things to Death, Highness.”
The princess smiles. “Call me Valoria, if you please.”
Clearing my throat, I continue, “Death’s touch might mean you won’t bear children. Or it might mean that any seed planted by your hand will never grow. Or that blight will strike your fields. Or you might never be able to heal from sickness, or wounds.”
“I see.” Valoria’s voice grows smaller as we near the cliff, where it was deemed too jagged and steep to build any houses. Dotted with stubborn, twisted cypress trees, the layers of weathered white and gray rock plunge sharply into the deep blue waters below. Valoria looks between me and Evander, pressing her chapped lips together. “So what now? We just . . . fling ourselves into the ocean and wake up in the Deadlands?”
Evander opens his mouth to answer, but the princess squares her shoulders and raises her chin as the wind whips her blond hair across her eyes. “Whatever happens, I’m not afraid.”
I grip her cold hand a little more carefully. I’m starting to like Princess Valoria a lot more than most of the royals I’ve danced with at the palace. Maybe I’ll convince her to come to a party someday. Just a short walk away from the edge of the cliff, which juts out from the others around it, Evander begins explaining to Valoria how we’ll get through a gate she can’t see.
As his voice washes over me, I tip my head back for a final glimpse of the stars, so numerous tonight that they glisten like diamond powder blown across a cloak of darkest velvet. Lowering my gaze, I take in the houses studding the other seaside cliffs, with their warm stone walls and jewel-bright roofs and gardens of olive and lemon trees. And on the second highest hill in Grenwyr, overlooking all that beauty, the distant palace. I open my mouth, sipping salt air and savoring the taste like I always do before entering the Deadlands. Just in case I don’t return.
After a moment, I close my eyes to focus on the cries of the gulls. But a low groan coming from the gate at the cliff ’s edge, followed by a thump, interrupts their chatter.
At almost the same time, Evander shouts, a sound that clutches at my heart. My eyes snap open. As we draw our swords, my mind struggles to make sense of the grisly sight just in front of the glowing blue gate, separated from us by a distance of a hundred feet or less.
Valoria clings to my arm as a misshapen figure fresh from the Deadlands struggles to push itself upright, clearly having fallen out of the gate. Swallowing hard, I force myself to focus on any details that might point to the identity of the unfortunate mess of blood and mangled flesh as it crawls toward us.
There’s a tattered necromancer’s black uniform hanging in strips over a shattered leg. A hand clutching at a spill of guts. A bald head crowned with crimson. A torn and gushing throat. And just about the only part of him still wholly intact, a single bright- blue eye.
A familiar eye. One that looked into mine mere nights ago, full of warmth and understanding—orphan to orphan—as I accepted my master necromancer’s pin.
“Master Nicanor!” As his name tears from Evander’s lips, the horror of this reality hits me in a dizzying rush.
“What happened?” I cry, my heart beating an erratic melody against my ribs. “Where’s Master Cymbre?” Nicanor shouldn’t have been in the Deadlands without his partner. It’s against the rules.
I want to run to the edge of the cliff, to close the distance between us and be with him in his final moments. But like Evander and Valoria, I’m frozen in my tracks by a mixture of fear and revulsion as the battered and bloody figure crawls toward us with pains- taking slowness, an arm outstretched.
This can’t be happening. Not tonight. Not ever. Not to someone as good and wise as Master Nicanor. I wish I could tell myself I’m dreaming, but Valoria’s screams assure me I’m painfully awake.
Nicanor opens his mouth. I tense, ready to hear the name of his attacker, but the raw, guttural sound that emerges is less than human.
Not halfway between the gate and where we stand, his broken body cradled by the roots of an old cypress, he collapses and gasps out his last breath.
I close my eyes, drowning out the horrible scene before me, and allow my mind to carry me back to the beach below these very cliffs, where Evander and I stood with Master Nicanor only a week ago.
There was a bonfire that night, stretching toward the indigo sky, calling for dancing and the kind of celebration we Karthians love best: one that rages late into the night, long after the moon and stars have gone to bed.
And though there were only four of us gathered on the beach on that sweltering summer’s night, we ate and drank enough for a crowd. “More elderflower wine, anyone?” Master Cymbre asked, holding up a blue glass bottle and glancing at each of us in turn. The firelight melted years off our teacher’s face, and I had a sudden urge to throw my arms around her waist and hold on the way I did when I was ten. The year she took me in and began my training.
“I think it’s time we present your students with their pins, Cymbre.” Master Nicanor, her partner, drew out her name with the lyrical accent of a southern province. Sim-bree. He rose, the flames glinting off his bald head, and held up a velvet pouch.
The sight of that little bag made my breath hitch in my throat.
Cymbre leapt to her feet, accidentally whipping Master Nicanor in the face with one of her long cinnamon braids. I disguised my snort of laughter as a cough while Nicanor rubbed his cheek. In my seven years of training at Cymbre’s side, watching her every move as she worked with her partner, I’d seen this happen more than once.
“Ready?” Master Cymbre’s steel-blue eyes sought mine.
