Jan 15, 2013

[Books] Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

So I subscribe to the free digest of Fantasy & Science Fiction (I'm cheap that way, I know), which provides a nice round-up of a few short stories and other features. But I primarily read this publication for the reviews, since it has been really helpful in introducing me to new books.

Yes, geeky reviewers like me also read other reviews. We're only human after all.

One of the books that it led me to was Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, which I finally purchased with a gift card given for my birthday last year. It languished in my Kindle for a while and finally got read (rather quickly) at the tailend of the holidays.

My forays into fantasy horror gaming with Tobie through the White Wolf gaming systems has influenced me enough to better appreciate stories by Chuck Wendig and even books like this one. And while this isn't the greatest book that I've ever read, it was certainly entertaining.

Synopsis: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is the debut novel of author Lish McBride. A follow-up to this book, Necromancing the Stone, was released September of last year.

At the center of our book is Sam, a college drop-out who now works at a local fast food joint. He divides his time between pretending to work or hanging out with his friends or mixing the two given most of his friends also work at the same restaurant. One such side-diversion from the job involves playing potato hockey out back - game that leads to a chance encounter with a creepy man named Douglas, whose car they managed to damage.

And this even leads to a strange revelation - that Sam may in fact be a Necromancer. And that's not all - there's are even more supernatural beings abound in the world and thus Sam is but a single piece in a much larger world that is otherwise transparent to most folks. But now he's faced with a tricky decision given his dark legacy - if he can survive long enough to even make a choice, that is.

McBride positioned this book with a lighter comedic tone and mind, and that shows given Sam's often nervous musings and side comments here and there. He does have his funny moments, although there are times when the humor feels a bit forced and falls flat on its face.

It's largely told using the first person perspective, which is well and good when you're in Sam's head. However latter chapters have us jumping into the mind of Douglas and another character Brid without much warning or a clear shift in the tone. So things get a little confusing after the first few jumps until the author decides to settle down and focus on Sam - mostly.

Many will argue that it follows the Harry Potter style secret world hiding in plain sight sort of thing, but that's a trope that many stories have employed even before Rowling and will continue to do so. But this time around, the twist is that not only is Sam unaware of his legacy, but then we don't have a benevolent mentor figure swooping in to teach him either. Instead we have an odd collection of characters acting as his support group (primarily his friends) although they don't exactly have practical solutions for him all the time.

The angle of the other supernatural creatures was certainly interesting and clearly there's a lot of potential lore to explore and define in latter books. But in this case the inclusion of Brid's story seemed underdeveloped since we didn't learn more about what Douglas was really up to. Instead his plans are already in motion and the rest of us are trying to catch up the entire time. And by the end of the book, both the characters and readers are left uncertain as to what Douglas has been busying himself with in recent years.

Some of the characters could have been fleshed out better and the story could have been tighter most certainly. But it's light reading and remains rather fun and I suppose we should focus on those aspects for now. But if you're looking for something as richly developed as Harry Potter or Tolkien, this isn't going to be one of those books.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer means well and has a lot of heart in it. Sam is a decently likable character and we certainly want to learn more about how things work in this world with Necromancers and stuff. And I liked how McBride's idea of a Necromancer isn't solely focused on death and sacrifice, which does present a more balanced view of something that is typically "evil" in most stories. The book gets 3.5 talking heads out of 5 - and I think I'll eventually pick up the other books in the series should I feel like it in time.

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