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 enjoyed this book. Necromancers and what are, in a nutshell, nice zombies are not things you see often in books and especially not YA and I think Marsh did an excellent job. It was also nice to see a book with an over-arcing LGBT theme that wasn’t a huge sexual focus, just pleasantly there. I would highly recommend Reign of the Fallen to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy.
Thank you to Netgalley for an eARC of this book. This in no way influenced my opinions.