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Nicholas Valiarde is a passionate, embittered nobleman with an enigmatic past Consumed by thoughts of vengeance, he is consoled only by thoughts of the beautiful, dangerous Madeline He is also the greatest thief in all of IleRien On the gas light streets of the city, he assumes the guise of a master criminal, stealing jewels from wealthy nobles to finance his quest for vengeance the murder of Count Montesq Montesq orchestrated the wrongful execution of Nicholas's beloved godfather on false charges of necromancythe art of divination through communion with spirits of the deada practice long outlawed in the kingdom of IleReinBut now Nicholas's murderous mission is being interrupted by a series of eerie, unexplainable, even fatal events Someone with tremendous magical powers is opposing him Children vanish, corpses assume the visage of real people, mortal spells are cast, and traces of necromantic power that hasn't been used for centuries are found And when a spiritualist unwittingly leads Nicholas to a decrepit mansion, the monstrous nature of his peril finally emerges in harrowing detail Nicholas and his compatriots must destroy an ancient and awesome evil Even the help of IleRien's greatest sorcerer may not be enough, for Nicholas faces a woefully mismatched battleand unthinkable horrors await the loser

10 thoughts on “The Death of the Necromancer (Ile-Rien, #2)

  1. carol. carol. says:

    Delightful. The Lies of Locke Lamora co-ops The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

    The book blurb doesn’t have it quite right: “Nicholas Valiarde is a passionate, embittered nobleman with an enigmatic past. Consumed by thoughts of vengeance, he is consoled only by thoughts of the beautiful, dangerous Madeline. He is also the greatest thief in all of Ile-Rien…”

    No, no, no. Nicholas Valiarde is a classic comic-book dark hero. He has a secret persona; to the respectable world he is the adopted son of a noble hung for necromancy (naturally, he was framed), but in the underworld, he is Donatien, master thief. Like all dark heroes, he has a mission of vengeance--against the unscrupulous Count Montesq, the man who framed his father. He’s a bit obsessive about his goal and at one point, pauses to weigh public interest against his quest for retribution. He is assisted in his pursuit by a team with dark pasts: Reynard, a disgraced soldier; Crack, accused murderer and man of few words; Cusard, elderly master thief; Arisilde, sorcerer with an addiction problem; and Madeline, a stage actress (I kind of suspect Wells of having fun here–either Madeline was slumming or she’s implying something about acting).

    As Viliarde is robbing a house as part of an elaborate plan to orchestrate Montesq’s downfall–because a simple murder is too easy–he and his crew discover someone has been at the scene before them and left a ghoul. Later that night, an ominous golem appears at his estate, sent by a spiritualist of suspicious origins. In an effort to learn more, the crew infiltrates an estate to attend a seance led by the spiritualist. Adventures continue, but since that’s only the first sixty pages, I hate to add any more at the risk of spoilers. Suffice to say that it’s a great deal like Robert Downey Jr.‘s version of Sherlock Holmes with as much action as introspection, and a fondness for disguises.

    The world and culture sounds a great deal like 19th century London, so it is easy to immerse in the story. There are coaches, lanterns, tenements and opium addictions. There are references to people educated at the sorcerer’s college in London/Lodun, and Persian/Parscian rugs. The various magic systems are not entirely explained–sorcerers, witches, and necromancers–and references are made to the Fay and the Unseelie Court. Since necromancy is the most pertinent of the magic systems, it is explained well enough, and we get tantalizing glimpses of the rest. Characters are done well, and I give Wells a note of applause for having an alternate-sexuality supporting character without making it an issue, and for having a lead female with appropriate pluck and cleverness, and the ability to convincingly cross-dress. Evilness was nicely divided between the human and the supernatural, and provided plenty of tense moments, particularly in (of course) the sewers.

    While the plot is brisk and the tone is serious, Wells seems willing to poke a little fun at her revenge-obsessed hero. I chuckled a few times at her sly humor:

    Arisilde was on his hands and knees…”let’s see where this goes. I love secret tunnels, don’t you?”
    “My back’s bad,” Cusard said quickly.
    Lamane immediately asserted that his back was bad, too.

    “He (Nicholas) should be grateful to them for destroying the great Inspector Ronsarde, something that he had never been able to do…. He wasn’t grateful, he was homicidal. It wasn’t enough that they endanger his friends and servants, they had to attack his most valued enemy as well.”

    Dialogue is pleasantly snappy at times, with Reynard trading barbed witticisms, and Madeline sassing an elderly lady, but without characters becoming so enamored of their wit that they stop to trade one-liners with Evil. I enjoyed Wells writing style and found it sophisticated enough to maintain engagement, but not so ponderous that I lost interest. One of the underlying plot points is an interesting extrapolation of the classic detective-criminal meeting, and I was impressed that the writing made it seem possible.