Squaring my shoulders, I nodded. She knew as well as I did that I’d been ready from almost the moment I began shadowing her steps seven years ago.
Cymbre then turned to Evander. He grinned at her as he dug his toes into the sand, restless, more than ready for this next big adventure.
Clearing her throat, Cymbre intoned in a solemn voice far from her usual drawl, “Odessa of Grenwyr. Evander Crowther. Please rise.” Evander winked and grabbed my hands, and we supported each other in standing as Cymbre continued, “The pins you are about to receive will signify your status as master necromancers to all of Karthia.”
I raised my chin a fraction as my teacher—my former teacher now—stepped forward to fasten a gleaming gold and sapphire pin to my crisp new necromancer’s tunic.
“Wear it with honor,” Master Nicanor murmured, though there was no need for such formality.
There were no spectators that night, after all. The pin ceremony called for at least one member of a mage’s family to bear witness, but Evander’s mother—the only family either of us had—refused to come. Ignoring the ceremony was her way of protesting that Evander and I had chosen this path when she was dead set against it.
I wondered if she knew how much it wounded him, or if she was too oblivious to see through the mask of pleasantries he put on for her. After all, she couldn’t see how Evander felt about me.
At least we had Master Nicanor, ready in a pinch to be our fill-in family for the ceremony.
“Nervous about next week’s raising?” he asked me as Cymbre turned to fasten Evander’s pin. My teacher’s partner was so tall, he had to bend his knees to converse with most people. “King Wylding requested you specifically,” Nicanor said quietly. “Requested the Sparrow,” he corrected himself, smiling at my nickname.
“You know I don’t get nervous. It’s just . . .” I toyed with the twin eye-shaped sapphires on my new pin. None of the other mages I knew had ever bothered to tell me how heavy the little pin felt as it rested against their hearts. “Without this pin . . . without this title, I’m just . . .”
“Just an orphan?”
Startled by his understanding, I blinked up at Master Nicanor. His bright-blue eyes turned dark like the depths of the sea, unread- able for a moment.
“How did you know—?”
“Before I was Master Nicanor, I was just Nicanor of Dargany Province.” He smiled, and my heart skipped as understanding passed between us, orphan to orphan. I’d never thought to ask about his life before coming to Grenwyr City, and he’d never offered to share. “When I was a trainee, earning that title was everything. I thought that without it, I’d be just another poor boy condemned to a life in the Ashes. Insignificant.”
Unable to speak around a lump in my throat, I nodded and glanced at Evander, who tossed me a wink as Cymbre admired his new pin in the firelight. Without his title, he would still be nobility. Still be someone’s son. Still be a brother. A mapmaker. An adventurer. Without my title, I’d be just a poor girl lucky enough to have been raised by the Sisters of Death. I’d be nothing more than a charity case.
I clutched my new pin, the cold metal digging into my sweaty palm.
This is a job to Evander, and one he loves, but to me, it’s everything.
“I won’t pretend it’s not a daunting task, living up to the title of master,” Nicanor continued, cutting into my thoughts. “Counting you and Evander, there are only a handful of us in Grenwyr Province. But you’re more than just a necromancer. More than an orphan.”
He turned, as if he meant to walk down to the shoreline, but I grabbed his wrist. I’d seen him and Cymbre at work for years. He had two trainees of his own, my friends, and we all agreed he was the wise man to Master Cymbre’s warrior.
“What am I, then?” I demanded.
Nicanor shook his head, a smile lingering at the corners of his eyes. “That’s for you to decide.” He strode to the water, dipping his toes into the frigid sea foam. A moment later, Cymbre followed with the remnants of the elderflower wine in hand, leaving me alone at the fireside with Evander.
“See that?” I murmured, slipping an arm around his waist and pointing to the two masters by the seaside. “That’s our future.”
Evander’s hand on my shoulder tears me from the peace of the memory, back to a future now forever changed, to a reality where Princess Valoria is on her knees mere paces from the fallen Nicanor, shaking like a leaf in a storm. She’s probably never seen so much blood before.
Nor have I. This goes well beyond a spilled vial from my necromancer’s belt. It seeps into the pale rocks, a gruesome river. Vaguely, Evander’s shouts pierce through the fog in my brain, but the sound is a faint hum compared to the roaring of blood in my ears as I try and fail to rip my gaze away from the crimson ground. “Odessa!” Evander shakes my shoulders, snapping me from my daze.
Hot, nasty bile rises in my throat and forces me to swallow hard or be sick on my boots. My chest heaves with the effort, and Evander puts a steadying hand on my back.
Far up on the high hill at our backs, the palace’s iron gates spring open. Several guards stream down toward us, brandishing spears and blades. “Who’s hurt?” a sharp-eyed woman at the front of the group demands as they finally draw near. She frowns at the sight of Evander’s ashen face and my tear-streaked one. Or perhaps at the princess cowering among rocks and tree roots. “Where’s the attacker? Did you—?”
