Author: Amanda Downum
Series: Necromancer Chronicles #1
Rating: 2/5 stars
The Overview: Symir — the Drowning City. home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government.
For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers — even the dead are plotting. As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save.
I tried… I really did.
I made it 3/4 of the way through, but just couldn’t bring myself to finish this one. It probably didn’t help matters that every other book I picked up this month was truly fantastic. Authors like Richelle Mead, R.A. Salvatore, Veronica Roth, and Kim Harrison to name a few. So a book would really have to shine to keep my attention with so many other heavy hitters on my reading list.
It wasn’t a horrible read, by any means, and under normal circumstances I might have give it a “decent” rating. It just took far to long to get going, and even once it did, I couldn’t find any substance to keep my attention. I was really looking forward to the necromancy involved in the story (after all, it is part of the Necromancer Chronicles) but found that aspect to be a very minor note. Aside from what was on the back of the book (which I would’ve been totally lost without) I couldn’t decipher any overall motives within the story – it all felt sort of meaningless without a main story arc. I kept waiting for that inciting moment to tell me what they were working towards, but it never showed up. Also, the main protagonist (Isyllt) had the least compelling story of all the characters involved, putting me off that much more.
Note for writers: In my opinion, your main character should almost always have the most interesting story. Unfortunately, the main gal in this book didn’t really do much more than act as a facilitator to learn more about other characters and the world around them. It’s a shame, really, because in the authors notes Downum indicated that Isyllt has been a characters she’d been developing since childhood. I feel like she let go an opportunity to let this obviously well-planned character shine. She might have fallen into the trap of assuming her reader already knows how great Isyllt is because she herself is so aware if it. She knows how the character feels but didn’t convey that into action or purpose.
Another issue was the naming and presentation of the characters. I don’t know if I was just being dense, but they all seemed really similar to one-another, in name and personality. I would begin a new section, get confused, then realize I had been thinking of the wrong character. It required a great deal of extra focus, and was probably the biggest reason why I couldn’t get my head wrapped around the story. I find that incredibly sad, as a little renaming could’ve made all the difference.
One very good thing to Downum’s credit was her world-building. Drawing on inspirations of the marshy swamps of Southeast Asia, the world really came alive. She did a great job at providing a convincing atmosphere, and it was my favorite element of the book. Along with its unique qualities, the setting also played an active role in the story – a great writing technique that helps immerse readers into your world.
There were some really neat points to this book, but overall I wish the story had been more clear-cut and defined. I am bummed that I didn’t like it enough to finish it, but I decided not to long ago that life is too short to read books you don’t like. Something to consider: my mom, best friend, and I (who all enjoy the same types of books) had a book club for about a year. It always amazed me how differently we rated each book even though we all like the same stuff. Each person looks for something different when rating a book, so even though this novel didn’t work for me, I am sure others out there would enjoy it.
Now it’s your turn: what did you all think of this month’s selection?
Here’s a list of other books that also applied great world-building techniques:
- To the King a Daughter by Andre Norton and Sasha Miller
- The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
- The Aware by Glenda Larke
- A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
- Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
- Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb