The Death of the Necromancer

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 21, 1999

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells

The discussion of Martha Wells’s third novel drew eight participants. The Death of the Necromancer is a dark fantasy set in a world much like 18th Century Europe. The main character, Nicholas Valiarde, is a nobleman secretly plotting revenge against the evil Count Montesq, who had Valiarde’s godfather executed on false charges. While attempting to steal a treasure and frame Montesq for the crime, Valiarde encounters a dark supernatural evil. Distracted from his mission of vengeance, Valiarde decides to find out more about the evil force and to try to stop it.

We found this book told an exciting, page-turning adventure story. The plot kept taking unexpected turns, but we were enjoying it so much that we gleefully went along for the ride. As one member put it, this is a “cracking good yarn.”

This book has a cast of genuinely interesting characters. Although superficially they fit many of the standard archetypes from regency romances (the fallen noble, the kindhearted actress, the evil count, etc.), Wells imbued them all with a uniqueness that made us care about them and what happened to them. Many of them seem truly clever. Nicholas Valiarde is an amazingly complex creation. At times reminding us of such classic characters as the Saint, Moriarty, and Batman, he seemed a truly original character created specifically for this story.

The characters and setting worked well together to evoke a proper mood. The city’s long history, large ancient castles, and dark sewers provided a suitably mysterious background for the strange events and horrifying menaces of this tale.

There were so many exciting and interesting scenes in the book that we were hard-pressed to name a favorite. Memorable moments included the chilling seances, the break into prison, the break out of prison, and the confrontation with evil in the sewer.

It should be noted that The Death of the Necromancer is set in the same world as Ms. Wells’s first novel, The Element of Fire. The stories in the two books are unrelated, and they feature none of the same leading characters. The Death of the Necromancer takes place several generations after the events in The Element of Fire, and it only occasionally refers to plot elements from the first book as history. These references were so interesting that many of us wanted to buy and read The Element of Fire. We were disappointed when Willie told us that it is now out of print.

Many of us felt that The Death of the Necromancer was one of the most entertaining books we’d read in quite a while. Even those who don’t normally read much fantasy liked it quite a bit. This book seems to offer a wonderful new direction for fantasy. We felt that Wells shows a tremendous level of accomplishment for only a third novel, and we’re anxious to see her next book.

Since this was the second Martha Wells book our group had discussed and liked, we plan to take the author to dinner soon. We’re lucky to have so many good and fan-accessible writers who live in Texas.

— A. T. Campbell, III