As a book reviewer, I don’t get a whole lot of free time for book hangovers. If I fall behind in my reading schedule, it can throw a kink in the entire year’s schedule. That means, unfortunately, I don’t have time to give a book a few days of respectful silence before jumping into a new story. Often, I only wait a few hours before starting the next one.
So it was pretty surprising (and frustrating, but also awesome) when, three days after finishing Reign of the Fallen, I still couldn’t get into my next book. It was too good.
A short summary: Odessa raises the dead for a living. It’s a fairly simple job: Someone dies, she goes into the Deadlands to retrieve them, and they’re returned to their body. In fact, the current king has been reigning for over 200 years — why give up the throne when you can just keep coming back, right? There’s just one catch: The Dead have to wear a shroud, covering their bodies completely, or they’ll turn into rampaging, murder-crazed monsters called Shades. Is the risk the Dead pose to the living worth allowing them to come back?
I’ve probably read hundreds of YA fantasy books in my life so far, and it’s safe to say there are some… prominent plot tropes. Some prominent worldbuilding techniques, prominent magic wielding systems, prominent romances, even prominent character traits. Sometimes I literally confuse one YA fantasy book with another, because they’re actually that similar. It’s like publishers look at their competition’s lineup and say, “Let’s publish that exact book, but with the character and location names changed.”
Reign of the Fallen was the most original YA fantasy I’ve read in a long, long time. There are some books that just stand out from the crowd, and Reign of the Fallen is one of them. It was intriguing, heart-wrenching, exciting, and completely unexpected. I feel like this book didn’t get much hype from the book community, but it should have. This book wasn’t on my shortlist of most exciting 2018 releases, but it absolutely should have been.
Did it have its fair share of issues? Sure. There were times when it seemed a “rule” about the type of magic the characters wielded randomly cropped up, as if it was inserted halfway through the book to make the subsequent scene make sense (when it should have been inserted near the beginning, where the worldbuilding is heaviest). There were some times when the story was more predictable than others. But if you let go and enjoy the story, it’s honestly an amazing ride.
A few people have voiced questions on social media about representation in this book: There is bisexual representation, as well as lesbian and gay representation. The relationships are fairly realistic to me, and there isn’t any homophobia in the book. Odessa is also described as having darker skin, but the book doesn’t really go into race at all. The most it does is mention that another character’s skin is much, much lighter than Odessa’s.