Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Review: Death of the Necromancer

Title: Death of the Necromancer

Author: Martha Wells

Publisher: Eos

# of Pages: 544

Rating: 7/10

From Publishers Weekly Nicholas Valiarde is a man of several parts, or roles. One is that of disenfranchised nobleman, bent on revenge for the execution of his godfather, Edouard Viller, who was falsely accused of the capital offense of necromancy by the scheming Count Montesq. Another is that of the master thief Donatien, legendary criminal of Ile-Rien. These two roles collide when Nicholas encounters ghouls and a sorcerer known as Doctor Octave in the cellars of a duchess's house while carrying out a robbery. Sinister forces are at work in Ile-Rien. Citizens have gone missing, corpses have turned up vivisected, bones have washed up in the sewer gates. All the evidence points to a necromancer at work, very probably someone with access to the books of the infamous Constant Macob, believed dead for over 200 years. As he investigates, Nicholas and his misfit friends uncover a plot that leads them into a series of escalating confrontations with the evil creations of Macob, as the necromancer schemes to gather enough power to return to life. The setting echoes with the lively sounds and sights of turn-of-18th-century France, with a mesh of dark magic woven throughout. In her third novel, Wells (City of Bones; The Element of Fire) continues to demonstrate an impressive gift for creating finely detailed fantasy worlds rife with many-layered intrigues and immensely personable characters.

It's been a long time since my last post, hasn't it? Well over a month! It's been nice, though, as it feels like I've been missed :-) I apologize for my complete lack of involvement in the online book-reading world for the past month. Though I can't say I feel very badly about it- I've spent the past month in Auckland, New Zealand, and traveling around the North Island of this beautiful country and I have no real regrets that I haven't had much time to read. Except that I brought ten fairly heavy books along with me for the trip and have only read one of them. However, maybe later on, I'll get more time. One can never have too many books with her, after all!

So, Death of the Necromancer. I don't even know if this will be a fair review because it took me well over four weeks to finish this book and by the end, I had very vague recollections of the beginning. Not a very good way to read, if one is writing a review.

However, I do know that at the start of the book, I couldn't put it down. I read it in the airport and in the plane on the way here to Auckland and found it thoroughly engrossing. It is not the book's fault that it took four weeks for me to finish. Nor is it the fault of the characters in the story. All of them (including the excellent Madeline, a girl I think would be a great asset to have in a bad situation) were well-rounded and three-dimensional.

It might have been that the plot is one that is best understood in a quicker reading than mine, but I just really lost the thread by the time I finished the book. I didn't really know what was happening. I know that there was a "bad guy" and then a sort of peripheral bad guy, but I didn't really understand how they were related (and I'm pretty sure they were). Or when the first bad guy was defeated. I don't know if this is due to the four-week slack period between starting the book and finishing it... but I was just VERY confused.

So, then, why a rating of seven, if I don't even know if I "got" the book or not? Well, the characters were quite interesting. I like fantasy books that drop you into a story and kind of expect you to scramble to gain your footing. This book did that very well, not just with the plot but with the characters. All the characters had so much history with each other, and knew each other so well, that the reader really felt like the newcomer to the clique. I think Wells did really well with that. You could tell that the characters were all great friends and had a lot of fun together, but she didn't let their inside jokes and little asides detract from the main storyline at all.

The main character, Nicholas, is really quite fascinating. And a bit obsessive about gaining revenge- though at the end, when all has been accomplished, the reader (and Nicholas, no doubt) is left with a bittersweet feeling. Because, when you've been so obsessed with something for so long, and then accomplish it- what else is there for you to do? Nicholas is a study in character development and single-mindedness, and a really interesting one, at that.

His female counterpart is Madeline. I wouldn't say that Madeline is one of my favorite females in literature, but she is far better than average. Not only can she think for herself, but she doesn't make a point of proving to everyone that she can think for herself. She just does it and the job gets done. That's it- and it's excellent. Exactly how it should be. I don't quite know why I didn't like Madeline more, actually- perhaps because I don't think we ever get as good a read on her as we wish to. She is there, just out of grasp, for the length of the book. You can see her and interact with her, but as far as understanding her... I think you're pretty much out of luck.

Overall, Death of the Necromancer was an enjoyable read. I might even give it a reread one day, when I have more time to devote to the reading of it. I also plan to check out more of Wells' books, as I think she does fantasy well.

Right now, I'm getting into my New Zealand literature with The Colour, by Rose Tremain. I'm not very far into it, but it's beautifully written- so evocative. As of now, I'd highly recommend it :-) I don't know when the review for that one will be posted, though!

For those of you who continue to check this blog, even with its complete lack of activity lately- thank you. It's much appreciated!


  1. It sounds like time well spent, even if book reading was sporadic! Sometimes there are just better things to do. Death of the Necromancer sounds interesting, especially if it kept your interest that long, under those circumstances (the traveling) and while still confusing you!

  2. Hope that you had a nice trip and that you were able to enjoy yourself!

  3. Better to carry around too many books than to run short. Sounds like a lovely trip.

  4. Yoo Hoo Aarti! Still checking your blog and that's a beautiful picture, you're quite lovely! Are you still in New Zealand? Weren't you in Cairo a couple of months ago, my, I am jealous at how much you travel!!! Do post when you can would love to know how your travels are treating you!

  5. Anonymous7/04/2007

    I got this book as a gift. Yet to read it. You review sounds interesting. I will read it ahead of other boooks on my list.

  6. I have that habit of bringing along many books with me when I'm on travel! I always think that I should have some books to read during my spare time.

    But, I always end up still reading the same book, which I started at the beginning of my journey, when I get back home.


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