Review: Valley of Time by Jeremy D. Holden

valleyoftimeValley of Time: The Greatest Journey Ever Taken by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series

Date Published: November 5th, 2017

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 262 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Fast-paced, full of wit and humor, and sure to delight fans of authors like Carl Hiassen and Nick Hornby, “Valley of Time: The Greatest Journey Ever Taken” is a truly original novel from one of contemporary fiction’s most thrilling new voices. 

Mal Thomas only escaped with his life through a mixture of good fortune and divine intervention, after he and his eclectic team of cynical mad men and women were charged with promoting the alleged second coming of the Messiah, by Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful industrialist. 

Having subsequently become famous as a best-selling author—as well as an unlikely spiritual leader—after having written and promoted a book about those experiences, Mal is now approached by another enigmatic billionaire with an equally incredible proposition.

Huw Hudson, the man often described as a modern-day Howard Hughes, wants to position his company, Space Rider, as the leader in commercial space tourism. He tries to enlist Mal and his team to help promote it, with one extraordinary twist: Hudson has evidence of an alleged UFO encounter, which he thinks could damage his business plans, and he asks Mal to investigate and manage the breaking news story.

Mal discovers a deeper purpose at work, as he crisscrosses Brazil, Miami, London, and Dubai in furtherance of Hudson’s audacious ambition, while being forced to keep an unbelievable secret from the FBI and even his closest friends. In confronting his deepest fears, Mal takes us on a journey that challenges the very core of our beliefs about space and time.  

In a fast-moving and often sardonic narrative, author Jeremy Holden will have you fascinated by the extraordinary nature of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, as they launch a massive global campaign to promote one of the most seismic events in human history.

“Valley of Time” provides a window into the modern world of digital and social media-driven mass persuasion, while posing this pivotal question: What if you could go back to the pivotal moment in time that shaped your life. Would you try to alter your fate?

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Given how much I enjoyed Sea of Doubt, I eagerly jumped into this novel as soon as I had finished, excited for more adventures with Holden’s very loveable characters. And I was not disappointed in the least—this is a wonderful follow up to the first story. Though I think that I slightly preferred the first story, this one is another fast and extremely entertaining read. And the comedy is superb. Holden knows how to captivate his readers and hold them all the way through the final page. I just have so much fun with his work—I’ve completely fallen in love with it.

In Valley of Time, we are back again to witness another crazy situation Mal finds himself in, as well as to see further examples of the incredible skills he and his entire CREATIF team possess when it comes to advertising outrageous subjects. And this time around, they are presenting an astonishingly major scientific development that will forever change humankind—space tourism.

Huw Hudson, the creator of a company called Space Rider, reaches out to Mal for help promoting his offered space tourism, with the goal of establishing Space Rider as the top company in the world. He also tips Mal off about some alleged evidence of extraterrestrial life popping up around the world. Sworn to secrecy, Mal is put in charge of investigating these reports as well as controlling the portrayal of these stories—and Space Rider’s accomplishments—in the media. As things progress, Mal uncovers a hidden purpose in the background of these events, one that challenges what the world knows about space and time.

At the start of the novel, I was feeling a little bit apprehensive due to the fact that it begins very similarly to the previous story in this series. However, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that the plot is going in a completely unique direction. Once again, Holden’s character depiction and development is top-notch and still my absolute favorite part of these novels. I cannot talk enough about how much I love everyone and how he involves them in the events of the plot. This is a very character driven novel, and those characters are some of the strongest I’ve seen.

Holden’s writing continues to be quite easy to fall in to, and his style of storytelling is highly engaging. He weaves very fascinating and extremely unique plotlines full of adventure and excitement. Just like the previous one, I found this story to be full of surprises, and I never really guessed what was coming next or how things would resolve. Holden manages to turn the very fictional elements into something that feels believable—it’s easy to imagine Mal going through these experiences.

Again, one of the only complaints I have in regards to the writing itself is that there is far more telling rather than showing in this novel. With this particular plot, as opposed to the first novel, that style of narrative slows things down quite a bit more. There is a lot of talk about science and technology, so the story is very description heavy. The balance between this and the action is a bit unequal, and even though I am a huge fan of science fiction and, in particular, anything to do with time travel, even I felt like the narrative occasionally dragged.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Valley of Time, and continue to love Holden’s plotlines and characters. I’ve heard numerous people say that this novel works as a standalone, and while the plot is unique in itself and does not give away much information about the first book, there are still enough important, potentially vague references made that these stories should really be read in order—I personally feel this would make for the most enjoyable reading experience. As with the first novel, I am extremely glad that I got the chance to read this, and I am very much hoping there will be plenty more installments in this series in the future. I very highly recommend giving these novels a read.