Her voice dies the instant she spots the body at the base of the tree, and she lowers her weapon. “By Vaia’s grace...” She invokes the name of the Five-Faced God, clutching a tiny pendant of the Face of Death she wears on a silver chain.
“By Vaia’s grace,” another guard echoes.
Murmurs ripple through the guards, but the blade-wielding woman nearest us drowns out the rest as she demands, “Who could do such a thing?”
A Shade, I’m betting. Something with teeth that can tear flesh as easily as a hawk’s wing slices the air.
And as my eyes meet Evander’s, he gives a slight nod, confirming my suspicion. “I saw it,” he mutters hoarsely. “Just a glimpse before it retreated, when Master . . . Nicanor . . .” He falters, and I grab his hand. As I squeeze his cold fingers, he finishes, “When he fell out of the gate. It was the biggest Shade I’ve ever seen.”
Which means it’s been feasting on countless spirits in the Deadlands, growing stronger. It’s a necromancer’s nightmare come to life. Evander and I can perform a raising in no time with me leading the way, but we’ve yet to kill a Shade on our own, and this one has to be powerful if it killed a seasoned necromancer like Nicanor.
The shrouded nobles and several of their living descendants watch from on high, distant black specks hardly discernable from the night sky, as more guards surround us, followed by a hazel-eyed young man in robes. A healer. He rushes to Princess Valoria’s side, breezing past Evander and me like we’re a couple of statues.
“You need something for shock.” He presses a vial of smoking gray liquid into the princess’s hands. He has to hold the vial to her lips in order for her to drink it down, and after a moment’s hesitation, he drags her across the hard ground away from Master Nicanor.
From the body.
Someone’s covered it—or rather, what’s left of it—with a cloak.
“As soon as you drink some of that potion, you’ll need to tell us everything,” a tall guard says, his voice hushed but his tone clipped. I nod. Everything seems to be moving in slow motion, reminding me of the few nights when I’ve had too much wine.
“Here you are.” The healer approaches Evander and me with two more vials of smoking liquid. We accept them with barely uttered thanks, waiting for him to turn away. But he narrows his eyes at us and crosses his arms expectantly.
Sighing, I lift the vial to my lips. Evander does the same. I let the liquid fill my mouth, its taste sour like overripe berries, and pretend to swallow.
The healer gives a satisfied nod, then turns back to Valoria. After exchanging a quick glance, Evander and I cough the potions into our hands, then wipe the remnants on the rocks, where they smolder gently as they seep into the pale earth. We still have a job to do tonight, and we both know how important it is to have our wits about us in the Deadlands, where anything can happen.
Evander wipes his mouth on his sleeve, then starts relating Master Nicanor’s final moments to the guards. There isn’t much to tell, and knowing it won’t be long until we’ll need to head through the gate bathing us in its ethereal light, I hurry to where the princess sits and crouch beside her.
“I’m sorry to say this,” I say in a steady voice, squashing down my own pain for the sake of the younger girl’s shimmering eyes, “but we still have to find King Wylding. I hate to think of how far his spirit’s traveled while we’ve been delayed.”
Valoria takes a deep breath, then pulls back her hair, seemingly trying to steel herself for what’s to come.
“And I hate to think what would happen if the giant Shade in there catches a whiff of us. I don’t feel good about going in there tonight, even with this . . .” Evander murmurs, touching a hand to his sword hilt. “Fire is the only thing that destroys a Shade, but blades can slow them down,” he adds at the princess’s curious look. “I’m no Nicanor, and if even he couldn’t . . .” He lowers his gaze to the ground, blinking hard.
“You’re right,” I say briskly, hoping to cover the cracks in my voice. “There’s a chance we may never return.” I inhale deeply. There’s always that chance, even without a giant Shade skulking around. “Still, it’s our duty to raise the king, and if we die trying to finish what we started . . .” Shrugging helplessly, I add, “But we can’t ask you to risk your life, Valoria. If you’d like to trade places with a relative, if someone’s willing—”
“No. I knew the risks when I signed up for this.” The princess reaches for my hand and pulls herself to her feet with my help.
Keeping hold of me, she looks toward the cliff ’s edge. “Let’s go,” she says, standing taller, her brown eyes hard as stone. Most of the royals would be a blubbering mess by now, but not this one. “We have a job to finish.”
After a final word to the guards, Evander takes my free hand.
It’s just a dead body, I tell myself as I force my legs to move. I’m around them all the time. Why should this one be any different? An image of Nicanor’s smiling eyes flashes to mind, giving me the answer: because they aren’t usually necromancers.
The king’s routine slayings are usually peaceful. We swiftly kill him when he’s showing signs of becoming a Shade, having been in our world too long. Then we fetch his spirit, and soon, he’s able to walk and talk and think as he did in life.
But Nicanor’s one chance at life is over. It makes my chest ache as I think of the breaths he should be drawing at this very moment. Yet, as Valoria said, we have a job to finish. And right now, doing our job seems a lot easier than trying to understand that the man I sat with on the beach last week is in pieces on the ground.
