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Ward Against Darkness (Chronicles of a…
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Ward Against Darkness (Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer)

by Melanie Card

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I remember really enjoying the first book in this smashing fantasy series, and after a long wait I've been able to read the second one!

Imagine Celaena from Throne of Glass? Well, Celia was written way before her and is just as deadly. Only first time, Ward met her? She is dead, and he is performing her wake so she can say goodbye to her loved ones. The wake goes awry and Celia gets resurrected instead by a shocky and horrified necromancer.

After the couple's adventures in the previous book they are on the run from the bounty hunters, both injured and exhausted when they stumble out of the forest to a forgotten Goddess sanctuary (or so they think).

Before they know it, Ward assumes a mistaken identity and jumps from the frying pan to a fire, as he is now an apprentice-hopeful to a very powerful Innocroesti (Dark Necromancer). Add to it a Seer's servant approaching him for a task he can not refuse and the price for his failure a gruesome death, and poor Ward doesn't know where to turn and has to hope that his and Celia's mad scheme to disable Innocroesti somehow will work.

Melanie Card writes a proper dark fantasy, nothing is glossed over or washed out. I don't quite know why Entangled felt it necessary to call this series Teen or New Adult fiction, but no matter the label this is good, peeps. Recommended for the fans of Throne of Glass and Graceling.
( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: There is a lot happening in this second installment of the series and it isn’t easy to catch up with the complex plot if you haven’t read the first book. Threats are flying at Celia and Ward from all sides, they’re confused by their feelings and there aren’t any easy answers. Card’s world of magic, monsters and mythology will definitely satisfy fans of the fantasy genre!

Opening Sentence: Ward scrambled behind the tree trunk and crouched beside Celia, who somehow blended into the hazy moonlight and shadows with her pale skin and black hair.

The Review:

It’s only been a week since Ward de’Ath and Celia Carlyle escaped Brawenal City after being framed for her father’s death, yet so much has happened. Ward has been kicked out of the physician’s academy, branded a criminal for pursuing his dream of being a surgeon and forced to follow in his family’s necromancer footsteps. Celia is both alive and…not. The spell Ward improvised to resurrect her means that neither of them knows exactly what she is or how long she’ll be around. Her unique state also complicates their growing attachment to each other since there are very clear laws in place regarding the relationships between the living and the dead.

It’s clear that they could use a time out to reflect on all the ways their lives have changed and what it means for their future, but the unlucky couple cannot catch a break. Injured, exhausted and chased by a team of bounty hunters, they stumble into a house of monsters controlled by one of the most dangerous necromancers in all of the Union of Principalities.

Mistaken for a man named Quirin Dagenhart and his pet, Ward and Celia are welcomed into the home of Macerio sanz de Cortia. He might be mystically blind, but Ward doesn’t need the ability to sense magic to know Macerio has some seriously powerful mojo. The six slender golden hoops lining Macerio’s ear is all the proof anyone needs.

Known as a Ring of Habil, each hoop represents control over a vesperitti – a human whose body has been resurrected and soul enslaved. More formidable than any bounty hunter, a vesperitti is stronger, faster and harder to kill than any human. The most terrifying aspect of their existence, though, is that they survive by consuming human souls. It takes an especially powerful necromancer to create a vesperitti and only an Innecroestri – a dark necromancer who’s addicted to casting spells using the blood of human victims – is strong enough or twisted enough to do it. The fact that Macerio has at least six of these creatures under his control mean that Ward and Celia are toast if it’s discovered that Ward isn’t who he says he is. Which is bound to happen when it becomes apparent that Quirin, the man Ward is pretending to be, is competing against two other necromancers to become Macerio’s Innecroestri apprentice.

Terrified of remaining within the house of horrors and possibly losing himself to the draw of blood magic, Ward nevertheless feels duty-bound by his necromancer oath. He has to at least try to return the balance between life and death by freeing the souls of the enslaved vesperitti and stealing the powerful spell books before their secrets can be passed to another.

