So a little background information before we get started, ‘Rise of the Necromancer’ is the first book in what will be called ‘The Last Necromancer’ series, it was independently publishing on September 9th 2018 and is purchasable on Amazon. It deals with fantasy and magic in a real world environment, much like the Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Power of Five series. We follow the main character ‘Stevie’ as he awakens, and discovers that he’s not just a wizard but a Necromancer, who has the potential to become nearly limitlessly powerful and so with his trusty guide, Necro (a talking book) he begins learning to harness his new found power while keeping it a secret from those around him. ‘Rise of the Necromancer’ was written by Robert Lummus, an American, formerly a resident of Meridian, Mississippi where the the start of the book takes place.
Anyway that’s probably enough background information, lets get on with the good and the bad of ‘Rise of the Necromancer’, and because I like being positive I’ll start with what I liked about it. It had a really strong opening line, sometimes a book can be made or broken by it’s opening line and I felt that this book started off well. It can be difficult to get First-person narrative to work in a story, I know I’ve really struggled with it, but Lummus uses it well throughout, keeping the usage consistent, and it actually helped me to connect with the character so I think it was a good choice for the story. Following on from that previous point, with stories like this which feature a hero’s journey, I think having the story in first person also helps to follow the adventure easier because it’s not being relayed from outside the adventure, you get to hear and see what they see rather than what an omniscient narrator can see, sure this style also poses some limitations but again I feel it works well for this story.
Something else I liked was the quick, decisive characterisation, especially early on, you instantly know what type of person you’re dealing with, and it helps to make their actions understandable. And maybe it’s just because I see myself in the main character but he felt real to me, and I think that was in part because of how quickly Lummus made him a distinctive person rather than a one-dimensional character on a page. This can be a double edged sword however as sometimes it can feel too direct, like you are being beat over the head by the character’s personality traits, so I’d recommend caution when doing this.
Especially early on, during the establishing scenes, I could really see everything, I mean I’ve never been to Meridian, but I felt like I was there, and that’s because these scenes more than any other I felt Lummus might have experienced for real and because of that it felt more honest and it just captured the scene better. Also as an avid reader and as someone who was bullied, I connected with the main character finding safety and peace in the library, it really resonated with me as the reader and I feel it’ll do the same for others.
The inciting incident where the librarian inadvertently gives ‘Stevie’ the book is one of my favourite scenes in the entire story, because it’s something so normal and mundane and yet from the moment he touches that book for the first time his entire life changes. Also following on from that, it’s quite clever to have that moment be via the librarian, gives every kid sitting in the library reading a book hope that maybe they’ll be next.
The narrative is engaging but it does feel like perhaps it was meant for a younger audience, it does feel a lot like some young adult books I’ve read before, and that’s not a criticism, just an observation that it would work really well and should be marketed as a young adult novel.
I feel like the book paces itself reasonably well, there is no immediate rush or change to his lifestyle despite *spoiler alert* the loss of his mother and his developing magical powers, instead it let’s the character mature before sending him out into the word, that’s actually really rare and smart, usually with books like these, they pick a young character and have them do all of this fantastical stuff but really they are still learning and it comes across as a bit disingenuous, for example as much as I liked the series, Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series features a 14 year old dealing with drug rings, assassinations and still finding time to do his school work, sure there are some explanations but even if he knows Karate and has been groomed to be a spy since he was old enough to walk it still makes the story more implausible than if he’d had even a year or two more to mature. Anyway sorry about the extended section talking about another book, but the point I was trying to make it those books have been incredibly successful and are very popular but every reader has to set aside the fact that he’s only 14, whereas Lummus, introduced his character, at the same age actually and then allows him to mature and develop, by the time the story jumps to him being 18, he’s more secure as both a person and as a necromancer.
This next point, also features in the section dealing with the issues with the story, so don’t be alarmed, it’s basically one of those things where applied liberally it can be a strong addition to a story but if you return to that well to much you find it’s gone dry. Lummus’s writing can be very expositional, this is good in that it gives you information upfront and provides you rather expediently with the building blocks to better understand the story, but as I mentioned while this is okay in the establishing chapters, it can become an issue as the story progresses, you feel like you’d prefer to learn things in a more natural and organic fashion than just being given the information, although since in this case the character is also being given all of this information….via Necro, it makes sense within the context of the story.
Okay now some of the issues with the book, at times I felt that things were a little too direct, it removes subtext and the opportunity for it to arise organically, and following on from that, and touching on the point of exposition, at times you feel like you’re waiting to get through all the the information to get to the story, but as I mentioned above this isn’t just a negative and it does have context within the story.
At times the book felt a little repetitive, and their were a fair few run-on sentences that made the text bulky and difficult to digest, the story does a lot to save these few small issues however and at least for me it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I think the largest issue was that I felt Lummus used the word jerked too much, but again this was a relatively minor concern.
So to sum up ‘Rise of the Necromancer’ has magical talking tomes of knowledge, demons and reanimated corpses, different classes of wizards and magical fights for survival, it manages to really hit all the fantasy highlights.
So in closing ‘Rise of the Necromancer’ is an enjoyable and fairly engaging story that is rough in areas and suffers from issues that tend to plague writers when they are just starting out but despite these issues I see no reason why you won’t enjoy this young adult novel about Necromancers and finding the power inside you. I give it a 3/5 and if you want to grab a copy for yourself then head over to Amazon UK or US and get it now, also make sure to follow Robert Lummus on the official facebook page for his book to keep up to date with the series.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org