    Small things prevented this from five stars, including a couple of small moments that felt a bit deus ex machina later in the story. Still, it’s one that I’d consider adding to the library, I added to the library, in hardcover, no less, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend. Note: nominated for a Nebula.

    Note, for those worried about series: It is most definitely a stand-alone novel, and far better than anything else in the series--really more of a shared world, not a series.

    “Could you be any less forthcoming? Nicholas wanted to ask, but he reminded himself that he was avoiding a quarrel.”

    Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

  2. Alissa Alissa says:

    4.5 stars. The first Ile-Rien book was fine, an entertaining fantasy story, but this one is on another level of sophistication. Compelling characters, the right amount of tension, lavish descriptions, complex relationships, clever world-building, mature romance just hinted at, top-notch storytelling and a hard-to-crack mystery.

    Absolutely recommended. This story shares the Ile-Rien setting but it stands perfectly alone; there are a few spoilers about the previous book, so if you plan to read the The Element of Fire, pick that up first, but do read this one afterward because it’s not to be missed!!!

    I want this sorcerer because I want him, there’s no altruism about it. He has challenged me, he has interfered with me, and I’ll see him in Hell if I have to escort him there personally.

  3. Milda Page Runner Milda Page Runner says:

    Victorian mystery with a splash of horror and a touch of sly humour. Elegant prose, interesting characters, engaging mystery and great worldbuilding – on the whole a very good experience. The only thing I could pick at – the architecture/surroundings descriptions could‘ve been condensed or skipped altogether in some places to keep up the suspense. Still – a good read, if you enjoy Victorian fantasy/mysteries – highly recommended.

  4. jade jade says:

    “i have a plan.”
    this was true.
    “i just don’t know whether it will actually work or not.”
    this, unfortunately, was also true.

    highly enjoyable gaslight fantasy with charming criminals and convoluted revenge plots. right up my spooky victorian alley, to be frank.

    the start of the story instantly drops us on a heist-in-progression, meeting our cast of somewhat-loveable miscreants: unofficial protagonist nicholas valiarde, with a bit of a broody, sarcastic personality, wielding the alter ego of his criminal mastermind persona. madeline denare, an expert in disguise, acrobatics, and cutting the bullshit, who is a stage actress in daily life. there’s also reynard morane, a charming ex-military man who found his downfall through scandal and disgrace.

    and in the background, arisilde damal, an incredibly kind-hearted and hilariously powerful sorcerer who’s struggling with an opium addiction that’s slowly destroying his life.

    what initially looks like a simple heist turns out to be part of a revenge plot on nicholas valiarde’s part, only for the titular necromancer to thwart these plans and litter the streets of 19th century london-with-a-french-twist (no, not the hairdo) with bodies. and, of course, we also get a glimpse into the sordid histories of all the main characters.

    i really gotta give it to martha wells -- she killed it with this book.

    literally EVERY victorian mystery trope is in this story. i probably even missed a few. grisly murders, toeing the line between science and the supernatural, sneaky nobles, veteran thieves, vendettas, hidden chambers, dark and damp sewers, and a deduction-based approach to everything.

    heck, even holmes and watson turn up at one point -- only here, their names are inspector ronsarde and doctor halle, with a few twists and additions to their personalities that make them unique amongst all the holmes interpretations over the last… well, century. (ronsarde is kinder and strangely adorable, and halle a stalwart and fierce protector.)

    and yet it never felt cheap, easy, or played for a quick laugh.

    instead, we get a rich, expertly-crafted world around these character archetypes and tropes that feels genuine and lived in. there’s this real sense of old-world decay, of spiritualism and being haunted by one’s past, that permeates not only the characters’ struggles but is also shown in the physical world around them.

    societal traditions, historical events, and even architecture are lavishly described. the city is as much a mask for its slowly modernizing society as the personas the main characters have crafted for themselves due to criminal circumstance.

    it’s subtle, also in its humor. there are a few moments that had me snickering to myself -- no loud one-liners, but rather clever observations and sneaky, cheeky comments. you can read over them quite easily when you’re not paying attention.

    however, the weakest part of this book is undoubtedly the plot. the ideas valiarde has concocted for his revenge are contrived and eventually easily circumvented. there’s also a few hurdles very obviously thrown up to slow the protagonists’ progress. luckily, the pacing remains largely unaffected, but it’s annoying when i feel like a sign pops up that says, “Stand Aside, Plot Device Incoming!”

    as a result, i enjoyed the set-up and progress in the first two acts more than the eventual climax and resolution. it simply feels more natural when it’s kept small and personal, rather than Big Villain Battles and mysterious magic.

    but that still didn’t outweigh this story’s cool aspects, such as: casual inclusions of bisexuality, good banter without relationship drama, a fast pace, a well-researched fantasy world, and entertaining side characters (not to mention a bold and daring female lead!).

    everything taken together, a lovely story for appreciators of criminals-with-morals narratives with a sherlock holmes-esque backdrop without ever feeling derivative.