Celia isn’t thrilled with Ward’s decision, yet she can’t help but admire the man he’s becoming. She also doesn’t pretend not to notice the similarities between her own resurrection and the vesperitti’s. Ward’s admission that he used an unknown spell that can’t be recreated to return her soul to her dead body has left her wondering exactly what she is. While she doesn’t feel the vesperitti need to devour human souls, she can’t deny that she isn’t fully alive either. Even more unsettling, though, is the possibility that the growing feelings she has for Ward are the result of the magical bond created when Ward resurrected her body. Still, she’s dedicated to do whatever she can to protect Ward as his idyllic innocence is worn away in their struggle to survive the dark world they’ve entered.

As far as Ward, there’s a line in the story that eloquently sums up the heart of his dilemma. “The madness hadn’t happened from one breath to the next. It happened one neglected value at a time.”

Ward is an extremely sympathetic character, torn between a duty he never wanted and the basic need to survive. Pretending to be an Innecroestri, the antithesis of everything a necromancer stands for, in order to free the souls of the enslaved vesperitti and steal the magical books means doing things he never imagined. But does the outcome justify his actions? Is any reason good enough to use the blood of a person murdered before his eyes? Does consuming soul magic consumed by a vesperitti in order to be strong enough to defeat Macerio make Ward less of a “good” person? At first, it’s very apparent that Ward will only use any spell connected with human blood if it’s absolutely necessary to keep up the illusion for Macerio. But it becomes easier for Ward to call on that magic with each spell he casts – and with each justification he tells himself.

It’s going to be very difficult for him to pull away from the dark magic he’s gained access to and I think it will be a very interesting journey to watch. I whole-heartedly recommend Ward Against Darkness to anyone looking for a compelling fantasy with strong character development.

Notable Scene:

“This is spectacular.” Even though the books contained the darkest knowledge known to man, the room was amazing. Maybe if he focused on that, he could keep his attention on Macerio instead of the panic racing through him.

“Not as spectacular as I’d hoped. When Habil realized the necromancer Oralia Bornay was on the verge of destroying everything he’d created, he divided his grimoire into three sections and hid them in this house.”

“The Book of Death, the Book of Blood, and the Book of Souls.” Ward at least knew that. From his necromancer education, he also knew that Oralia Bornay, the hero who killed Habil, never discovered the grimoires’ locations.

Macerio’s smile actually reached his eyes. “You do know your history. The Books of Death and Blood have spells to increase magical strength and cast false resurrections.”

“So the legend goes.”

“I have them. Would you like to see how true the legend is?”

Ward’s heart skipped a beat. “You have both the Book of Death and the Book of Blood?” Goddess above, he had two of the grimoires? That made him even more powerful, even more dangerous. There was no way Ward could steal two books, and risk facing Macerio.

Run. That was the only answer. He had to get out of there now. He—

—had to stay calm. Running now would guarantee death. Play this out. Live the lie. He could do this.

FTC Advisory: Entangled Publishing provided me with a copy of Ward Against Darkness. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | May 4, 2014 |
Powerful historic fantasy with a realistic and bloody edge to it. Wonderfully deep characters, and the two main characters' development takes place on multiple levels, in multiple directions, at the same time. Ward learns more of who he is and what he can accomplish, even as he steps onto a slippery, descending moral road that could easily get away from him and spill him into dark necromancy; Celia's self-knowledge becomes grey and confused, but as she doubts herself and wavers, she starts moving toward a higher moral ground. Okay, so almost any moral ground is higher than that of her previous life as an assassin, and she's mainly doing it because of Ward's influence. But it's still an improvement.

The action is non-stop, the plot a fight to the death against horrible odds, and I had to keep turning pages. Approaching deadline, massive amounts of waiting work, papers everywhere — don't care. I had to see What Happened Next. Hopefully Entangled won't wait quite so long before releasing the third book in this series; yes, I'm already waiting to read it.

Five strong stars. ( )
  GunnarGrey | Jul 29, 2013 |
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