4.0 TARDISes

logo2

Mini Review: Songs With Our Eyes Closed by Tyler Kent White

songswithoureyesclosedSongs With Our Eyes Closed by Tyler Kent White

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: January 30th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 192 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A collection of Tyler Kent White’s powerful poems about love, loss, depression, and resilience. “Never apologize for burning too brightly, or for collapsing into yourself every night. That is how galaxies are made.” – Tyler Kent White

Many of the poems included here are short and uplifting, with messages such as “be yourself,” “you are beautiful,” and “this too shall pass.” They combine the appeal of short, shareable poems with inspiration and encouragement. Also included are some of White’s lengthier, prose-poetic pieces, which address his childhood, his relationship with his father, and past romantic relationships, among other things. Whatever the form, White takes inspiration from the everyday, writing about abstract topics like love, loss, depression, and resilience using concrete, relatable details and scenes.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I found this poetry collection to be beautiful and extremely well written. Songs With Our Eyes Closed is another example of a recently very popular style of writing—short but impactful poetry and prose. This is a format where a positive outcome is hard to accomplish, and it is definitely not a format that suites the tastes of all readers nor the abilities and voices of all poets. And it’s very true that this type of writing can easily come across as shallow, random, and repetitive. However, I find that this can also be an incredibly powerful and meaningful way to convey many emotions—that was definitely the case for this particular collection.

White’s writing is full of both beauty and sincerity. Even the shortest poems always feel that they were given an equal amount of time. effort, and detail, and did not lack the emotional depth and maturity of longer poems. He shows a great deal of candor as well as creativity, mixing human emotions with vivid and artistic imagery taken from our world and the universe we live in.

White packs this collection with plenty of affirmations, calling us to look at ourselves in a different and more loving way. The language and topics themselves are easily accessible for anyone, whether they are poetry lovers or not—it could also serve as a fantastic introduction into the world of poetry for a first time reader.

As always, poetry is hard to review as it is such a personal experience, and what I took away from this collection is not what everyone is going to take away. However, this is a very well-written work that skillfully captures truly human emotions that each and every one of us has felt or will feel at some point in our lives, ranging from the joy of love to the pain of loss. His words really spoke to me and related so well to where I am in my life and what I have been feeling, whether those words were reflecting my emotions or pushing me into a more positive mindset.

It is very touching and brimming with honesty and earnestness—never feeling rushed or lacking complexity, even in the most straightforward phrases. White has a very lyrical style that flows effortlessly from line to line and is very pleasant to read. I would highly recommend giving this collection a try.

5.0 TARDISes

logo2

Review: The Crown Jewel Mystery by Anna Elliot

thecrownjewelmysteryThe Crown Jewel Mystery by Anna Elliot

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries

Date Published: June 1st, 2017

Publisher: Charles Veley

Pages: 100 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: A young American actress arrives in London hoping to learn her identity, just as Sherlock Holmes is closing in on a master criminal. Their worlds collide, and not even Holmes could have foreseen the impact!

This novella is the prequel to The Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery series. It takes place three days before the opening of The Last Moriarty.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Again, I have been pleasantly surprised by another installment of this series. This is only a short novella—a prequel to the main series—but it is just as thrilling and suspenseful as the full length novels. In fact, I think this is my favorite story so far; it is incredibly captivating and full of surprises that will keep readers on their toes. We are able to go back and take a look at the origins of our characters and what eventually brings them together. It does a wonderful job of further developing backstories and fleshing out many basic aspects of the general series plotline.

In this novella, we primarily follow the perspective of Lucy James, the intelligent, brave, and witty young woman who serves as the main character in the previous novel. Lucy and her friend, Johnny Rockefeller, have just arrived in London in pursuit of the answers that have been hidden from Lucy all her life—who her family is and who has been financially supporting her all through her early years. While following a major lead, the pair suddenly find themselves embroiled in a dangerous con, one with far more twists and turns than anyone can imagine.