Hand in hand, the three of us stride into the glowing blue light, no one looking back at the body. As we near the edge of the cliff, Valoria closes her eyes and sucks in a breath.
The gate’s chill washes over us, something even the princess can feel. She seems to faint right after making the leap with us, her hand turning limp in mine. Our toes skim the air above the ocean for the briefest moment before we fall onto the hard dirt floor of the tunnel concealed behind the gate.
“I’ll check her pulse,” I whisper as Evander climbs to his feet and draws his sword.
As I press my fingers to the princess’s wrist, feeling for a heartbeat, she shudders and pulls back. “I’m all right. That awful potion’s made my head all fuzzy, though.” She absently rubs her nose, perhaps trying to push up the glasses that normally rest there. “Let’s finish this. I have so much work waiting for me back in my chambers, I’ll be up past sunrise at this rate. Lead the way.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another mediocre read hiding behind a pretty cover. Now that’s not to say that the book wasn’t good, because parts of it were definitely enjoyable. It just suffered from poor pacing and uninteresting side characters. But the world was enthralling, the story was unique, and the concept of the Living Dead is presented in a new way that made me think. This could have been a wonderful book if not for a few execution errors. Odessa is a Necromancer, able to bring the spirits of the dead back to the world of the living, and her skill is unparalleled. But when the Dead are being turned into Shades, rogue spirits intent on death and destruction, all of her skills are put to the test. As a main character, Odessa was interesting enough. She made some questionable decisions throughout the course of the story that made me scratch my head, but overall, she was a strong female lead. I also liked that she is a bi character, but I wish the romance was a bit more fleshed out so I could have been more invested. I did have an issue with the side characters, and I really wish time was taken to get to know them better. Most appeared whenever Odessa needed them, and then they promptly disappeared again. At the end, it was hard to differentiate between them at all, and that’s never a good sign. My main issue with this book is the pacing. The plot was stagnant in the first half of the story, and it was really hard to continue reading when the characters and world-building weren’t up to par with carrying the story themselves. The premise of the story lays out the conflict: “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.” However, this plot point isn’t introduced until almost halfway through the book. Every time Odessa wondered what was going on, I was just twiddling my thumbs waiting for her to figure things out. It was achingly slow. But once this plot was introduced, things ramped up and became much more interesting. I really enjoyed the second half of the story, and I wish that the first half could have been more interesting. I applaud Marsh for creating such a unique concept and world. I’m really hoping we learn more about the magic system and the Deadlands, because what was presented really held my interest. Overall, this was a decent read, and with a sequel having been announced already, my interest is piqued. Let’s see where things go!
This book wasn't what I was expecting it to be - though honestly I knew very little except there were necromancers and the main character was bi - but I loved it. Odessa is messy and complicated and makes poor decisions and all of that made her very real. There's also a fascinating discussion of life and death, love and grief, that I loved seeing. Definitely recommend this one.
This book touches on so many amazing subjects. Necromancer, LGBTQ, Addiction just to name a few. I highly recommend it. Can't wait for the second one.
I loved this book. I was anxiously awaiting it to come out after all the amazing reviews I'd seen for it, so when my pre-order finally arrived I was so excited to dig into it. Sarah Glenn Marsh did such an amazing job of telling this story. I'm usually the person who can often predict the plots, the twists, the turns before I get to them, but I kept finding myself surprised around every corner of this intricate story of Necromancy. I easily fell in love with the world of Karthia and the Magic she created that runs it. I liked the complexity of the characters and the adventurous plot. It's definitely a book I'm recommending to everyone! Never before have the dead seemed more loveable
Just don't bother. All those wonderful premise points that draw you in(Nechromancy, Shade, mythology) play such a small part in this book, it's almost false advertising. And the main character is one of the worst "heroines" I've ever encountered. Turn away now
I definitely enjoyed the second half of this novel more than the first. The first half was a lot of establishing and set up, but not in a particularly active way. We were often told the really exciting bits rather than shown them, even as there were efforts to show them. For instance, we were told the consequences of the dead being exposed to the light the minute we saw them when we would get a more dramatic reveal not much later. And it kind stole the magic of that discovery. I did love the bisexuality of the main character. And even if Odessa kind of annoyed me at times, I respect Marsh for allowing her to work through emotions that are often skipped over. I didn't NEED to like her in those moments.
When I first heard about this book, I thought it was right up my alley. Necromancers? Fantasy? Shades? Sign me up! However, as soon as I started reading this book I knew that maybe it wasn’t going to be the one for me. Going into the first chapter, the writing was okay, nothing fantastic, but not bad either. It was enough to capture my attention and I was interested to learn more about Odessa’s story and the world. I’m not sure if it was because everything was happening to fast or what, but I couldn’t react the way I’m sure the author wanted me to. There was so much grief throughout this book, but I didn’t get to know the characters long enough to feel emotional about it. I was more interested in the thought of Necromancers and Shades and dead kings, but instead it focused more on Odessa and her grief. Which definitely isn’t a bad things, but it focused so much on it, that when things started actually happening in the book, it didn’t seem that great. What should have been an amazing battle, seemed to fall short because the author was so descriptive in how she handled the grief, that when it came to anything else, the writing just fell short for me. If this had been described differently, maybe I would have been more prepared about what to expect and it wouldn’t have been such a big thing. But the way the book is described, you’d expect a more larger focus on the Shades and why they’re appearing, but by the time I got to that part, I was just so tired that it didn’t impact me that way I hoped it would.
