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Finn Fancy Necromancy

April 7, 2015

Is there something about Seattle-area writers and necromancy? I haven’t read a book about a young necromancer as funny as Randy Henderson’s Finn Fancy Necromancy since reading Lish McBride’s Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

Like Lish’s earlier teen necromancer Sam, Finn Gramaraye (whose older brother Mort once called him “Finn Fancy Necromancy Pants”) has a group of friends and family who help him fight to find out what is right and who among the dead might be ready for a good talking-to. As in the earlier novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy also uses song titles for each chapter and the hero has to come to terms with what his magical “gift” means to his love life.

The novel begins with 15-year-old Finn coming back to a 40-year-old body after spending 25 years sentenced by magical authorities to the Other Realm for a crime he didn’t commit. He has to find out who framed him for the crime of dark necromancy, and the first thing he sees is the body of the woman he is supposed to have killed 25 years earlier, in a mobile home where he presumes his body has been living, inhabited by a changeling from the Other Realm:

“The dead woman lying facedown on the floor really clashed with the Liberace decorating aesthetic. Perhaps I should have been more shocked by the body, but I wasn’t. Maybe because I still felt numb from the events of the transfer. Maybe because I’d been raised around death, helping prepare and destroy the bodies of the dead in my family’s necrotorium. Or maybe I really was just stunned by the gaudy awfulness of the changeling’s tastes. It was like Rainbow Brite had been given a BeDazzler, a flock of shedding peacocks, and a credit card and told to go crazy. ‘Well, this sucks,’ I said to the dead woman, meaning her death, not the décor. The body didn’t respond, which was a relief actually. Talking to the dead was one of my arcane gifts, but something I hoped never to do again, not least because it drained my own life away to do so.”

There are lots of charming and apparently throwaway details fleshing out Finn’s world, like that

“gnome families ruled the black market of the magical world. Stolen goods of a magical nature always seemed to find their way into gnome hands—usually because the gnomes were the ones who stole them. If you needed an illegal magical artifact, or a legal one that was too expensive to get legally, you could put a note under any gnome statue and an offer of payment, and if the gnomes accepted the deal you’d soon enough have the object in hand, no questions asked. You don’t want to know what happens if you put that same note under a plastic flamingo.”

Finn and his friends have heard of Harry Potter and read Tolkien. At one point, a character changes his white jacket into brown and green, causing Finn to exclaim:

“’Nice….Jacket by Ralph Lothlorien.’ I’d actually seen a real elven cloack once in the Museum of Necromancy, but it was a cloak made from the skins of elves, and not at all what Tolkien had in mind, I think—though I guess it still would have blended nicely into wooded surroundings.”

There’s also the inevitable Elvis-was-from-another-world reference:

“the real Elvis was an arcana. He hoped to forge the perfect musical weapon against the Fey, who enjoy human music the way a slug enjoys a salt-covered hammer. But the Fey managed to infect him, turning him into a waercreature. Although the resulting change in his metabolism led to tragic consequences for his waistline and his life, even worse is that those infected by the Elvis waerform turn into pale imitations of him when the conditions are right—for some, if they hear an Elvis song; for others, when they enter the dark energy vortex of the Las Vegas area; or, in some extreme cases, if they smell peanut butter and banana.”

We also learn some of the limits of Finn’s power:

“There’d been necromancers in the past who gained wizard tattoos and, craving power, would horde the magic from the dead for themselves. Even worse were the ones who weren’t satisfied to wait for a dead arcana or feyblood to come their way, but went out and deadified folks themselves just to take their magic. Add to that the possibility that a Talker might force secrets of power from the dead, and a necrowiz was a dangerous wiz if ever a wiz there was.”

In the end, of course, the novel has to wrestle with the question about whether a necromancer can ever defeat death. Finn says “there’s no cure….At least, not one that doesn’t require a constant flood of raw magic and serious Monkey Paw consequences.” That never stops anyone in such a novel from trying, however, and the ultimate battle of good against evil begins in true comic style, in the basement of a science fiction museum where various exhibits are animated by bad guys in an ultimately vain attempt to protect their nefarious secrets. It is no surprise that Finn’s side triumphs in the final chapter, entitled “Karma Chameleon.”

I read a paperback version of this book, and wonder why it couldn’t have had a table of contents with chapter headings, or at least the chapter headings reprinted at the top of the pages, rather than the author’s name and the title. It would have made it easier to enjoy (or groan at) the 80’s song titles as I went along.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2015 4:41 pm

    Hmm. It seems that there’s a reference to Finn Family Moomintroll, but I can’t really figure out why —

  2. April 10, 2015 9:19 am

    I’m not sure about a necromancer but I think I would enjoy the 80s references.

    • April 10, 2015 9:38 am

      He’s a nice necromancer. And the 80s references are pretty funny.

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