Sunday, January 19, 2014

Necromancing the Stone

Necromancing the Stone
by Lish McBride
Recommended Ages: 14+

In this sequel to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, college dropout, ex-fry cook, late-blooming necromancer Sam LaCroix begins to make sense of his long hidden powers, his network of strange and dangerous allies, his steamy relationship with the Alpha female of a werewolf pack, and the huge fortune left to him by the villain he recently vanquished. But he'd better hurry. More challenges are coming at him, as fast as he can deal with them.

First, there's the murder of Brid's fey-hound father. Whoever done it did not leave any footprints, fibers, or even a scent. It behooves Sam to find out what happened, not only because of his position on the Council of Seattle-area weirdness, but also because his talents make him the prime suspect. And while Brid and her burly brothers do not believe he is guilty, the suspicion makes dangerous enemies of some in the pack. Second, someone is threatening Sam's kid sister. So far it's only been a knife in her door, but it seems likely to escalate from there. And third, his responsibilities to the Council, along with Brid's sudden elevation to leader of the pack, make for many uncertainties in their relationship. Could it be over between them? Could that be the scariest thing of all?

Well, that's not likely when, unbeknownst to Sam, the late and unlamented necromancer Douglas Montgomery is trying to come back from the dead. Operating on a very Voldemortesque principle, he needs only an opportunity to recapture the spark that he stored away long ago, and then he can reclaim everything he lost to Sam—including the almost completed spell to steal Sam's powers through blood and death. Better yet (for Douglas), he has an ally right in the inner circle of Sam's rapidly growing family. And once the tables turn, there's no telling who will command the loyalties of the gnomes, the minotaur, the stone gladiators, the grabby shrubberies, and all the rest.

It's one of those mysteries where you, dear reader, know who done it, but what you don't know is whether he'll get away with it. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a hike in the mountains with Bigfoot, an investigation conducted by interviewing the undead, the surprising cuddliness of a chupacabra, and an even more surprising sensitivity to the warm and fuzzy touches in a Dark Lord's character. It is this sensitivity that may be both the novel's greatest strength and its weakness: a strength because of its rare empathy with the finer motives of a mostly nasty customer; a weakness because it dissipates some of the energy gathering towards the climax. Maybe I just feel that way because I am disappointed by the conclusiveness of the ending, suggesting that there will not be another sequel. But the size and diversity of Sam's new family both diffuses action that could be more concentrated, and lends a tone of sentimental indulgence to the closing pages.

These are small flaws, if flaws they are. As a whole, however, the book is most entertaining. It touched my feelings at times. It often made me laugh. It generated a fair amount of suspense. And although I must apply both Adult and Occult Content Advisories to it, it's a worthy sequel to the preceding book. Fans of the present-day supernatural scene in the state of Washington, whether of the Stephenie Meyer or the Kat Ricahrdson persuasion, must give it a look. Vampires, witches, satyrs, dryads, and many other types of fey creatures abound in its world, and who knows? Maybe another menace will arise, accompanied by the tunes your mind picks up from the lyrics quoted in the chapter titles. And maybe Lish McBride will consider my suggestion that she give Sam a road trip on his next outing, allowing for the title Death and Resurrection in Las Vegas. Just a thought. For now, her next project seems to be a novel titled Firebug, tentatively scheduled to be released in September 2014.

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