Reign of the Fallen

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Reign of the Fallen Book Poster Image
Intriguing fantasy explores issues of grief and addiction.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the conventions of fantasies, of stories about the undead.

Positive Messages

Positive messages about teamwork, communication, and friendship. Women are just as powerful as men in Karthia, and no one discriminates against LGBTQ characters.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Odessa is intelligent, brave, and loving, as is Evander. Their love is based on mutual respect and affection. Jax, Danial, and Simeon are supportive, helpful, and empathetic. Meredy is courageous and strong-willed.

Violence

The Shades and soldiers kill many people in bloody and brutal ways (often with swords or arrows), including a major character whose death causes the main character to grieve throughout most of the book. People are killed in bloody and sometimes cringe-worthy ways. The Fallen transform into Shades when even a glimpse of their bodies is seen.

Sex

Mentions of fooling around that could mean sex, but it's not completely clear. Characters spend the night in the same bed, but it's more about comfort and physical closeness than being sexual. Two different sets of couples are near marriage and presumably having sex. Some passionate kissing.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Odessa takes a fictional herbal sedative to which she becomes addicted. It causes sleepiness and even hallucinations that allow her to "see" her dead beloved. Adults and of-age teens drink at parties and dinners.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Reign of the Fallen is a young adult fantasy by Karthia,

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What's the story?

THE REIGN OF THE FALLEN takes place in the kingdom of Karthia, where young Odessa and her partner/love interest Evander have recently graduated to the rank of master necromancers (something only blue-eyed people of all skin colors can become), after a several-year apprenticeship. As necromancers, they can resurrect the dead, like the reigning king, but there are rules: First, once resurrected, the "Fallen" can never be seen by the living; they must remain shrouded, because even a glimpse of their undead selves instantly transforms them into bloodthirsty Shades that kill indiscriminately. Second, those who wish to die-die can just choose not to follow the necromancers back to the world of the living. And third, necromancers themselves can never be resurrected. When a series of Shade attacks begins to worry the Karthians, Odessa and her fellow necromancers Evander, Jax, and Simeon try to fight them off, but when one of them dies, a grieving Odessa finds it difficult to continue and becomes increasingly addicted to a powerful sedative potion. 

Is it any good?

While it's not perfect, the fascinating premise and vulnerable-but-fierce protagonist makes this fantasy thriller a compelling enough series starter. Odessa isn't always likable and she makes plenty of questionable decisions, but that's part of her appeal. She's grieving, and she dulls the pain with a drug that allows her to "see" her dead beloved. Not many fantasy books deal with the issue of addiction, much less an addicted protagonist, but Odessa's grief journey is believable and helps readers empathize with her as she attempts to climb out of the depths of her sorrow and do what needs to be done to save Karthia.

What's slightly less believable is Odessa's new romance with the sister of her first love. While that character is beautiful, frank, and courageous, she too is grieving two losses, and the new relationship feels a bit forced and abrupt. Still, it's refreshing for Karthia to be so open-minded and tolerant of LGBTQ citizens (there are heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and gay couples throughout the story). The action takes a few unexpected turns but ends up predictably open-ended (albeit not an outright cliffhanger) to ensure interest in the next installment. Supporting characters, particularly Odessa's fellow necromancers Jax and Simeon; Simeon's boyfriend, Daniel, a healer; and Valoria, an inventor/princess, are all so skillfully described that readers will hope there'll be even more of them in the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fantasy novels like Reign of the Fallen. How does this one compare? What do you think about the plot of the undead?

  • Discuss how the book depicts addiction and grief. Does it feel authentic? What are the consequences of Odessa's reliance on her sleeping elixir?

  • What do you think about the representation of LGBTQ characters and gender roles? Do you consider it important for there to be diverse characters in a book?

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