Monday, December 30, 2013

review: The Summoner/Chronicles of the Necromancer

Many of my best recent reads have come as suggestions from coworkers. (Thank goodness for good coworkers!) My fall into The Name of the Wind followed several months of cajoling by a near neighbour. When he left for greener pastures, I was a little upset to have lost my favourite sci fi/fantasy reading friend. Luckily, one of the guys down the hall made it quickly clear that we were destined to be reading buddies.

After bonding over reading the Night Angel series at the same time, a pile of six books was promptly placed on my desk and it was mandated that I must read these. And well, when someone wants to give me a few weeks of reading material and it's all in my favourite genre, how can I complain? So began my decent into Gail Z Martin's Chronicles of the Necromancer, starting with Book One: The Summoner.

These books have the medieval fantasy world, they have the intrigues of royal courts and politics, they have magic and fantasy and pseudo-vampires and -werewolves. It follows a group of young nobles, centred around Martris "Tris" Drayke, second son of the King of Margolan. His brother, Jared, is power hungry, greedy, arrogant and dangerous, determined to take the world down as he chases his ambitions of power and glory.

The story unfolds quickly after the death of the king, with Tris suddenly on the run in fear of his life, suddenly desperate to claim a throne he never wanted to save his people from his brother's cruelty. He's joined on his journey by an appropriately motley band of characters including the mandatory childhood friends, rough men picked up along the way and the serendipity of immediate and powerful allies joining his fight.

Martin moves the plot along quickly, and it's easy to get swept along with the story. There's plenty of opportunity for good old sword and sorcery action to take place, and many different subplots to focus on. The characters are well written and rounded, and easy enough to follow and (my big thing) believable. Minor characters are given enough flavour to seem realistic, and as the books progress the women are just as much part of the action as the men.

Books one and two tell a pretty distinct story, and it could have easily ended there. Book three and four are another clear pair within the series, and I've only recently cracked book four. The third book is an oddball in the set: the original conflict is resolved, and now suddenly although we know the setting and the characters Martin has to set up all new plots again and it takes time to get moving. It got a little bit bogged down both recapping the old story and setting the stage for the new one and it's fair to say the first half was a slog. By the end, though, I couldn't wait to get into book four.

Once I finished the Chronicles of the Necromancer series I quickly dipped into the pair of books that follow: the Sworn and the Dread, which tell a distinct story about two years down the line. If anything, these two books were better than the first four. So, if you're into action, fantasy and believable characters? This might be your thing.

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