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Necromancing the Stone

October 3, 2012

Despite the fact that Lish McBride, the author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and its sequel, Necromancing the Stone, asked her publisher to send me an advance copy of the sequel, Henry Holt never did–so now that it’s out, I went to great lengths to find a copy because if there’s a new book out with any form of the word “necromancy” in the title, it needs to get a review here, don’t you think?

Like the first one, Necromancing the Stone is populated with teen characters learning how to incorporate their supernatural powers into their everyday lives. Sam, the necromancer, is not only living on his own, but learning how to manage the household staff, especially James, the pukis or “house spirit” who can appear in human form as well as cat and small dragon.  Sam’s girlfriend Brid is learning how to act as the taoiseach, or leader, of her werewolf pack, who are understandably leery about her dating a guy who can raise the dead. And the evil necromancer Douglas, like Westley at one point in The Princess Bride, seems to be only mostly dead.

The chapter titles continue to be delightful and quite hummable–some of my favorites, for their ironic position in the story and comment on the action, are “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet” and “I’m a Soul Man.”

Sam is successfully learning to use his necromantic power to fight for what is right (rather than trying to make it pay). As he says to one of Brid’s brothers, one of the things he has discovered about his power is that “top of the food chain is nice, but there are a lot more things on the bottom.”  He explains to his own sister that he won’t call up their dead father because “it doesn’t really seem right, calling him up for no reason. Kind of, I don’t know, disrespectful.”  By the end of this book, Sam even gets himself a tattoo to remind himself of the distinction between good and evil use of his power.

One of my favorite parts is when Sam starts to bring his household staff back into line:  “‘I want to make something very clear, so I need you all to listen. This includes the shrubbery.’ I swear the bushes dipped a little in embarrassment.” After Sam hears their resounding cries of “Death to the new guys and their non-jam-delivering policies,” James tells him that he hasn’t been paying their wages: “Douglas used to have me give them regular payments of jam, root beer, et cetera, to buy their loyalty.” So Sam appoints his friend Frank as “head of human resources” although he is managing the shrubbery, gnomes, lawn statues, and gladiators.  The gnome names are another delight, but I won’t spoil that one for you.

I really like it that McBride, a Seattle-area writer, works in a Bigfoot appearance.  And I like the ending, in which Sam recalls what he knows about “the folly of making someone–whether animal or human–choose between you and somebody else. It never seems to play out the way you hoped.”

These are funny books about very human teenagers in a world where magic is real, figuring out how to manage on their own and in balance with the world around them. After my trip to the Pacific Northwest this August, more of that second part comes through, but it’s more well-written and entertaining than message-laden.  Which is, of course, the best way to get a message across.

What other books have you read that get a message across with good plot and characters, rather than straightforward advocacy?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2012 10:22 am

    I am very much enjoying Beauty Queens and it endorses all sorts of messages but I would not call it subtle.

    • October 4, 2012 7:25 am

      I don’t think it necessarily has to be subtle, just part and parcel of the story. Barbara Kingsolver mostly succeeded at this in The Poisonwood Bible but mostly failed at it in Prodigal Summer.

  2. CSchu permalink
    October 3, 2012 10:37 am

    Sounds fun! I will have to put these on my list. (But since I was bewitched at the bookstore the other day and bought not one (large) book, but 5 new ones, I have my work cut out for me for a while!)

    Just finished another, though, so I get to start on Jo Rowling’s new one!

    • October 4, 2012 7:26 am

      Your daughter has the first one, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (I know because I gave it to her).

  3. October 3, 2012 11:05 am

    Need to look into this series. Wonder if Dusty would like them.

    • October 4, 2012 7:27 am

      I can’t imagine any teen reader who wouldn’t like them.

  4. October 3, 2012 4:57 pm

    I just had to giggle at the title! And I do think you are obligated to read all books with Necromancy in the title.

  5. October 4, 2012 8:11 am

    Sounds random and very fun, the titles of the chapters are great. I think, regarding your question, I’d have to say Ash by Malinda Lo, advocating acceptance and equality whilst never talking about it. I don’t think Lo means to send that message, but it happens nonetheless.

    • October 4, 2012 9:15 am

      I’ve heard of Ash, but not read it yet. Now it’s on my list for the library.

  6. October 26, 2012 1:43 pm

    I also meant to comment on this one! I actually liked book one better, even though I think this one is better written. I liked that book one was funnier, I guess. This one has lots of serious parts, and the first was SO fun, that I wanted more of the so-fun-ness of book one, if you get what I’m saying!

    • October 26, 2012 4:40 pm

      I do get what you’re saying–there’s a lot more laughs that come from surprise in the first one. I thought the stuff with the lawn statues and gnomes made up for the more serious plot A in this one, though.

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