Reign of the Fallen was a book that I desperately wanted to love. The cover is stunning, the synopsis sounds amazing! I’d never read a book like this before, and I was super excited about the whole necromancer aspect of the story. I decided to use one of my free audible credits for this book. I started reading and the characters were amazing and the story was pretty fast paced, there was so romance elements to it, but then it all kind of started to go sound. There is a pivotal scene about 1/4th of the way into the book, and after that the whole tone of the book changes. The characters in this book were going to be bada$$ or so I thought. Odessa was my highest hope of all the characters, but she ended up being the one I hated the most. Odessa is the name of a bada$$, and I expected nothing less from her. However, she suffers a terrible loss and just spirals out of control after that. She becomes addicted to this potion and instead of leaning on the plethora of supporting characters (and there are a lot) she continues to drink more and more of this potion, and quickly the main plot of this book becomes about dealing with her addiction… I decided to persevere and trudge onward in my audiobook journey noticing that I keep speeding up the narrator’s voice. Because if she reads fast the book would be over faster… Right…. Each chapter seemed to get more and more convoluted and I couldn’t wait to be done with this book. This book had so much promise and was so interesting with a unique plot but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t get past ALL of the characters and I couldn’t keep them straight. So, to you potential reader I say this… If you have patience and you think it sounds good, give it a go. Otherwise, save yourself the trouble.
I hate to write negative reviews (and I rarely do) but this book just did not do it for me. I could not engage with the story line, I didn't like the protagonist, Odessa, and I just didn't get the point. I did try to stick with this book as I have this weird inner demon that won't let me not finish a book I've purchased but I finally gave up with only a few chapters left. I just didn't care what happened to Odessa or anyone else in the book. Since this was praised to be in the same league as Three Dark Crowns and Red Queen, both of which I loved, I was especially disappointed. But maybe it just wasn't the book for me.
I knew this book was going to be a bit different the moment I turned the first page. Sarah Glenn Marsh thoroughly impressed me with the way she defies almost every YA fantasy trope, and incorporates such unique flavor in her storytelling. This is only my second read of the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if this makes it into my top ten of 2018! Let's cut right to my favorite part of this book—the characters. Reign of the Fallen reads almost like a contemporary, considering how character-driven the story is (don't worry, there are still plenty of creepy undead monsters and sword-fights for all of us fantasy addicts out there). Usually I'm hesitant when it comes to a mix of genres in one book, but Sarah pulls it off excellently. I was able to connect so deeply with all of these characters, every one of them either lit my heart up from the inside, or left me wanting to know so much more. Reign carries that "group dynamic" we all love from Six of Crows or the Lunar Chronicles. Each character has a role to play in the grand scheme of things, and their banter always left a smile on my face! And of course, the romance in this book certainly cannot be underestimated. I went in expecting to read about a sweet, F/F relationship. It's no doubt that I got that, but I also got SO MUCH MORE. It felt like there are approximately a million and one ships in this book that utterly consumed my heart. As soon as I got done flailing about one couple, I'd have more feels thrown in my face from two other characters who I wanted to be together. It was crazy, and so much fun to read about! That said, Ms. Marsh did something with her fantasy world that I can't say I've ever read before: all forms of sexuality, gender, race, and identity are treated equally, without a second thought from the characters. Everything is just accepted. I can't tell you how amazing it was to feel like I was part of a world—even a fantasy one with the Dead roaming about—that's obtained what many of us fight for everyday of our lives. Odessa herself is a character I found to be very relatable. She's scared. And completely unsure of what to do in a world that's changing for the first time in her life. I love a strong female protagonist, but it was also refreshing to read about a girl that doesn't deal with her pain and grief in the most productive way. She's certainly able to fight off monsters and kick some ass, but we also get to see her in her weakest moments, which were some of my favorite. Now that you've heard all about characters, let's talk about the stunning world in which this book takes place! I absolutely loved the magic system the author created. It's incredibly easy to understand and almost intuitive, while still leaving a lot open for exploration. Odessa is a necromancer, one of five powers or gifts that a mage can choose to wield. A person's eye color determines what Sight they have, and each one represents a different Face of the goddess Vaia. I won't spoil too much else, but I found it to be a lot of fun and great for beginner fantasy readers! The plot took a very different path than I expected it to, mainly because a large portion of the book focuses on heavy themes such as grief, addiction, consequences of escaping death, and the importance of change and sacrifice. But nevertheless you will find yourself breathless from the twists and turns this story takes! I can't wait to find out what happens next in Odessa's story!
