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

by Martha Wells

Series: Ile-Rien (2)

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6041516,187 (4.09)60
Member:cshalizi
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
Rating:****
Tags:fantasy, occult mystery, vengeance is mine!

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The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (1998)

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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. ( )
  pwaites | Dec 31, 2015 |
Abandoned
  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 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

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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