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The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells

The Death of the Necromancer (original 1998; edition 2013)

by Martha Wells

Series: Ile-Rien (2)

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5851316,858 (4.1)57
Title:The Death of the Necromancer
Authors:Martha Wells
Info:Martha Wells (2013), Kindle Edition, 462 pages
Collections:Your library, Electronic book, Read in Santa Fe
Tags:fantasy, occult mystery, vengeance is mine!

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The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (1998)

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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. ( )
  pwaites | Dec 31, 2015 |
  SnowNSew | Oct 2, 2013 |
On an intellectual level, this novel is engaging and unusual for a fantasy. The plot unravels not in a somewhat-medieval world, as is almost a staple of the genre, but in a place and time that resonate heavily with Victorian London of Sherlock Holmes, although the geographic names are all imaginary. In that quasi-19th century, telegrams and steam trains coincide with sorcery (legal) and necromancy (illegal), and magically animated stone gargoyles kill people under the gas light.
The protagonist Nicholas fits into this milieu. Driven by his need to avenge his foster father, wrongfully accused of necromancy and executed a few years ago, Nicholas is plotting against the man responsible – Count Montesq. To bring his enemy down, Nicholas gathered a gang of criminals around him. Many of his associates have a grudge against Montesq, and almost everyone owes Nicholas his life or freedom.
Here lies my first, feeble objection to the story: all those thieves are so very noble and ready to die for their boss that the sweetness level becomes almost sugary. Fortunately, it’s counteracted by Nicholas’s relationship with his lover, actress Madeline. The relationship is supposed to be love, but it’s almost invisible. Madeline is charming and talented but she acts not as Nicholas’s sweetheart but as any of his henchmen. She is capable and insists on being involved in all his schemes, risking her life on a regular schedule, but why? Why does she do it for the man who never said he loves her and always treats her like one of the guys? My second objection arises here. I like Madeline more than any other character in the story and I feel sorry for her. Her love for Nicholas is at least tangible.
To make the story more interesting, Nicholas’s plans for revenge are interrupted, when a mad necromancer appears on the scene and starts a killing spree, terrorizing the city. That necromancer also marked Nicholas as one of his primary targets, and Nicholas doesn’t know why. To resume his vengeance against Montesq, Nicholas first must find and destroy the necromancer. But of course, the necromancer always stays one step ahead, and Nicholas always reacts instead of acting. My third objection: why is the bad guy so much smarter than the good guy? Although I’m not sure Nicholas falls under the description of a good guy? He is a criminal boss after all.
Much of the action takes place in filthy and smelly places like the sewers under the city. And Nicholas stumbles into one disaster after another, as if his luck had disappeared. If he ever had it, that is. I know it’s a literary rule to put obstacles into the hero’s way, but when everything that could go wrong does, again and again without respite, I start to wonder why Nicholas was made the hero of this story. It’s becoming frustrating after a while, when the bad guys invariably win every round.
I liked the book, really I did, don’t get me wrong. I finished it, which is praise in itself: I don’t finish books I dislike. Furthermore, the things that I like about this book – its complex plot, its descriptive scenery, its intricate interweaving of magic and science – heavily outweigh what I dislike, but I’m not going to seek another book of this author again, because what I disliked most touched me on a gut level. It’s the lack of emotional involvement: the heroes’, the author’s, and consequently, mine. When the hero is angry, the author just says it. It doesn’t reflect in his actions or words. When the heroine is afraid, the same story. I don’t feel her fear; my connection to her plight is purely cerebral: in a described situation, only a mad woman wouldn’t be afraid.

But despite everything I said above, this novel is definitely worth reading.
( )
  olga_godim | Oct 4, 2012 |
Enjoyable. I liked the characters and appreciated that the woman never needed to be 'rescued', etc. Didn't make me think about things in a new way, though. ( )
  dwhapax | May 25, 2011 |
One of the best, most entertaining book I've read!!!: This book is brilliant. There is almost nothing in it that I didn't like or that I skipped over. In fact, this may well just be one of my favorite books ever. Yes, it was that good.

First of all is the plot. It never got boring and it never stalled. From chapter one the ride takes off and it doesn't stop until the very end. As the book opens we find ourselves in one of the most lavished mansions where a ball is taking place. Unbeknownst to the attendants, not one but two robberies are occurring simultaneously in that very house. As luck would have it, Nicholas and his friends have a rather nasty run in with a ghoul sent by a powerful necromancer and they barely manage to escape.

From that moment on their lives are complicated beyond belief as they try to put their well thought out plan to bring down the ruthless man who is responsible for Nicholas father's execution as well as trying to escape the clutches of the mad wizard who is after them.

The other thing I loved about this book were the characters. Nicholas is one of the most genuine heroes I've come across in a very long time. Ever since his father was executed he has spent his life building a double persona. One is of a respectable nobleman whom everyone knows as Nicholas Valiarde, son of the late scientist Edouard Viller. The other is Ile-Rien's infamous underworld crime-lord Donatien. He is very adept at keeping the two personalities separated to everyone but his closest friends and allies: Madeleine and Reynard. Only they can see how his vendetta is slowly consuming him and the lines between his two personalities are beginning to blur.

Nicholas comes across effectively as a tortured hero without going over the top. His is a quiet manner yet you never have a doubt that he is anything but a doomed man because of his obsession with revenge. I loved the way that Wells portrays him. Not once does the author trying to convince you the man is tortured or that he is the very best at what he does overwhelm you. It's there in the way he acts or thinks or the way others see him.

Another treat was Madeleine who quickly became one of my favorite heroines. The woman doesn't have one TSTL moment. Ever. Not once does she make a rash and stupid decision. Not once does she falter and wait for everyone to come to her rescue because she got into trouble. She actually thinks before she acts, she is good under pressure and she doesn not doubt the Nicholas' abilities. At the same time you feel the love and the bond she shares with him even without having to read pages of the two declaring their love for one another. I thought this was one of the best things about the novel.

The secondary characters are all brilliant as well. From Nicholas opium addicted wizard friend to his seemingly debauched allied Reynard to even his bodyguards. They all fit their roles perfectly without fading in the background.

The villains are amazing as well. Wells doesn't shy away from showing you just how evil these people really are and that's what makes the danger to our heroes all the more believable.

The one thing I found somewhat lacking is the way in which one of the two villains meets his end. We are lead on a wild chase and the suspense builds up only to be over and done with in the blink of an eye. I would have liked to see exactly what happened but I was satisfied with the way the other, and more important villain, met his demise.

One last thing to note is the setting in which the story takes place. I am a sucker for steampunk type stories where the settings are reminiscence of Victorian, Edwardian or turn of the century Europe. Ile-Rien reminds you of an 18th century alternate France where wizards and magic are a common sight. I absolutely loved it and Wells does a helluva job painting each scene so vividly you feel you are practically there.

This is damn near perfect and I dare say anyone that enjoys a good story will be glued to the book until the very end. A wonderful, wonderful ride.

I give it a solid 5 out of 5!
  iayork | Aug 9, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martha Wellsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Targete,Jean PierreCover artsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.

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