Going to get this out of the way right now, THIS IS NOT A ZOMBIE BOOK! I was super intrigued about this book when it was first talked about it year, I mean how many books do you see that have a female necromancer as the main character? Odessa is such a wonderful character. She has her faults and doubts despite being such a highly praised master necromancer. I found the idea behind the dead unique, they need to wear shrouds or risk being turned into Shades. Even knowing this, people still choose to have family members brought back from the dead and continue to live with them. Odessa and the other necromancers in the book were all amazing characters, and their relationships were indeed like a large family and you do get to see a bit of their past and how heir bonds were made. The other mages in the book were nice to see also, and how magic is determined was different to see also. I do hope that we get to see more types of mages in the next book. I had a few small issues in the book, but nothing that stopped me from enjoying the story as a whole. The necromancers bring people back from the dead, but nothing has changed, there has been no progress in the city itself. No medical advancements, no new fashions, new music, new foods, etc. Change is not allowed per say as long as the King is in reign. I somewhat understood the reason why, but at the same time I was WHY? Another issue I had which I will be vague about so not to spoil the book, has to do with the Shades themselves, and how key they are in the plot of the book. I have so many questions about them and their interactions with the other necromancers in the book. I am curious to see where the second book takes us.
First things first.... I have to admit I wanted to read this so bad because of the beautiful cover. But then I read the synopsis and found out what would be on the inside, I really wanted it. This book has been on my TBR for a while, so it's no surprise that I got to it as soon as I could. In this world, the Dead never really die if they choose not to. They are covered with a shroud to be raised by the Necromancer before they can become a monster that no one likes, a Shade. But suddenly, to say no one likes them, there is an abundance of Shades attacking Karthia. Odessa must find out what's happening and save Karthia before it's too late. I really loved Odessa. I loved her kick ass attitude and how she was able to meet everything head on. She made it through some of the toughest times and I thought it made her into a stronger heroine. I also really loved the supporting characters and all they brought to the story. It made it into a better story because of them. Especially Meredy and her "pet." I loved them and I am already thinking about what animal I would use if I had that power. What I didn't care for about this book was the plot. My goodness the very first chapter of this book had me hooked. And then nothing happened until the climax at the end. The middle was literally her getting over something. (You'll understand when you read it.) I do think that part of the book was needed, however I don't feel it needed that much time spent on it. I also thought the plot was entirely too predictable. I literally called every plot twist with the exception of one. Maybe it's just me, I read alot, so I know where I would put these twists, but I was hoping for something that would throw me for a loop. I also wasn't completely sold on the world-building. I wanted so much to know more about Karthia and the way they can see the Gates to the Deadlands and just... I needed more. I liked what she gave us, but there was no explanation of the different powers and just simple things like that. I wanted more. As someone who's not really a fantasy reader, I'm glad I took a chance on this one. It had great characters, a great romance, and a great type of magic. Although I wanted more, I still feel it had a great story with a great heroine!
Reign of the Fallen WAS AN LGBT NECROMANCER FILLED DARK FANTASY NOVEL with the added bonus of zombies (!), stabbing (!), the Dead (!) and SO MUCH MAYHEM that I fell in love within the first thirty pages and I NEED MORE. I’d been hearing the hype for Reign of the Fallen for a WHILE before I requested it and the lovely folks at PRH International sent it to me. It took me a while to pick it up from my overflowing TBR Pile but now that I did, I am completely in AWE of this STUNNING, BADASS novel and world. Let’s break it down: 1. Reign of the Fallen OFFICIALLY holds the record for Book that Made Me Fall In Love The Quickest (EVER) because within thirty pages I’d already connected with Evander and Odessa and ALREADY fallen in love with them as individuals and together. 2. THIS BOOK BROKE MY HEART. I fell in love and then a third into the book, it managed to break my heart as well. This book had such a powerful representation of grief, depression and that black pit of hopelessness and Sarah Glenn Marsh’s writing really made you feel it all. 3. A HUGE YES FOR SOME BRILLIANT BI REP, and a world where loving WHOMEVER you wanted was accepted as the norm. We rarely ever see this in fantasy novels but I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Yes for inclusive worlds and a bigger yes for accepting characters. 4. The supporting cast in this book were all SUCH fun to get to know. I loved Jax, Simeon, Meredy, Valoria and everyone else and I honestly wish that we had MORE of them. 5. THE MAGIC IN THIS BOOK WAS STUNNING. There were so many kinds of mages including Weather mages, mages with Sight over animals and of course, Necromancers. I loved the politics and magic that were so prevalent in this book, especially the debate of whether the Dead should be brought back and I loved every second of it. Reign of the Fallen is a brilliant, dark, inclusive diverse book with different magic, zombies, the living Dead and everything you’ve been looking for in a fantasy.
