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.
Sarah 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 ofFear the Drowning Deepand Reign of the Fallen.
An Interview With Sarah Glenn Marsh
When you created Meredy were you worried readers would only see her as Evander’s little sister?
Had Meredy been younger and less sure of herself, or had she shared Evander’s magical gift of necromancy, that might have been a problem. But since she’s only a year younger than Odessa, and she’s the youngest beast master in a century—she wants you to know that little fact, since she worked hard to complete her studies and earn her title a year ahead of time!—she comes onto the scene as her own person, confident in who she is outside of her family (it also helps that her magical studies meant being away from her family for large periods of time, spanning years). If Evander ever cast a shadow over her, she’d shove him to the side so they could share the spotlight—and I have no doubts that he’d share it gladly!
I mean, we’re talking about the girl who watched her older sister become a beast master by bonding with greyhounds, and vowed to one-up her by bonding with a grizzly bear. Meredy is an original, different from both of her siblings through and through!
How did you come up with the rules of Death in Reign? Did any specific story or research inspire/influence you? Because to me the Dead are really zombies with manners.
The Greek myth of Orpheus was my biggest inspiration for how the Dead in Reign came to be. In the story, Orpheus tries to rescue his wife from the underworld, and is told he may bring her back to the living world only if he doesn’t look at her on the journey. But he can’t help the impulse, and he loses her forever. That’s how I decided that the Dead (that is, spirits who have been returned to their bodies by necromancers) in my story would have to wear shrouds when they’re in the living world; if anyone happens to catch even a glimpse of the flesh beneath, they become vicious monsters called Shades.
I then built on this idea by researching the Greek underworld (a big part of the inspiration for the Deadlands, the spirits’ world in Reign), and reading about how various cultures and religions view death, their mythology and rituals around it. While not every bit of what I researched made it into the final book, it’s all in my notebook that contains the world of Reign, and inside it you’ll find influences from all over!
Of course, a few tidbits came from my own imagination, such as the ritual of using milk, blood, and honey in the act of raising the dead.
Did you have trouble deciding on how the social classes would be handle in Reign since some of the kingdom’s members are… well, dead?
It was definitely something I gave a lot of careful thought to while world building! Since the Dead are in charge, it made sense for necromancers to be elevated to a sort of celebrity status, essentially, since they’re the ones who make the reign of the Dead possible in the first place. This line of thinking also gave me the idea for rogue necromancers, called “Shade baiters” in the book—unsavory people with blue eyes who claim they can raise the dead, wanting to make a quick coin off of the unsuspecting. Of course, those who choose to use their services most often wind up dead themselves…
Do you believe in second chances at love? It would seem your characters do.
Absolutely. I have loved, I am in love, and there are certain people I’ll always love—I’d say that’s human nature, and I think Odessa would back me up there.
There are different levels of relationships explored in Reign, from personal to professional to romantic. What was your favorite relationship to explore as it came to life during writing?
One of my favorites—I have many!—was Odessa and Valoria’s friendship. These two characters are both badasses in their own right- one, a celebrated necromancer and the other, a daring inventor in a land that fears change. The respect they come to have for each other as the story progresses was amazing to experience along with them. One of my favorite moments in their budding friendship is when Odessa, despite being hesitant about new ideas, encourages something Valoria has been building in secret up in her tower room. These two always have each other’s backs, even if they don’t always agree. I’d love to see even more strong female friendships in YA, and I have the feeling 2018 is going to deliver…!
Sparrow is in a dark place throughout the novel. Did you worry that it could negatively affect your readers?
For sure. I hope that pearly pink cover isn’t too deceiving about the darkness within! One precaution I took was to issue a trigger warning on Goodreads from my author account. I care deeply about the health and safety of readers. I want anyone who picks this book up to know ahead of time that it deals with violence, death and loss, and somewhat lengthy depictions of addiction.
If that content warning doesn’t deter you as a reader, however, I promise that the book’s message is a hopeful one, and that I would never end a story on a grim note. …At least, I haven’t yet!
What was one of the most important things you struggled to convey to your readers?
One thing that was challenging about writing Reign was staying in Odessa’s POV at all times! I wanted to convey so many things about, for instance, King Wylding’s past, or to show more of Simeon and Danial’s relationship, but I’m convinced that staying within Odessa’s POV was the right choice for this story. We need to be in her head for those pivotal spoilery moments, and the results of said spoilers are more deeply and immediately felt when we’re experiencing them through her gaze.
Change and the fear of change are so important in Reign. What made you decide to use change as your central theme?
Focusing on change seemed like a natural fit because of having the Dead walking around, running the kingdom. Death is a stagnant state, a final state in which there is no change, so it seemed only natural that my reanimated people would fear it.
Also, on a more personal note, change is something I struggle with at times. I’m the type of person who saves every card I’ve ever been sent. I have a very hard time letting go. So while this book is intended purely as entertainment, drafting it was helpful to me in working through my own mixed feelings toward certain types of change (like my grandparents getting older). At the same time, there are some changes I wish everyone today would embrace, and I think that’s reflected in the story, too.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?
When I set out to write Reign, it was still early in 2016. I had no idea that it would feel so relevant in 2018, and yet here we are. I have no illusions about changing anyone’s viewpoint on anything through this book- if you choose to pick it up, you’re probably a like-minded individual already- however, I do hope the book’s message will serve as a reminder to at least one person to strive for a better future. A reminder that change is a part of who we are. This is me hoping for many positive changes in 2018.
Oh, and this book has a grizzly bear in it. You’ve been warned!
BONUS: I have such a crush on Jax! Can you tell me more about him and how he came to be?
Why, Jax would love to tell you about himself! He’s more than just his own biggest fan—he’s a Gryffindor at heart, truly brave. Like many necromancers, he’s an orphan (they tend to be the best people for the job of journeying to the spirit world, since there aren’t loved ones waiting for them there, trying to lure them into staying forever…) with a tragic past—a past that is revealed in detail in book two, so you’ll have to stay tuned! Jax has a lot of anger, but he also loves to laugh. That’s probably why he’s been best friends with Evander and Simeon for so long. He also has several tattoos, and while he’d love to stay and chat and give you a list of them, I’ve got to get going! 😉
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today, Rae! And don’t forget to bring your own pet grizzly bear with you on your next trip to Karthia. You never know when you’ll need all that muscle and claw to back you up!
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