Reign of the Fallen is the first book in a YA fantasy series.
I liked it, but it fell short in too many aspects for me to rate it higher.
Reign of the Fallen reminded me a lot of Mask of Shadows. Not because they’re similar books, but because they’re the same kind of queer YA fantasy in which I loved the characters but the worldbuilding and the writing were just not that good, though they had potential.
The main difference between my reading experience with this book and the one I had with Mask of Shadows is that the latter always kept me entertained. This didn’t; when I was around 70% I lost all my motivation to finish it. The ending was good, but I had to force myself to get there.
One of the things that didn’t work for me was the writing. First person fantasy is difficult to write well, and Odessa’s narration felt oddly distant considering we’re in her head. But what I liked the least were the dialogue tags. Why is everyone growling? Is this a SJM book?
“You’re an inventor?” he growls, brushing off bits of grass.
“Odessa, don’t you dare!” Evander growls.
“She’s fine right here,” Evander growls.
“Not a chance,” Jax growls.
“Here’s a demand,” Jax growls […]. “Shut your mouth.”
“The same thing that’s wrong with me,” he growls.
“Stay and help Sparrow!” Jax growls.
One woman growls over the greetings, “We want you gone! Find a new home!”
“You’re lucky he let you live this long,” Vane growls.
“Fine,” I growl.
As the king and Hadrien growl to each other, […]
“Finish him, Odessa,” she growls, looking past me and raising an arm.
This aren’t even all of the ones made by humans. The bear (yes, there’s a bear) is also always growling, but I think that’s more normal.
The worldbuilding was underdeveloped. I didn’t care too much because it’s the first book in a trilogy, but I love worldbuilding, and more often than not in YA fantasy there’s not enough of it. What really did disappoint me was the plot. I saw everything coming, and the twists were so underwhelming and predictable I almost put down the book. The foreshadowing was so heavy-handed I guessed everything at least 100 pages before it happened.
I really liked the characters. Odessa had an interesting arc (TW: grief, addiction, eye injury – cured by magic), and so do most of the side characters. I loved the themes of accepting change and death as natural parts of life. Reign of the Fallen had a well-rounded cast, and I loved all of them. As most side characters in YA fantasy are forgettable, this was a surprise. I also liked the romance, but I didn’t feel strongly about it.
This is a book about a bisexual necromancer, and many of the side characters are also queer (there’s an unlabeled queer girl and a side m/m couple). Queer-inclusive YA fantasy in which there isn’t any homophobia is rare, especially when it comes to f/f couples, and this is also not a standalone (a series in which the main couple is f/f? Rare). I like my queer-inclusive worlds to be also trans-inclusive, but this wasn’t at all – YA is really bad when it comes to trans characters. It’s not like I had any expectations, but I wish the sequel will at least mention trans people.
My rating: ★★★¼