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?
I know it's only January but I know that this book will be on my favorite books of 2018 list. I absolutely loved it. With any fantasy (or really any genre, for me at least) it takes me a moment to get into the story. With Reign of the Fallen, you're dropped right into the fantastic world Sarah has created and it takes a moment to get used to this new world. But then all of a sudden you hit a part of the story where you're hooked and thrown into this rollercoaster of emotions.
I am a character driven story kind of gal, and although Reign of the Fallen has an amazing plot, I fell in love with this cast of characters. Although it is hard to choose, the main character Odessa is definitely my favorite of the characters. She goes through a lot of hardships and isn't always this stereotypical strong woman character you see often in young adult books. Grief makes her weak, causes her to make stupid mistakes, she hits rock bottom and has to fight her way out of it. Even if she doesn't want to, she has a great support system to help her. Odessa is strong, but in ways I wish we saw more in young adult literature. Some of her actions made me want to reach into the book and shake sense into her, or hug her, but I understood her. She's not only a sad character. Odessa is hilarious and she's such a smartass. Which I am always here for. Evander, her love interest, is such a sweetheart. I love that he has these big dreams for him and Odessa. Their relationship felt very natural because they have known each other for so long. Their gang of mages are all so amazing also. Meredy, Lysander, Simeon, Danial, Jax, and Valoria. They all have such great things about them and I love how by the end of the story they're more of a family than they were at the start of the story. I definitely would have liked to see more of Simeon, Danial, and Jax but I bet we are going to see more of them as the story goes on.
Sarah is obviously amazing at writing fantastic characters. I couldn't help but love them so much and I love seeing such a diverse cast. The bisexual representation in the book alone was done wonderfully. Sarah is bisexual herself, so that makes this book an own voices novel, which is always great to read because I think the stories feel more authentic. I cannot thank her enough for such great bi rep. Her writing is absolutely gorgeous but she also has pretty witty dialogue that had me laughing. But then she also had me bawling. I was so emotional reading this book. Laughing and smiling to all of a sudden wide eyes and shocked gasps. I wanted to speed through the story but I forced myself to slow down and enjoy it because I honestly didn't want it to end. The closer I go to the big ending of the story the more breaks I took.
And can we please celebrate that the fact that there are strong badass women who excel at their talents who do not need to prove themselves?! Odessa, who is called Sparrow often in the book, is known for being an accomplished necromancer. She is one of the best in Karthia, she's so good the King relies on her heavily. Other necromancers treat her with respect and there is not animosity between the other mages. I loved all of that, so much. Odessa is never treated differently because she's a women by anyone, even the antagonists of the story. She's never talked down to or thrown sexist remarks. Also - the fact that her bisexuality (and Simeon & Danial's relationship) is never pointed out or questioned as "other". Which once again, I love so much. I am loving this new wave of fantasy books that are coming out that treat queer relationships as normal. I am here for all of that.
The world Sarah created is such a vivid one that I felt like I was in Odessa's shoes. I haven't read many books with necromancy, and I don't think I have read any in the last handful of years, so this was newer territory for me. But I was definitely into it. The story is dark and there's a lot of death but there's also a lot of humor and themes of love and friendship. The idea of there being different kinds of mages with different eye color and talents was one I really loved and cannot wait to see more of (also - who do I have to grovel to so I can become a beast master?!). I also loved the Deadlands and the imagery that was painted each time the necromancers went into the Deadlands. Although the Shades sound absolutely terrifying, the Deadlands sounded really cool. I am not sure if it was my imagination or the description of the Deadlands, but every time Odessa stepped through that gate I pictured everything in a pink hue. It may have been the beautiful cover that seeped into my brain. I cannot wait for more books so we can know more about the kinds of mages, what is outside the community Odessa has known her whole life, and what is in store for her future.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I already have an urge to re-read it even if I know I shouldn't because I have so many books to read. I may let myself re-read it slowly in between other books because I'm not sure if I am ready to let this world sit on my shelves just yet. If you want a dark and unique world and you're into exciting fantasy novels with an amazing and diverse cast of characters I highly recommend. Please pick up this book it's absolutely worth it.