Summary: 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 souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?
I enjoyed reading this a lot! It’s been a while since I completely enjoyed a book while being aware of its (admittedly few) flaws (or at least of the things I don’t like about it).
The world was really interesting and although I wasn’t (and still am not) as in love with the concept of necromancers as everyone seems to be, I found the idea of a necromancer main character extremely cool and unheard of.
On this note, I loved the magic system overall. To sum it up briefly, everyone is born with abilities that are determined by eye color. Blue eyes for necromancers, green eyes for beast mages, brown for inventors, grey for weather mages and I forgot some but you get the idea. One still needs to train in order to be able to use their powers appropriately, and some careers are more popular (one of the least popular profession is being a necromancer) while others are downright outlawed (inventors).
This was a really unique concept and I love how even though the main plot is pretty much wrapped up there’s still more to be explored about the world and the magic system itself.
Another aspect I loved of this world was the cultural conflict of change vs stasis (and the Living vs the Dead) and loved that the villain has a lot of valid points and you’re actually meant to sort of side with their opinion (not with their actions).
I don’t have too much to say here, mainly I just loved the characters, I thought they were well written and their voices original – they all had things about themselves that made them *them*, even the secondary ones.
The main character, Odessa, went through a lot for one book and I like how her overall arc was handled. One thing I didn’t like was how (view spoiler)
This book has a lot of heavy themes, including death and addiction. I thought both of these were portrayed well.
One of the other themes is the found family, which is one of my favorite things in fiction, but I felt like this aspect could have been improved. Odessa talks a lot about how these people are her family but then I found that sometimes she didn’t really act like they were.
Another theme I absolutely adored was the one I briefly mentioned above, which is something that molded the entire plot: change vs stasis, new vs old. In a world where the Dead are not only among the Living but the King himself is Dead, it’s not a surprise that change would scare them. We see this in old people all the time, and it can only become extreme for Deads who are centuries old. This means that nothing new can ever be made, regardless of its importance and use. It’s a little bit extreme and I would have maybe liked it more if there was a bit more nuance to this, but I really liked how everything was presented.
💀 Representation and romance:
There are no labels on page but Odessa is bisexual; Meredy is not specified queer; Simeon is gay; Danial is not specified queer.
The main romances are m/f and f/f, and there’s a side m/m couple.
⇒ Minor spoilers in this paragraph:
Odessa is in a m/f relationship at the beginning of the book and in a f/f one at the end. When it comes to the second relationship, I liked it but I felt like it needed more development. Also the premise of how it started made me uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything problematic about it or anything like that, and I’m not saying it was unrealistic either, but personally I found that things happened a little too soon and with no other ground other than “we share a lot of traumatic stuff”. I eventually grew to like it well enough and it was a well done slow burn.
End of spoilers.
I think the writing was good enough but – and this is a completely personal preference – I don’t think the first person present tense narrative works well with this type of fantasy, especially when it comes to describing dramatic/action scenes. This was advertized to be very dark and it definitely was, but I think the MC narrating everything herself made it actually more dull and detached. I don’t know, I just can’t fully feel the dramatic parts if she also constantly has to describe, somewhat objectively, what’s going on around her. I don’t really know how to explain it well but yeah, I just felt like first person past tense or third person work better *for me* for this type of story, but as you see I still liked it a lot.
Overall I think this was a really good start to a series that promises to become relevant in the genre YA fantasy. I trust it will only improve from here!
TWs: drug abuse and addiction, violence, gore (I think?), talk of suicide, death