I had such a great time reading this story. Though they do not actually meet at this point, it is interesting to see how close Lucy comes to meeting Sherlock. They each play a crucial part in solving this mystery and bringing about justice without even knowing the other’s involvement.

Once again, we get a vivid picture of what an incredibly clever and strong heroine Lucy is. She fits in fairly easily among these other well-known characters, which adds to the plausibility of the narrative when compared against the original stories. Lucy is a very well-developed, multi-dimensional character, who holds her own and makes a solid protagonist for these novels.

Occasionally, Lucy comes across as being just a little too perfect. I always feel that one of the main elements that makes Holmes so incredible is the portrayal of his flaws that remind you he is human. This is an extremely minor complaint though—one that does not negatively affect this novella at all. It is only a point that would add even more dimension to Lucy if used.

Really the main issue that I had is essentially the same one that I had with the previous novel—I still struggle with Lucy’s familial connection to Holmes. This is absolutely nothing that Elliot did wrong; I think she does a fantastic job of making the idea of their relationship realistic and believable. However, I personally am overly picky when it comes to adding elements that really stray far from the original story to a generally faithful retelling. And I admit, the more I read from this series, the more that aspect of the plot grows on me, which is a testament to how well Elliot weaves her characters into the world of these classic tales.

Overall, this novella is a fantastic addition to the Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries series. It is a very fun, fast-paced read that also adds more dimension to the series as a whole. We are able to see what finally brought Lucy into the paths of Holmes and Watson, as well as an early picture of her astounding powers of deduction. Though I still do have a few personal issues reconciling the details of her link to the great detective, she is a skillfully crafted mirror of him, while also retaining those things that make her a unique character in her own right. I am loving this series so far and I cannot wait to continue on with it.

4.0 TARDISes

logo2

Review: Futura by Jordan Phillips

futuraFutura by Jordan Phillips

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: January 2nd, 2018

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Pages: 72 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: By the year 2050, Paris is a stark contrast from other large cities, which had long ago morphed into ultramodern metropolises, where every new building was practically a city within a city. Even in France, humans cannot escape the fact that the Invisibles have taken over. Some come in the form of microscopic chips that are embedded practically everywhere, while others are more visible because they power robots. Humans were suddenly underutilized, and they would be forever.

Past futurists had cried that this would be disorienting and depressing, but it turned out to be quite liberating. Human qualities—good and bad—are tolerated because they are authentic, and not artificially created. To err is to be human, and these days, to be human is to be beautiful. 

Futura follows a single American woman named Ruby as she figures out how to thrive in a dramatically different cultural landscape. This utopian novella pushes back on the cynical views many hold today. Instead, author Jordan Phillips has imagined a bright future for the entire human race.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I had a rather complex experience with this particular novella. First of all, the actual e-book edition that I received was very messed up and extremely hard to comprehend—the paragraphs were not at all in order. A few paragraphs would fit together, but all of a sudden, the last sentence would stop in the middle, and the next paragraph would be a completely different part of the story. Then, later on, I would find the continuation of those previously unfinished paragraphs mixed in with an entirely new part of the plot. Understandably, this was quite confusing and very difficult to follow since I had to piece together random parts until I had the whole story.

Keeping that in mind, I will try to summarize and review this novella as well as I can. This story takes place in Paris, starting during the year 2050. Society has completely evolved into a highly futuristic, technology-ruled world where artificial intelligence is in charge of most of the goings on from day to day. With the “Invisibles” running things, humans have become very underutilized—but this might not be an entirely awful thing. Instead of the typical pessimistic view of a future run by computers, this novella paints a picture of a world in which people have ample time to spend their lives doing whatever they love.

Every last aspect of the world and its economy is run so flawlessly that everyone is taken care of whether they are employed or not. And employment is simply a choice, not a necessity. Amid all the modernizations, major technological advances, and the microchips that hide everywhere, smoothly running the world, lies a surprisingly utopic human existence. They have enormous amounts of free time, but never lack something to do. Being human is seen as being utterly beautiful—every human quality is accepted. Against all odds, this future is incredibly bright.

It’s been very tricky getting my thoughts straight about this novella. The one thing that I can say is that Jordan Phillips is definitely a talented writer. She did a wonderful job of building the world, using vivid details to capture just how technology takes the pressure off humans without rendering them pointless—without erasing everything that we need to build a life. This is a unique take on life in the future, seemingly far removed from the many horror stories featuring the elimination of our existence. Every element of the plot showed her creativity and inventiveness, and her writing itself was very easy to understand.

