- my rating: 3.5 stars
- published by: Razorbill
- genres: fantasy, romance, lgbt+ lit, young adult
- content warnings: addiction, grief/loss/death themes
Karthia is nothing like it used to be. The kingdom’s borders are open for the first time in nearly three hundred years, and raising the dead has been outlawed. Odessa is determined to explore the world beyond Karthia’s waters, hoping to heal a heart broken in more ways than she can count. But with Meredy joining the ocean voyage, vanquishing her sorrow will be a difficult task.
Despite the daily reminder of the history they share, Odessa and Meredy are fascinated when their journey takes them to a land where the Dead rule the night and dragons roam the streets. Odessa can’t help being mesmerized by the new magic–and by the girl at her side. But just as she and Meredy are beginning to explore the new world, a terrifying development in Karthia summons them home at once.
Growing political unrest on top of threats from foreign invaders means Odessa and Meredy are thrust back into the lives they tried to leave behind while specters from their past haunt their tenuous relationship. Gathering a force big enough to ward off enemies seems impossible, until one of Queen Valoria’s mages creates a weapon that could make them invincible. As danger continues to mount inside the palace, Odessa fears that without the Dead, even the greatest invention won’t be enough to save their fates.
In this enthralling, heartrending sequel to Reign of the Fallen, Odessa faces the fight of her life as the boundaries between the Dead and the living are challenged in a way more gruesome than ever before.
Ever since I read Reign of the Fallen in January of 2018, Song of the Dead was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. I was lucky enough to receive an arc of it from the publisher, and actually read it back in November of 2018. So I’ve been sitting on this review for quite a while, waiting for the release to get closer, and I am SO happy I can finally share my thoughts on this book.
This review DOES contain spoilers for Reign of the Fallen!
But is spoiler free for Song of the Dead
Song of the Dead begins right where Reign of the Fallen finishes – as Meredy and Odessa embarking on their trip around the world. The first section of this book was probably my absolute favourite. We get to see the world expanded much beyond the borders of Karthia and I loved that. The expanding worldbuilding added so much interest to this for me, and gave the fantasy world a bit extra of that ‘living world’ feel, like it’s actually a full constructed world outside of the constrains of where the action happens. I also particularly liked the focus on magic and especially necromancy, and how different cultures view necromancy.
I also really liked the new characters and animals that were introduced as the story expanded. DID I MENTION THIS BOOK HAS DRAGONS?? Yes it does and I was blessed. I also loved how queer characters were so seamlessly embedded into the world. The casual mentions of queer people and cultures was lovely and something I really, really loved. Everything to do with worldbuilding and expansion was done so well in this book and was the highlight for me.
One of my favourite things about Reign of the Fallen was how loveable the characters were. It was great seeing the characters back in Song of the Dead, but I wish some of my favourites had been included more! I felt like Simeon and wasn’t in it that often, and even Meredy didn’t feel like she had as much page time. That said, I liked that Kasmira and Danial appeared more often, and that Jax and Valoria had individual storylines that contributed to the central plot. Jax especially had a storyline I really enjoyed, and I felt his character had much more depth and was more interesting in Song of the Dead. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy Valoria’s story as much. I often felt Valorias motivations and explanations for her actions were unconvincing, and while I loved her in book one, I found myself not so sure about her in books two.
There was also a few things in Song of the Dead that just didn’t work perfectly for me, like some aspects of the romance and the plot.
I liked the concept of the romance in book one but needed book two to really pull it together for me. That was fine, I generally enjoy romance that is angsty and slowburn, so I thought I’d really love it all coming together in Song of the Dead. At first I was loving the romance. It was soo angsty, in a good way, and had that “will they, won’t they” tension I love.
But as the romance progressed, it fell apart a little and I didn’t like it as much. I don’t want to disclose too much as it’s spoilers, but I found there was a lot of constructed and contrived drama that kept the main couple apart. And instead of being pleasantly angsty, for me it was a little too much. I wasn’t so sure if the main couple should be together, and it was disappointing. That said, I loved many of their scenes and overall like the ship. It was just not all working for me throughout most of the middle of this book.
I also had issue with some of the plot. For me, the plot felt a little jumbled and like too many things were happening at once, without adequate buildup from book one. While there is a lot of tension and build up, I didn’t feel the action always payed off. I also felt some of the plot lines didn’t come together as well as I would hoped. The set up and then the rise of tension was great, but I didn’t feel this book really stuck the landing.
That said, there was some scenes I loved for their drama and action, and I loved how this book Went There in terms of having harsh consequences for the events that were occurring. So much like the romance, there were elements of the plot I loved, but not all of it always came together for me.
Overall, Reign of the Fallen is an entertaining sapphic fantasy I think many will enjoy. It has a large, loveable cast and plenty of angst and drama. As a conclusion, Song of the Dead shines in terms of it’s strong world building, exploration of character, delivery of tension and a memorable conclusion.
However, for me the romance and the plot were hit and miss. While there was definitely some scenes that were highlights, often the plot felt jumbled and the romance missed the mark – seeming overly angsty and unhealthy where it didn’t need to be.
In general, however, I had a really good time reading these books. They are lush fantasies with a host of loveable characters, and there is so much that is unique to love in this series. The f/f romance and bisexual main character is also something I really appreciated in this series. If you’re looking for a fantasy that is a little more dark in tone, but still has a lot of fun and is queer, then Reign of the Fallen is it!
Thankyou to Penguin for sending me a free arc of Song of the Dead in exchange for my honest review.
Song of the Dead publishes on January 22nd !