From the moment I started reading this book, I was in love. Even based on its first draft alone, I would still have rated it a solid 5 stars on Goodreads. The story flowed into my heart within seconds, and it's a love affair that will continue because it is definitely one of my all-time favorite novels. I am so excited and thrilled that this masterpiece is finally out in the world, and I can't wait to see what all of you think of it! And be ready, because Sarah Glenn Marsh knows exactly how to make you feel all the things, right before cruelly crushing you into a million pieces... even though you're still loving it so much that you want to thank her for it. The MC is bisexual (which you don't see often enough!), and the book itself own voices. Odessa is the perfect mix of complicated and imperfect as a character. There were times that I wanted to shake her, but then I also wanted to hug her and get a drink together as we cry our eyes out over the agony that is her life in this book.
(Review taken from http://literaryweaponry.com) When I first saw this book announced during the summer of 2017 I was terribly excited to get my hands on it. As soon as it popped up on Netgalley in October, I believe it was, I requested it immediately. Of course, then I waited three months and had forgotten I had requested it until I got that magic “this book is now available to you” e-mail. I love those e-mails and I was especially excited for this book. Just look at that cover! How does that not draw you in? For me, it sparks an immediate curiosity in the book. Even if I hadn’t been interested in the story I would have still wanted this book for the cover alone. The story begins with two necromancers going into the Deadlands to retrieve the spirit of their king. Already sounds interesting, right? You see, in this land, the dead don’t stay dead. For a price a trained necromancer can go into what is essentially the land of the dead and brings someone’s spirit back and stuff it back in their body. Slightly gross? Sure. But also really cool. But, as with everything seemingly good in any world, there is a catch. The spirit re-enters the body but every inch of the body must remained completely covered from then on. If a living person so much as gets a glimpse of flesh the Dead will become what they call a Shade. An evil, flesh eating, super strong creature with no sense or thoughts outside of devouring flesh. While the Dead retain the personalities etc they had in life, the Shades are more like evil super zombies you’d see in Resident Evil games. Well, at least that is how I saw them and the more a Shade kills and devours its victims the stronger it gets. Odessa is the necromancer we follow in this book. She and the few others necromancers in the area are as close as family and are very serious about and proud of their work. It is an honor to be trained as a necromancer and Odessa works for the king himself who has been raised multiple times since his first death many, many years before. He is a kind king who cares about his people but is hesitant to accept change. The problem Odessa and the others encounter is that someone is purposefully making Shades out of the Dead and has learned to control them which they had thought impossible. These controlled Shades are attacking living and Dead alike and causing havoc and panic. Our trained necromancers must partake in a mission to save the peaceful Dead, the fearful living, and help to maintain peace across the kingdom. On their quest they will experience loss and the pain and despair that comes with that. But among that pain has the possibility to grow new happiness. This book shows great character growth which is something I definitely appreciate. It also tackles LGBT relationships in a way that feels very natural. Have you ever read a book that tries to add a LGBT character and it just feels awkward and forced? Reign of the Fallen doesn’t have that issue. It was well done. Tasteful without being oversexualized. One thing I would like to bring up, because I know it could be an issue for some readers, is there is a substance abuse theme about 1/3 way through the book. It isn’t over quickly and the theme continues until nearly the end of the story. So, if that is something you find troubling, please be aware of it before picking up this book. Overall, I very much ... (literaryweaponry.com for remaining review)
*I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review* I'm disappointed in this book. It's on the better side of okay, but a huge letdown from the expectations I had built up for it. I guess if you go in with lower standards you will enjoy it more. My problems with this book in a nutshell: — It has great worldbuilding ideas like change being illegal and magic being linked to eye color that are completely unexplored, which hurts the story — Seriously, the worldbuilding is so sparse that an extremely important potion that effects the plot and is constantly mentioned isn't even named, which just makes the characters sound silly to be constantly talking about "potion addiction" — The character relationships are okay but didn't really make me empathize with them — I didn't care at all about the main character's first relationship, so I didn't care about what happened to the love interest guy — The reveal of the big bad guy is made obvious quite a while before the main character figures it out, which is boring for the reader (you're not even guessing if you've figured it out and whether you'll be proved right once Odessa solves the mystery — you just know the answer, and she doesn't) The good things: — Some of the worldbuilding ideas like Karthia being ruled by the dead are cool — The little things we know about the magic system, which isn't much, are also cool — The gay romance (bi girl/lesbian) is really nice and so are the other minor gay characters — There were a few plot twists that surprised me
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This book was an absolute delight. For those who haven’t heard me squeeing and squirming about it for the last 6-8 months, Reign of the Fallen was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. I’m a sucker for a good necromancer story, and there just aren’t many of them. Reign of the Fallen gave me everything I want in a fantasy world: hierarchies, necromancers, mages, pirates, non-traditional princesses… be still my beating heart, this book was friggin’ magnificent. Odessa is a Master Necromancer. She’s new to the trade, freshly graduated. The story opens with the raising of their king. See, in Karthia, the dead rule the kingdom. No one could be older and wiser than the Eldest Grandfather and Eldest Grandmother, and nobody could love their people so much that they are willing to be killed and brought back over and over again. The people of Karthia don’t know what happens to the dead if they remove their shrouds. When members of the royal family begin to go missing and Shades stalk the land, it is up to the Master Necromancers to save Karthia, before all is lost. What this book doesn’t tell you in the description is how raw and real Odessa is. How amazingly flawed the characters are. Sick of overconfident heroines who never ask for help and are succeeding beyond all odds? Then you’ll love Odessa. Odessa is broken to her core (and I won’t tell you why because SPOILERS). In a land ruled by the dead, it is perfectly sensible that death affects so many of the characters so deeply. I loved this aspect of the character and I wanted to hug Odessa. But it’s not just Odessa that’s great. With a couple small exceptions, I loved every single character in Reign of the Fallen. They’re so well developed and passionate in different ways… each with their own quirks, strengths, and flaws. I latched on to Kasmira immediately, as well as Meredy… you will love this cast, I promise. As far as world building goes, Marsh is a genius. Karthia feels like something feudal, but also like something that reached the industrial revolution and broke. It’s a world stuck in time and ruled by plague. Nothing is simple for the characters and the rules are strictly followed (I hate it when characters make bad decisions and there are no consequences? Not true here). I just… I’m blabbering, guys. I really loved this book. I was engrossed. I couldn’t wait to get home and end my night reading it. I can’t wait to get my preordered copy so I can actually hold it and stare at the beautiful cover. Just add it to your TBR. Preorder it. Put a reserve in at your library. This is a must-read for any fantasy fan, anyone with a love of good storytelling, and anyone who likes a strong but flawed protagonist.
