This was an interesting read for me, because I very rarely leave a book unsure how I feel about it.
I made an Amazon order like on the 12th of February and for some reason none of the books in that order shipped until today. I tell you this because I had to read something in the meantime, once I realized they had to cut down the trees for paper themselves before sending my order my way (not salty or anything), and this was “suggested based on my browsing history.”
What? You don’t amazon search Necromancy in your spare time? (If you are wondering, yes. This is very literally a book about a Necromancer).
Anyway, I picked it up to bridge the gap because it did, in fact, sound like it was up my alley. But now I don’t know what I think about it, and I’m going to tell you why.
Structurally, this story alternates between first person with our main character, Sam, and third person omniscient with everyone else. Now, this was jarring to me at first. And there were several times throughout the book where this happened again — if there were three third person chapters then one of Sam’s, for example — that it similarly kind of took me out of the story as I tried to re-orient myself. I understand why McBride did this, because it’s clearly a way for the reader to connect with Sam immediately. First person narration feels inherently more personal than third person. But the problem I had from it, aside from being jarring, was that I didn’t really connect with Sam despite the obvious effort she put into trying to ensure I did.
I don’t know that much about Sam. You could argue that Sam doesn’t know much about Sam, but if that’s his only defining characteristic and you risk the pacing and structure of your novel to insert POV-changes in an effort to make us care about him, he needs to be more than just…unsure?
We know Sam dropped out of college. Why? We know he and Ramon have been friends for a while, but why? Since when? He’s a vegetarian, but that seems to only be mentioned later as a punchline. And if her characterization of our main, sole first-person POV character feels shallow, I’d say it’s even more so for the other characters. Why are these people making the decisions they do? Who are they?
I think the tone of the whole book, across POVs, is pretty snarky and a bit quirky, which is great because it offsets some of the heavy things that happen or get discussed and that makes it especially interesting, but because every character also talks in this same way, save for one or two, it doesn’t feel like they are individual people in this world; rather, they are just part of the landscape. And maybe that’s not all bad, but I like when you can tell characters apart by how they talk or act, and by and large I think a lot of the characters could have been swapped out in the place of another and the story would have continued much the same as it did. Does that make sense?
The story itself was a very quick read, even with the POV switches, and I didn’t hate it. It made me laugh several times and some of the things McBride brings up in regards to their magic system are really interesting, but again it just doesn’t feel developed enough. Like I want to know more about it, and some of the worldbuilding we got almost made it feel like this was a subsequent book in a series where the magic system and some of the concepts and characters we see have been established before or elsewhere.
Also, there is a strange relationship in here that’s pretty…insta-love-y. Like very. And I’m still unsure why it was a necessary inclusion?
But it sounds like I didn’t like it, which isn’t true, either. I did like it, because it introduced some interesting things about magic and magic systems and communities I hadn’t seen before of don’t think I see enough of…I just wished she’d have done more of that, and less of like…convenient naked women who fall in love with our MC while stuck in a cage. I’m just…saying.
There’s a sequel to this book that I will probably pick up eventually because I do want answers, dammit. But even if this was a quick and pretty pleasant read, I’m not chomping at the bit to go buy it because I don’t feel super invested in any of the characters, really, to see where the next book takes them. I can hope that in the sequel McBride focuses on the really unique, interesting things she laid the groundwork for in this book with regards to magic and magic communities, and less on that weird romance…thing.
If you’ve read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer I’d love to talk with you about it! If not I hope this was helpful and y’all are having a good week! 🙂
Edit: I also want to mention that Ramon, while speaking perfectly clear English, drops words like “chica” to the end of his sentences sometimes as if to underline to the reader that he is, in fact, not white. His mother’s tamales are mentioned as well, the only time we really hear about her or his family. This grated on me whenever it came up, especially since otherwise he was the most developed character in the book, and one I liked the most. I had a similar issue about caricaturing “diverse” characters with Persephone’s Orchard — I just think there are ways to include nonwhite characters (and if I am recalling correctly he is only one of maybe 3 in the book?) without having to underline constantly, in every line of dialogue or narration, something like “chica” or talking about tamales. Especially since this was written by a white author, it’s frustrating and just adds to the shallow feeling characterization throughout the novel and is uncomfortable to read.