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The Death of the Necromancer Kindle Edition
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I have to say, Martha Wells really has a knack for creating colorful characters. In this story, the main protagonist is a rather gray character. Nicholas isn't some noble do-gooder, a simple detective, or a talented magician. Rather, he's a thief. Of course he's a very good thief. At this point in his life, Nicholas has amassed a little criminal empire of informants and skilled tradesman who can help him break into almost any building or uncover nearly any piece of valuable information. His lover and co-conspirator in crime is Madeline, who plays a sizable role in the story. Now since Nicholas has no magical abilities whatsoever, you might expect Madeline to be some overpowered sorceress who balances him out. But the story avoids such predictability. Madeline did have a talent for magic, but instead of pursuing it, she decided to be an actress. Thus she can't perform any handy spells, yet she can whip up a nice disguise or infiltrate enemy territory.
Still, the main characters do get some help from the magically inclined. You also couldn't ask for a better example of how Martha adds flavor to her characters. Nicholas and Madeline's magical ally is one of the most powerful sorcerers in the land...at least when he's sober. Arisilde is indeed powerful, but for reasons the book will explain, he's also a helpless opium addict whose gone a bit mad and has a hard time remember things or keeping focus. When he has his wits, he's unstoppable. Unfortunately for him, that's a rare occurrence. As a reader, I thought it was great. It balances the story out while adding a immense measure of fun. And there are plenty of other great characters too, each with their own distinct personalities.
As for the story, it has a bit of a Sherlock Holmes feel with a touch of Edgar Allan Poe. There are detective-mystery threads and there are also darker elements involving necromancy and ghoulish creatures. Plus it all has a Victorian era feel to it. The characters ride around in horse drawn carriages, streets are lit by gas lamps and people arm themselves with pistols. The world building takes a backseat to the characters and the plot, but it's more than sufficient to keep things easy to understand. There are mentions of the fay, ghouls, sorcerers, witches and magic early on, but the story takes its time in slowly seeding those elements into the plot. The build up works well, and once it gets rolling, it's hard to stop. Criminal schemes become struggles to stay alive. Sorcery is pitched against sorcery. Plans fall to pieces and chaos ensues amid intertwining plots. It's a lot of fun.
If you like good stories that include a touch of fantasy combined with great characters, The Death of the Necromancer is definitely a story worth checking out. I typically don't read stories in this kind of setting, but Martha Wells created such compelling characters that it was easy to get into and enjoy. It's also worth noting that this book takes place in the same setting as The Element of Fire, but several hundred years later. I haven't read the other book yet, or any of the other books in Martha Well's Ile-Rien series, so I can definitely say readers can enjoy this book on it's own. I give it a five out of five.
Two or three of the secondary characters were interesting enough to have their own stories, if the authoress ever chose to do so.
It was a story and a page turner that was difficult to put down.
Since his foster-father's execution, Nicholas has dedicated his life to getting revenge on the man who framed Viller, the Count Montesq. To do this, he has created the persona of Donatien, the greatest thief in Ile-Rien and the bane of the brilliant Inspector Ronsarde. Yet just as Nicholas is about to set his complex plan, years in the making, into motion, something goes terribly wrong. The mysterious Dr. Octave, who somehow knows Donatien's true identity, begins to interfere, and Nicholas becomes caught up in a strange and dangerous plot that may involve an ancient necromancer--and possibly the fate of the entire kingdom.
Martha Wells is my all-time favorite author, and The Death of the Necromancer may be her best book. Her worldbuilding is always superb--think gaslight France with magic--and her characters never fail to satisfy. Nicholas is an especially complex and conflicted character; as his two lives come into contact for the first time, he is faced with the question: who is he, really? The scholar and art importer Nicholas Valiarde, who loves the actress Madeline? Or the shadowy and dangerous Donatien, who loves only revenge? His love-hate relationship with Inspector Ronsarde (a little like Ile-Rien's Sherlock Holmes) is handled superbly.
But you shouldn't think this is some kind of fantasy retelling of Sherlock Holmes. Although there are hints of Moriarty in Nicholas and of Sherlock and Watson in Ronsarde and his companion Halle, these are unique and original characters caught up in a unique and original plot. I absolutely cannot recommend this book enough, and I was extremely excited to see it re-released in ebook format. It's been out of print for so long that hard copies can be hard to come by, but at $2.99 there's really no reason for you to not buy this book right now. Some references are made to The Element of Fire, which precedes it, but Necromancer really is a standalone book and reading Fire is unnecessary. If you like Necromancer, your next step is to grab The Wizard Hunters, which picks up several decades later and starts off a trilogy.
Second, her characterization is off at times. The main character gets "infuriated" at times that do not seem to warrant it. The description of the other main character is not described well enough to explain why she is living the life she has chosen.
Still, I read the book quickly because itis exciting, has good minor characters, and has a plot just varied enough to keep things moving.