    ✎ 4.0 stars.

  5. Vivian Vivian says:

    Irregulars in Moria

    This was a fun and fast read. 19th c. style cat and mouse featuring magic with an air of revenge, Sherlock Holmes meets Fellowship of the Ring story. The characters are fun, the setting is detailed, almost too much, but it is rendered completely.

    Nicholas Valiarde is the leader of these irregulars, a motley crew of unfairly wronged persons pursuing their own justice. I suppose I should go read book #1, now.

    He united the ferocity of a madman with the cognitive ability of the sane; this is not a pleasant combination.

  6. Mikhail Mikhail says:

    The Death of the Necromancer is a triumph of execution over concept. This is not a bad thing. It may, in fact, be a very good thing.

    What do I mean by this?

    Essentially, if you look at the basic concepts of the book, you will not find anything terribly special. The characters are familiar archetypes -- the vengeance-obsessed conman, his plucky female companion, his loyal and taciturn henchman. We've even got Holmes and Watson running around. The plot is a fairly straightforward mystery as well, more on the procedural line of things, with an evil necromancer killing people and causing trouble and our heroes tracking him and putting him down. The setting is a familiar variation on 19th Century London, with sewers and slums and trains and a trip to Faux-Oxford/Cambridge.

    And yet Wells makes it work.

    The characters are familiar archetypes, but they are extremely well-developed. They are fully-developed, realistic, and treated with respect. The plucky female companion, for instance, is neither a useless damsel in distress nor some cardboard-thin action heroine. She's a vital member of the team, pulls her own weight, and her relationship with the protagonist is a very mature one -- they care for each other deeply, but they still periodically squabble, making the whole thing come off as very realistic. Our Holmes is a brilliant detective with a penchant for disguise, but he's also his own person, with mistakes he regrets, and while he's definitely prickly and a bit quirky he isn't the autistic savant of so many renderings.

    The plot is likewise very elegantly done. There is a mystery here, and it is a gripping one. It's not as twisty and confusing as something by Brandon Sanderson or Scott Lynch, but it there is genuine complexity here, a real question of what's going on. Furthermore, Wells paces it to a perfection. Both the characters and the readers are constantly gaining a deeper understanding of the plot, and Wells alternates plot development, character development, and action scenes very, very well.

    As for the setting, it's basically Fantasy London, but it's a rigorously researched Fantasy London. It's not just trains and aristocratic parties. Wells delves into many of the lesser-known aspects of the time period. Spiritualism and seances, a major craze of the late 19th and early 20th century, is central to the plot. There are interviews with sewer workers that could come straight from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor. And there are nice little touches all around. One which struck me very early on was a character mentioning that while the old, male sorcerers were easy to spot due to their sashes and presentation medals, the women sorcerers would be trickier -- they'd only been admitted to the sorcerous academies in the last decade, so they'd be young and wouldn't be wearing their presentation medals. This is an aside of only a couple of lines, but it tells us so very much about the world. It tells us that there is gender bias, but it also tells us that there is progress, and that it is a world in motion. I adore it.

    Overall, what I would say that what sets The Death of the Necromancer apart is that it treats its plot, its characters, its setting with respect. Wells takes her world seriously, and she develops its inhabitants as genuine people. (As a side note, I rather like how she handled LGBT matters -- one of the main side characters is bisexual-leaning-gay, and there are strong suggestions that the main protagonist is bisexual as well, but it's just treated as a part of the character, not something to ignore but not something to make a Big Deal Out Of, which I liked).

    Now, not everything is roses and sunshine. Every so often Wells does concept things which even her writing can't mitigate, such as how both main characters come from rather exalted/intriguing bloodlines, which is plot relevant but feels contrived. Likewise, there's a bit of Deus Ex Machina towards the very end.

    Still, I'd say this is a 4.5 star read at the very least, and one of my favorite books of the last few years.

  7. Andrea Andrea says:

    So take a Sherlock Holmes mystery, change the names, add magic. Holmes and Watson are currently investigating a recent rash of disappearances, while having a long-term goal of gathering enough evidence to bring Moriarty down.

    Tell the story from the viewpoint of a character who is halfway between Holmes and Moriarty, and considers himself an enemy of both. Then waylay everyone's schemes with a necromancer.

