A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about the conventions of fantasies, of stories about the undead.
Positive Role Models
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Reign of the Fallen is a young adult fantasy by Sarah Glenn Marsh about the kingdom of Karthia, in which necromancers can resurrect people again and again -- with two major drawbacks: The trained necromancers can't be resurrected, and the resurrected must remain fully shrouded lest they become dangerous, ravenous "Shades." The book features some gruesome deaths (at the hands of Shades) and other violent scenes (like when a ruler orchestrates a mass lynching of the Fallen). A pivotal character is killed, and other characters are presumed dead. Two young characters grieve the loss of their loves. The main character becomes increasingly addicted to a sedative; there's some passionate kissing and mentions of sexual relationships.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.