Excluding the incomprehensibility due to the formatting of the actual e-book itself, I’m not sure how I feel about the story as a whole. I enjoyed imagining this vision of the future and thinking about all of Phillips’ genre-bending ideas. However, I was left wondering if this was actually as much of a utopian society as it claims to be.

In a world like this, people are much more trapped—things run smoothly so no one steps outside the boundaries or looks to shake things up. It could be looked at as a comfortable and free existence, but would we really be free if we handed absolutely everything over to systems of artificial intelligence? I’m not sure if this story is intentionally posing that question or if I am just overthinking things.

We do loosely follow various characters throughout this story, particularly an American woman named Ruby. She is a single woman looking for love and feeling a strong urge to have a child. It is hard to connect with Ruby, or any of the other characters for that matter, since we spend such a short time with them, and there really is not much in the way of character development happening. I originally liked Ruby, but by the end she was starting to get on my nerves.

About halfway through, she begins making some absolutely terrible decisions, mainly due to the fact that she is so fixated on having a baby. Many of her friends have children, and she sees this as one of the biggest pieces missing from her life. This is understandable—as I’m sure many people feel that way at some point—but Ruby is way too over-the-top about it.

By the end, Ruby makes what I feel is a completely inexcusable choice. It was a bit hard for me to connect with her in the beginning, but she had definitely lost me completely by the end. Along with this, it just seemed like everyone had an outrageously cynical and unhealthy view of many of the important and uniquely human parts of our existence.

So, overall, I got the message that this utopian society was in fact still in the same vein as many of the post-apocalyptic or negative depictions of the future; it just didn’t feel like that much changed for the better. Comparatively, it is better in some aspects, but it is also wholly stifling and still utterly dependent on technology—much more so than today. Again, I’m not sure if this is the intended view the reader is supposed to have or if it’s just how the story came across to me.

In the end, I think this story was unique and well-written, but it simply fell a bit flat for me. This wasn’t really my cup of tea, but it is a quick read and I definitely still recommend giving it a try.

1.5 TARDISes

logo2

Review: Robin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer + Giveaway

Giveaway Open: If you would like to receive an e-book copy of Robin Hood’s Dawn, leave a comment below, let me know what your favorite retelling is if you have one, and provide a link to your Goodreads, Twitter, or an email address I can use to contact you!

Robins Hood's Dawn Book CoverRobin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Robin Hood Trilogy

Date Published: January 16th, 2018

Publisher: Angevin World Publishing

Pages: 432 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: England, 1154-1194

A kingdom under assault.

A conspiracy born of anarchy.

A hero standing against tyranny.

Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood. 

Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.

As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance. 

From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land – Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Though I am a massive fan of any and all retellings, this reading experience was a bit different than usual. I have not actually read any Robin Hood stories yet, so I went into this knowing far less about the original source material. Typically, I don’t read retellings when I have such a small amount of knowledge of the story it’s trying to retell. However, after reading the synopsis of this novel, I absolutely could not pass it up—and I am extremely glad that I didn’t, for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed my general reading experience. This exciting story and its memorable cast of characters, this fictional adventure embedded in historical fact—it all works together beautifully to create a riveting and witty narrative. Second, it was interesting for me to essentially go in blind, not having any substantial frame of reference. While I have little to no ability to compare and contrast this retelling to anything else, I feel that I have a handle on the way it comes across on its own, without any preconceived ideas of how things should be. That gave me a personally unique perspective compared to what I’m used to when it comes to retellings.

In this novel, we follow Robin Fitzooth—Earl of Huntingdon and an experienced swordsman and archer—during the events leading up to and immediately follow his transformation into the Robin Hood we all know and love. A false murder conviction sends him to Sherwood Forest and into the role of a hero, fighting for justice over a corrupt force within a country at war, all while retaining his loyalty to the king and his own integrity. He risks everything to right the wrongs inflicted on the poor and innocent, and to combat an immoral group of men who are conspiring to destroy a kingdom and threaten to harm those closest to him.

