Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Book Review: The Death of the Necromancer
The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells
This book is one that is difficult to label either steampunk or not steampunk. I debated reviewing it here, but decided that if I were a reader of this blog, I'd appreciate this review.
The Death of the Necromancer is a fantasy novel set in a different world from our own. But it's a world that happens to resemble Victorian England in nearly every detail, except that magic is real and sorcerers are part of the normal order of things. So it's an alternate world Victorian fantasy. There aren't really any explicitly steampunk elements, although the central device that the plot revolves around is technically a technological invention that uses gears and whatnot to produce magical effects. But that's really the only instance of actual steampunk technology and there's very little focus on that aspect.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It hit all my buttons for satisfying fiction. The plot, while not particularly unique, is satisfying. But the characters are really the highlight of the book. The main character is Nicholas Valiarde, a man who grew up as a street thief in the slums, only to be adopted by an eminent natural philosopher. His university education was interrupted when his adopted father was falsely accused of necromancy and executed, only to be proven innocent posthumously. Nicholas returned to a life of crime with one goal in mind: revenge on the man who framed his father. To that end he gathered a team of fiercely loyal followers, who are all well drawn characters in their own right, with their own private motivations.
On the other side of the law are the characters of Inspecter Ronsarde and Doctor Halle, who are essentially Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, except they work for the police. Both sides of the law end up investigating the actions of a mysterious sorcerer and necromancer.
You know you're reading a good book when you're 350 pages in and are relived that there are still almost two hundred pages to go because you don't want the book to end any time soon. This book is full of action and suspense, but doesn't neglect the deeper character issues. It's very well-balanced. And I highly recommend it to anyone interested in some Victorian flavored fantasy.