Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Necromancer

Necromancer by Graeme Ing

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've said for a long time that I don't like "dark" fantasy, but I'm in the middle of re-reading the Abhorsen series, so that doesn't really hold up. Accordingly, when I saw this on the Fussy Librarian, I thought I'd give it a go.

As a result, I figured out that what I don't like isn't so much dark as grimdark. It's not necessarily the death and destruction (though I don't go looking for it), but the nihilism and the lack of heroes. In this book, heroes are not lacking, and accordingly I enjoyed it.

I thought at first that it was going to make my "well-edited" shelf, but did notice a number of issues as I read further. The nature of the issues suggests to me that the manuscript had a great many more, and that a very good copy editor had caught most but, inevitably, not all of them. (For example, "millenia" as the singular, "Magi" as the singular, "bracken water" for "brackish water" twice, "poo-pooing" instead of "pooh-poohing", and one "your" for "you're".) For the most part, though, it now reads smoothly and well.

As I mentioned, there's an unequivocal hero, the protagonist, narrator and title character. He uses his necromantic powers for good, in the service and defence of the city he loves. It's a sword-and-sorcery world, but the story, I realised partway through, is detective noir. The hero gets beaten up and knocked out a lot, is susceptible to getting caught up with untrustworthy dames, and can't hold back from sassing powerful men who don't respond well to being sassed.

Speaking of the setting, I do question the decision to have a lot of unfamiliar animals, plants, foods, drinks and so forth with made-up names, rather than using Earth names. I know it's more "realistic" worldbuilding, but it doesn't convey a clear impression to the reader of what these incidental things are like when they're called by an unfamiliar name. One of the drinks is also called something very similar to one of the characters (the hero's apprentice), and that was also confusing each time it was mentioned.

It does feel like a rich and well-thought-through world, though, and I'd definitely read another book set there, or other books by the author in general. The plot made sense and moved at a good pace, the characters were likeable and relatable, the mystery was well handled, and apart from the issues already mentioned the writing and worldbuilding worked well.

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