I will go ahead and say now that being unfamiliar with the original stories did not dampen my enjoyment of this novel in any way whatsoever. In fact, I am now even more eager to read those classic tales. Longueville and Plummer give us a well-rounded view of the lives as well as the familial histories of our main characters. We not only experience the adventures of Robin Hood and his men, but also witness the events that brought them together, even reaching back through multiple generations. The comprehensive rendering of fictional events woven into historical ones allows for a deeper understanding of the time period, and subsequently a multi-dimensional narrative.

I have to admit, this ended up being a bit of a slow read for me. This was not at all a reflection of the writing or story quality—rather, it was just my own ability to immerse myself in the world and plot. The text itself flows very nicely and is consistently absorbing, particularly as the action picks up a few chapters into the novel. The world-building is vivid and captures the time period well. Longueville and Plummer clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching the history that sets the stage for this adventure to play out on, and their knowledge causes the story to be even more tangible.

One thing I am unsure of is how exactly Longueville and Plummer split up the task of writing, but nonetheless, I was very impressed with the seamlessness of the text. I didn’t notice any major shifts in the writing or storytelling style, which is no small feat in a dual author narrative. The pair demonstrate a great deal of skill and knowledge in both prose and history, and make for a strong literary duo.

Longueville and Plummer do a fantastic job building three-dimensional characters who are easy to either root for or hate, and are always memorable. The relationships between the characters are beautifully depicted as well, the love story between Robin and Marian being an outstanding example. I am particularly pleased with how they portrayed Marian—while Robin is very protective of her and desperate to save her, she remains very independent, strong, and brave in a horrible situation. Robin’s relationships with the members of his band are another major highlight of this novel.

Overall, I found this to be a solid and well-crafted fantasy. Though it took me a bit longer to get through, I did feel very engaged and invested all the way to the end. Both fans of Robin Hood’s adventures as well as readers new to these characters can easily find enjoyment in this novel. While things do not end in any sort of cliffhanger, I was still left wanting more. I’m eager to see where the story goes, so I will definitely be picking up the next two installments as they come out.

3.5 TARDISes

logo2

Mini Review: Algedonic by r.h. Sin

algedonicAlgedonic by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: December 12th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 128 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Bestselling poet r.h. Sin, author of the Whiskey, Words, & a Shovel series, presents a poetry collection that illuminates the transformative power of emotional pain. 

Algedonic is an aesthetic outlook on pain and pleasure. Complex emotions simplified into poetic interludes as only r.h. Sin can express. With his trademark of giving simplicity to some of the hardest of emotions, Sin reminds us all that there are often two sides to an emotional story and sometimes the pain transforms into something beautiful, something less problematic and maybe something that reignites a feeling of pleasure.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This was my first experience with r.h. Sin’s poetry, though I have heard many people raving about his work for quite some time now. And I must say, I was not disappointed in the least. This particular collection follows what has become a very popular style lately—short poems or phrases that pack a big emotional punch. While it can be quite a risky way to format poetry, as it ends up being extremely hit or miss depending on the audience, it can also be a very powerful and thought-provoking reading experience.

Even though I am a huge fan of longer poems that I can analyze to death, I have actually found myself really captivated by this style lately, and this collection is no exception. I found Sin’s writing to be incredibly beautiful. This is a short but sweet collection that is perfect for anyone, whether they are new to poetry or already well-versed. The themes presented in every bit of text are relatable—utterly human—and exceedingly poignant.

Sin’s ability to pare down complex and, at times, confusing feelings, both positive and negative, really shines through. He shows that it is possible to capture the vastness of human emotion in the smallest of spaces. His words make you think about how we are not as alone as we may feel—that we are all intrinsically linked by common experiences of pain and pleasure. He reminds us to step back and focus on the beauty of life and the light in the darkest times. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and look forward to exploring more of his work in the future.

4.5 TARDISes

logo2

Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

reignofthefallenblogtour

reignofthefallenReign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Reign of the Fallen

Date Published: January 23rd, 2018

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 384 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Without the dead, she’d be no one.

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 soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees? 

Fighting alongside her fellow mages–and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating–Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I was incredibly impressed and pleasantly surprised by this novel. It can be difficult to find young adult fantasy novels that are noticeably distinct from many of the others out there. And for me, this was one of those fantasy novels that separated itself from all the rest. A truly unique and diverse narrative of strength and courage plays out against a glittering and exquisitely depicted backdrop of a kingdom falling into the hands of deception. Reign of the Fallen is one of those novels that captivates you from page one, and sweeps you into a darkly alluring world of magic and intrigue, where nothing is as it seems and friendship, family, and love are victorious.

