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Death of the Necromancer, The by Martha…

Death of the Necromancer, The (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Martha Wells

Series: Ile-Rien (2)

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6771621,305 (4.1)75
Title:Death of the Necromancer, The
Authors:Martha Wells
Info:Avon Bks.,U.S. (1999), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (1998)


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Set a hundred years after The Element of Fire, this is a complicated and compelling mystery, with characters who try to conceal just how deeply they care.

Nicholas Valiarde wants revenge on the man responsible for orchestrating the wrongful arrest and execution of Nicholas’s foster-father on charges of necromancy. Nicholas has taken on the identity of a underworld figure and gathered a somewhat disreputable team around him, but, with the final goal in sight, they uncover disturbing evidence that someone in the gas-lit city is practicing necromancy.

I took a long time to feel properly emotionally invested, partly because these characters are more inclined to toss off lighthearted comments or tell each other not to “be so damned sentimental” than wallow in emotion. But as the story progresses, it becomes obvious how much they care about justice and about each other. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more focus on emotions (especially in regards to Nicholas relationship with Madeline, and to having to work with someone they had both long considered an enemy -- so much potential!) But this still is an excellent story. Just one with slightly different narrative priorities to me.

“That’s true.” The Queen slumped back in her chair suddenly, frowning. “I’d forgotten.”
Thank you, Doctor Uberque, for a thorough grounding in the history of court law, Nicholas thought, though he didn’t believe for a moment the Queen had forgotten that obscure fact. It was like watching Madeline play a role, only underneath it all Madeline was basically harmless and the Queen was anything but. The woman uses candor like a loaded pistol. He still thought her courtiers probably mocked her, but if they did it within her hearing, they probably didn’t do it twice.
( )
  Herenya | Feb 3, 2019 |
I first read this years ago - maybe when it first came out. It's one that's stuck with me, and when I saw the Kindle version on sale, I snapped it up.

I'm glad I did.

Some books, when you read them a second time, years later, have lost their lustre. This is not one of those books; I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time round.

So, what did I enjoy?

The Characters
All the characters are just a bit larger than life - the gentleman-thief, the actress, the sorcerer, the great detective, and so on - but not so much so that it disturbed the enjoyment of the story. They felt real - they lost their tempers, sniped at each other, and made mistakes.

The Plot
There's an awful lot of running around, and a fair number of corpses. To be fair, I think the actual plot was the weakest point of the story, because there were a few holes in it, and things just got wrapped up a bit too neatly and too quickly at the end, but...

The Setting
I think this probably the main reason why Death of the Necromancer stayed with me for so many years. Wells writes the city of Ile-Rien vividly enough that I could see the dark, foggy streets in my head. It had weight and depth - it felt real.

Thinking on, this is the book by which I measure all other gaslight fantasy. ( )
1 vote T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
This is a very enjoyable heist story, set in a Victorian not-Europe with sorcery and lots of colorful, memorable characters. For the last ten years, ever since his foster father's execution, Nicholas Valiarde has assumed a criminal alter ego and pulled off high-profile thefts with the help of his little gang. Now he's close to his ultimate goal: revenge on the man who framed his foster father for necromancy. But it seems someone is using his foster father's research for an evil purpose. Nicholas and his gang have to turn their considerable talents to finding and stopping this sinister new player.

The characters get much of their appeal from archetypes--e.g. quickwitted actress, eagle-eyed investigator, antihero revenge-obsessed criminal mastermind--but they have a lot of personality, act and speak believably, and don't feel like stock characters. All their backstories are full of plot hooks and I wanted to read those stories too. I especially wanted to see more of Madele!

The setting isn't gender egalitarian, since women have only recently been admitted into universities. The cast is mostly men. I think there are only three women with names, of which Madeline is the only female main character. On the plus side, Madeline does have a very active role. I also really like that gay relationships are present but unremarkable in this society.

