Published by Razorbill
Published on 23 January 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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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?
Apparently I missed the memo that said this book was about a ‘bisexual necromancer’ and that was pretty much all everyone was talking about, because I don’t really hang out in social media for my book blogging. As such, I went into this book expecting a story about a necromancer who slays and then raises the dead, but I had no expectations around romance.
I think that if I had known ahead of time that Odessa was supposed to be bisexual and the romance in this was supposed to be slow-burn, I probably would have been more disappointed. At about 60% through the audiobook I started to suspect that Odessa was bisexual, but to be honest, her discomfort around another girl was reasonable because it was her deceased lover’s sister, and she reminded Odessa of him way too much. To be honest, I had NO IDEA Odessa was bisexual until that point. It didn’t even seem like a romance at all. There was nothing romantic about her relationship with Meredy even up to 75-85% of the book because I had no idea how Odessa felt about Meredy. Is it a slow burn romance if there is absolutely no romance? There is way too much written about physical actions and reactions and not enough about the emotion. Maybe the author was trying to ‘show not tell’ but in this instance I’m not sure it was as successful as I wanted it to be.
I mean yes, I understand that using labels help marginalised people discover the kinds of books they can identify with easier, I just feel like this was a pretty big label and I had no idea until well over halfway.
I did however really enjoy the magic system, which was based on eye colour and corresponding gift: those with blue eyes could revive the dead, those with grey eyes could control the weather, and those with green eyes could control beasts – all with reasonable training, but the ability is there. There was also a couple of healers with hazel eyes. I’m looking forward to exploring other types of magic in the sequel, especially since a hint was dropped about a golden-eyed man with an surprising power.
I didn’t quite understand why children needed a 7 year apprenticeship to escort the deceased out of the Deadlands when blue-eyed people with no training could do it just as easily. What took 7 years to learn? Odessa only delivers one soul back to its body, and that’s at the start of the book, and the actual raising part is off-page (between chapter 3 and 4). If this book is about a necromancer I want to see some freaking necromancy. It’s not quite as bad as Celeana Sardothian ‘I’m the best assassin in the world but not really’ but it’s in the same vein of if you tell me that’s what the book is about, that’s what I want to read.
I did really enjoy the writing style. It was lush, with vivid, imaginative and lyrical descriptions and fine world-building that never felt like info dumping. The strong writing style and narrative voice are one of the reason why I’m willing to read the second book, even if I felt the so-called romance was a little lacklustre. And although I had some issues with how little Odessa actually performed necromancy, I understand that the plot called for a lot of other work that her particular type of necromancy demanded, and so it isn’t much of an issue – I just wish we got to see some actual necromancy on page.
While I actually did enjoy this book, especially the subtle almost reverse-harem aspects (Odessa has multiple lovers/love interests/people in love with her with no judgement), the diversity in skin colour and sexualities (Odessa’s adopted brother and his boyfriend are cute and have their own issues to deal with), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a ‘bisexual necromancer’ book. If you want to focus on sexuality and you’re looking for a really good YA lesbian romance, I recommend Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, and if you’re looking for a really good YA bisexual girl book, I recommend People Like Us by Dana Mele.