Reign of the Fallen has a gorgeous cover and it’s the first thing that made me want to read the book. There, I said it! Seriously, I love the colors and simplicity of it ❤ Once I actually started to read the book I fell in love with the world of Karthia and all the magic that was woven into it. I liked the little details like having different flowers mean things so that the dead could communicate with the living or how eye color related to the kind of magic you possessed. It was those little details that made Karthia really come alive. And since we’re talking about magic: I really liked the different types of magic that people had. Out of the different kinds of magic, Necromancers were definitely the biggest focus of the book. They were key to society and kind of held above the rest for their ability to bring back people’s loved ones. The way that Necromancers undergo so much rigid training and how they work in pairs reminded me a little bit of the parabatai relationships in The Mortal Instruments. Now, I’ll jump into the characters a bit, starting with our main character, Odessa. I came to really love Odessa’s spark. She was tough and didn’t give up easily. However, she was also really closed off to change. I think she tended to stay with what was familiar and comfortable and that’s why she couldn’t fully support Evander in the beginning. It was also what kept their relationship from moving forward as well. Still, she was very caring about others and I think that made her a likable character. Another one of my favorite characters was Valoria because of her bravery both physically and intellectually. She continued to do her research and looked to the future rather than be content with living in the past. She was strong and dedicated I would say for all she did for Odessa. If you like books that are LGBTQ then this is also a good read for that as there are a few characters with different sexualities represented in the book (gay, lesbian and bisexual). I enjoyed this because it was presented really casually in the book and the characters were allowed to be themselves without making a big deal out of it. They just were and it was accepted, and I liked that. As for the plot, I think part of it was predictable. I wasn’t surprised with the general turn of events given that the kingdom has been stagnant for so long; however, I still think that Marsh was able to surprise us with the romance that crept in and the powers behind the Shades in the book. Even when you could see some of the things coming I still enjoyed the story. One thing that was maybe a little frustrating was how Odessa fell apart and continuously put herself at risk without really thinking about how it would affect others. She also seemed blind to others’ grief for a long time. I wanted her to pick herself up and move on, to find support in her friends, and to be that strong character we’d met in the beginning. We did eventually get her back, but it did take a while. As for the ending of the book: I think it left off on a really solid note. I felt like enough was resolved and most of my questions were answered. I think it did a good job of leaving it open enough to future obstacles the kingdom and its people would have to face. It had hope. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what gets tossed their way next.
I devoured Marsh's debut novel, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP, and did the same with her fabulous sophomore novel. While the books are very different, Marsh's knack for evocative and beautiful writing, worldbuilding, and character building shines through. This dark fantasy will have you completely immersed in its twisty, wicked tale while cheering on its kickass heroine, Odessa. There are also profound moments of hope that will fill your heart. With REIGN OF THE FALLEN, Sarah Glenn Marsh has proven herself a force to be reckoned with and I am already eagerly anticipating the next book in this series.
This book has BEAUTIFUL BEATING HEART! I read Sarah Glenn Marsh's debut YA novel, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP, last year and fell in love with her writing. Lush and magical. Dark and twisting. I was so eager to get my hands on an early copy of THE REIGN OF THE FALLEN. This YA fantasy is wholly different from her debut, but Marsh's confident, rich storytelling is on every page. I *loved* *loved* *loved* the concept of the Deadlands and honestly could read an entire book set there. And the Shades, and the Dead--all unique and fascinating. From complex characters to richly imagined worlds, this story is dark and gritty and full of strong girls. And love--there's so much love and trust in this book that my heart went all squiggly while reading. Deep sigh. Though the book ended perfectly, I'm glad to know there's a sequel coming. I'll be first in line.