The story is more plot- than character-focused, and the plot is tight and self-consistent. Everything that happens is the result of a previous event (isn't that a requirement for any good plot?). And the words on the page never get in the way of the scenes. I'm only mentioning this because I read the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy first, and I had some problems with it; I felt the plot wandered and a lot of things were resolved by deus ex machina, and I also kept noticing several frequently repeated phrases. I didn't notice any of those things in The Death of the Necromancer. ( )
1 vote pyanfarrrr | Jul 9, 2016 |
Disappointing. The characters were lame at best (I did like the opium-addict magician), and the main character’s angst-ridden past and romance were boring and stiffly written. Even the plot didn’t hold my interest. Read her other books instead. This is a precursor to a trilogy, set in the same world...we'll see. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
While The Death of the Necromancer is set in the same world as a prior novel by Martha Wells, it stands alone and I had no problems reading it independently of the other book. I am so glad I did read this one – The Death of the Necromancer is a wonderfully evocative gaslight fantasy novel set in another world with a time period reminiscent of the late 1800s.

Nicholas Valiarde is a nobleman who by night will assume the disguise of a master thief. He’s focused on vengeance for his late mentor, who was framed for the heinous crime of necromancy by the powerful Count Montesq. The book opens with Nicholas and his allies pulling off a heist, only to realize that someone has been there before them. Almost immediately they are catapulted into a mysterious situation involving dark magic and strange events, behind which lies an ancient evil.

Wells has an undoubted talent for world building. She brings the city and the kingdom of Ile-Rein to life. It’s an immersive experience – you really feel like you are there, wandering the streets of the city or dark catacombs beneath. While none of the world elements are particularly new (read her The Cloud Roads for that), the atmosphere and setting is exquisitely crafted.

Most of the characters are remarkably vivid and interesting. It’d be so easy for Nicholas to become an over dramatized, aghasty Batman clone, but Wells instead has Nicholas experience actual growth over the course of the story. She also manages to give life to the supporting cast. There’s Madeline, a brave young woman who has a natural talent for magic but gave it up in favor of being an actress; Reynard, a gentleman solider who’s been in disgrace since his former lover killed himself; Arisilde, a gifted but drug addled sorcerer; and Crack and Cusard, who I regrettably kept getting confused. These are the initial cast members, but some more intriguing characters are added over the course of the story. If there’s one thing I’d wish for, it’d be more female characters. Still, the book didn’t do horribly in this regard.

The Death of the Necromancer is exceptionally well written. Wells gradually reveals more information about her characters, using tiny details to let the reader build a picture of them. The suspense is high, keeping this 500 page + novel gripping.

I would highly recommend The Death of the Necromancer for anyone looking for a well written fantasy story that channels the Victorian era and contains a great cast of characters.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
1 vote pwaites | Dec 31, 2015 |
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The most nerve-racking commissions, Madeline thought, were the ones that required going in through the front door.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380788144, Mass Market Paperback)

Nicholas Valiarde is both a nobleman and a thief, perhaps the greatest thief in the kingdom of Ile-Rien, where magic is a part of everyday life. Around him he has gathered an unparalleled band of criminals, including a well-known actress, an ex-military officer, a hardened killer, and a sorcerer with a bad drug habit. Valiarde, in the guise of criminal overlord Donatien, is amassing a small fortune in gold and jewels with one purpose in mind: to take his revenge on Count Montesq, the man who leveled false charges of necromancy against Nicholas's beloved godfather Edouard, leading to Edouard's execution. But Nicholas's band of ne'er-do-wells isn't the only force stalking the dark streets of Vienne, and Nicholas is about to face a real necromancer in a battle whose outcome will affect all of Ile-Rien. Wells has created a fast-paced action-adventure story with a wonderful cast of characters and a twisting, turning plot that will keep you flipping pages well into the evening hours. --Craig Engler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:32 -0400)

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a seamless blend of fantasy, history, magic and mystery. This is the kind of world that you come to believe exist, somewhere; a place you leave only reluctantly.

(summary from another edition)

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