In this novel, we follow Odessa, a young master necromancer who attends to the Dead that rule the kingdom of Karthia. With her rare abilities of sight and sense, she has served in a key role of her society, traveling into an enchanting and treacherous world called the Deadlands. Here, the spirts of those who have recently died roam until they pass on to their final resting place. Odessa and her partner carry out the ritual of returning spirits from the Deadlands back to their bodies, and their families.

However, those who are raised have a dangerous price to pay—they must remain entirely shrouded, hidden from the eyes of the living, or risk turning into a deadly creature called a Shade. Shade’s stalk the shadows of the Deadlands, feeding on both spirits—and any humans who enter this world—in order to gain size and power. Through a series of devastating losses, Odessa and the other necromancers in her community realize that something about their two worlds has shifted. Shrouded people are disappearing, Shades are materializing in Karthia, and these Shades seem to be trained to attack.

This is Sarah Glenn Marsh’s second published work, and she is already clearly displaying a remarkable amount of talent and creativity. She skillfully paints a picture of this mysterious and sinisterly magical world and the people that dwell within it. Her world building is top-notch and her character creation is solid. While not wholly unpredictable, the plot is exciting and original, and it travels at a fast pace that captures the reader’s attention. The tone of the narrative, the evolution of the characters, and the textual illustration of the setting seamlessly work together to give this story a realistic and almost tangible quality.

Both love and death have a crucial role in the way this novel’s plot unfolds. Death is a theme that shapes the society and lives of the Karthians, and is what kicks off the actions of our main characters. However, the strong love that resides in the connections between both lovers and friends is shown to contain the most power. Through pain, tragedy, and hopelessness, this is where the true strength can be found. No matter how hard death tries to reign supreme, love will always triumph. This is the message that resounds throughout the novel, and this is the true beauty that emanates from every page.

Marsh’s characters are, by far, my favorite part of this novel. She did a brilliant job of making each and every one of them memorable and three-dimensional—easy to imagine and to connect with. I became invested in these characters from the page that they entered the narrative on, and they have stuck with me long after finishing the novel. This is also where much of the diversity of this novel lies. No one is judged on appearance or gender; sexuality is not a point of contention. These topics are not dwelled on, they just are. Aside from some barriers due to position in the society of the kingdom, everyone is generally free to love and live in the way they wish.

I completely and utterly adore Odessa. In short, she is one of the most badass heroines I’ve come across in a while. She is a fighter in every sense of the word. One of my favorite parts of the way Marsh depicts Odessa is that she does not shy away from displaying Odessa’s flaws. This makes Odessa even more realistic and relatable; she is not at all a perfect heroine. She makes many mistakes and bad choices. She goes through extreme struggles and trials, fighting both outer and inner demons such as addiction as a source of mental pain relief—and yet, nothing manages to stop her. Odessa’s strength always pushes her to do the right thing, to save the people she cares about as well as herself.

The biggest surprise of this novel for me was how much I actually liked the romantic aspects of the plot. I’m not someone who often tends to enjoy stories that focus too heavily on romance, and romance is a massive part of this particular book. However, it has an incredibly pivotal role in the direction of the narrative, and therefore is very necessary for many of the events that play out.

Romance is by no means a trivial aspect of the plot or a distraction from the most important events. This is what brings our main characters together and gives them the courage and determination to fight back and protect the people of Karthia. Marsh creates very sweet and beautiful romances, as tangible as her characters themselves, and very fitting to the plot.

Overall, I found this novel to be refreshingly unique and compelling. There is so much creativity and detail put into the creation of both Karthia and the Deadlands, making it exceptionally easy to enter in your mind. The main characters are lovable, and Marsh crafts them in a way that makes the reader come to be deeply invested in their lives and their fates. Very well-written, carefully crafted and paced, this story has remained with me and grown on me more and more as I’ve thought about it. Though this could easily be a perfectly satisfying standalone, I have very high hopes for the future novels of this series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in further installments.

4.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

sarahglennmarshSarah Glenn Marsh has been an avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life; she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys painting, ghost hunting, traveling, and all things nerdy.

She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and their menagerie: four rescued greyhounds, a bird, and many fish. She is the author of Fear the Drowning Deep and Reign of the Fallen.

logo2