The cover of this book was absolutely gorgeous and, combined with the intriguing premise, made it impossible for me to not pick this book up. Necromancers, zombie-like monsters…. what more could I ask for? I grabbed a copy from Indigo and set to reading.
Synopsis (Goodreads): 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?
Review: My love affair with this book ended as quickly as it started. While the premise was interesting, the actual execution failed to impress me.
This story seemed like it would be fast-paced, full of action as Odessa tries to figure out what is going on with all of these Shade attacks. Instead, it is about Odessa battling her grief after she loses someone she loves. Now, I have no problem with her feeling grief. But the story doesn’t set itself up well for this scenario. For one thing, we don’t ever really feel the strong romantic connection between Odessa and her partner; it’s just something we have to assume is strong. There wasn’t enough time given to develop this relationship – and then he dies. The other problem with the grief scenario is that Odessa becomes addicted to potions in order to deal with the pain. With that, my hopes of a strong heroine were dashed. Given the reputation she has (according to what the book tells us), shouldn’t she be out there trying to avenge him? Why is she succumbing to addiction? My initial thoughts were that this addiction angle might serve a different purpose later on. It does not. It could have been cut out. And the worst part about it was that this took up almost 50% of the story. That’s right, 50% of the story is us reading about Odessa’s self-pity and gloom. All this for a relationship that wasn’t even fostered deeply in the book.
Not only did Odessa turn to addiction during her time of grief, she also used this time to throw herself into the arms of her best friend. Her need for physical comfort was a little … well, I didn’t like it. I would prefer if she had been a stronger character, or at least relied on her friends in a platonic way. But she chose not to do that.
Moving on from the huge grief aspect, I also thought it was completely bizarre that so many people were willing to throw themselves at Odessa. I couldn’t see the appeal. Was it her charm – or lack thereof? Was it some history that they had had previously, which the author had failed to mention? I just found myself perplexed by a lot of the character interactions, and really wished that the author had spent some time giving them more of a backstory so I could follow along. This lack of a backstory and lack of strong world-building really affected my ability to enjoy the story. There were random details thrown in that took me aback because there was no reference to it before that point, and suddenly, it became important. I like my stories to make sense and flow, and this novel didn’t do that all the time.
I also found that the actual fighting scenes were a bit dull. When the main character is a necromancer, I expect a lot more scary things to happen, and there just wasn’t enough action to keep me engaged. All the action scenes were over quite quickly and left me filling disappointed, like that scene in Breaking Dawn where Alice showed what could have happened if there was a war … but nothing actually happened (Twilight reference for the win!!!).
Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this novel. It had the potential to be dynamic and crazy. While it maintained a fast pace, it didn’t have sensible character interactions and really lacked strong backstories and world-building, which would have made this a more engrossing read. Also, Odessa is a very needy character who can’t stop falling for other people while grieving for someone who was supposedly the love of her life. It was just too much. I’m giving this a 1.5/5 stars, rounded to 2.