    Nicholas is out for revenge for the death of his mentor, and has set himself up as a master thief, with a small but loyal gang of criminals - and an Irene Adler equivalent as lover and partner. The story is enjoyable and the worldbuilding pleasantly recognisable as alt-Victorian. It's not a perfect story - the necromancer shows a sad tendency to not kill his enemies when he has them at his mercy, and unfortunately Wells has not altered any of the social mores when she added magic, limiting the amount of things Irene/Madeleine can do (though I enjoyed Madeleine's willingness to dress up as a man and insert herself into the action anyway).

    There was only one brief conversation between women in the entire story, and Madeleine is participating in events solely as a support to her lover, so even though she's a strong character in herself, this is one of those books where I just itch for greater opportunities. I also found it hard to like Nicholas, who had a distinct tendency to snap or run off to sulk when people didn't do exactly what he wanted or he was just feeling irritated.

    I liked quite a few of the secondary characters a lot and rather wished for more of them instead of Nicholas.

  8. Maja Ingrid Maja Ingrid says:

    I have several of Wells' books sitting unread on my shelf. I had this one, then also the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy and Wheel of the Infinite. Decided to start working on the Ile-Rien books so here we are.

    Since it is a Martha Wells Book, I knew I was in good hands. She's a great author and the Raksuran books are among my all time favourite books.

    This book has a Victorian-esque world building. It has gas and stuff, guns and trains. Also magic. The magic is vague since none of the POV characters are sorcerers. The book is dual-POV and follows Nicholas, a nobleman and patron of arts at day, and Donatien, a thief/con-man at night. And he wants revenge. A man in my taste so to say; and Madeline, a could-have-been sorceress who didn't wanna so she became an actress instead, and competent partner in crime. They claim not to be married (Nicholas states so at one point) but they are very much married. Still, the book has little-to-no romance which is great.

    The book starts with your run-down-the-hill con/thievery which ends up not going to plan. Nothing unusual, but our friends are unwillingly dragged into a scheme of necromancy. Necromancy used to be merely frowned upon but is now very much illegal and punished with death. Nicholas and his friends has to put aside revenge plans and instead find who's causing the necromancy.

    It was a fun ride Wells created here. The characters are super fun to follow and it has a fun worldbuilding.

  9. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    This is the first of Martha Wells' books that I read; it is still my favorite, although I love everything that she's written. The book is set in Ile-Rien, a world similar to Victorian England, although with the addition of magic. Wells brings the setting to life, making it a character in itself; however, the plot and the characters more than live up to it.
    The plot centers around Nicholas Valiarde, who has spent the past twenty years attempting to destroy the man responsible for the unjust execution of his foster father. Nicholas is a strange combination of hero and crime lord; something like a corrupt Robin Hood or a somewhat civic-minded Moriarty.
    Just as his plans to defeat his enemy begin to bear fruit, Nicholas is distracted by strange occurances in the city. Corpses vanish, or take on the appearance of living people, strange creatures appear in the sewers, and traces of necromantic power unlike any used for centuries appears. Nicholas is forced to put aside his own plans in order to discover who is responsible for the turmoil in the city, and work to stop the greatest evil the city has ever seen.
    The storyline and characters are fascinating; nothing seems forced or awkward, and the conclusion is highly satisfactory. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy. The trilogy which follows this novel focus on Nicholas' daughter, and are also excellent books.

  10. Sabrina Sabrina says:

    Well, I usually do not plunge into the middle of a series and so far, I came to regret most of these exceptions. But rules are here to be broken; this book came highly recommended by a reviewer I trust who also mentioned, that the other books are not really worth reading and that it stands well on its own. So, here I am (again).

    Unsurprisingly, I had some trouble to get my bearings in this new world that started in the middle of a complex plot to frame a not-so-innocent count. However, these troubles might also have arisen because in the beginning I could read only short fragments due to a busy week. Also, the author plunges us into a new scene with every new chapter revealing only later where and why the protagonists did what they did. This was often coupled with some complex descriptions that somewhat interrupted my reading flow.

    Having said that, I quite enjoyed the story, it was well written, humorous, but with a slight touch of horror and had a fascinating, authentic world. I’m no historian and unsure about the actual time-span, but it clearly reflected some old European cities (Vienna, London) and I quite liked the stinky underground action in the sewers. The group of protagonists were typically for “heists”: shrewd head, faithful henchmen, but they were also diverse (gay soldier, skilled and smart actress, drug-addicted sorcerer) and well developed. I also quite liked the twist of (view spoiler)[ criminal meeting his prosecutor and the story of “how the enemy of my enemy might result in being my friend”. (hide spoiler)]