Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Today is a great day; it's the release day of a new YA novel by Lish McBride entitled Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

When I saw that a novel with a title that great was coming out (from an announcement at Tor.Com), I emailed the publisher, (Macmillan Children's Publishing Group) and asked if they would send me a copy, which they did. Naturally I wanted to be one of the first to tell you about it. . . and to find out if this is a book in which necromancy ever pays.

I am happy to report that the answer is no, as the hero, Sam, doesn't actually raise anyone from the dead. That has already been done by an evil necromancer named Douglas (most notably to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones), and when Sam is capable, he uses his power to help put some of them to rest again (Keith not included).

As you can tell from the joke of the title (can you even read it without humming Elton John the rest of the day?) and the chapter titles (which include lots of songs--most amusingly "C'mon baby, don't fear the reaper"), this is not a gloomy or scary read. It's as sweet and finely woven as the pink cotton candy Sam buys when he is ordered to meet Douglas at the zoo, because "you can look tough eating popcorn....But something about a pink fluffy ball screams pansy to most people. I decided that pansy was probably a better look."

The verisimilitude of the opening chapters is terrific. You enter a world where nineteen and twenty year old kids work in fast food and the reason a scary older guy comes in to the restaurant is because one of them has broken the headlight of his fancy car while playing a game in the parking lot. A few chapters later, when the scary older guy--Douglas--discovers that Sam is a necromancer, it's as much a surprise to Sam as would be to any one of us:

I laughed, saw he wasn't joking about the necromancy thing, then stopped. "I'm nothing like you," I said. I guess my keep-my-mouth shut policy had gone out the window. "Necromancy." I laughed again. "You could have at least worked up to that one. You know, started with 'Luke, you have the power' or something like that." I snorted. "Come over to the dark side."

Sam is also surprised--but perhaps not quite as surprised as any one of us would be--to discover that his mother is a witch, and that she's afraid of his powers, enough to have enlisted the help of his uncle to bind his powers right after his birth. When Sam comes to confront her about what he's learned from his encounters with Douglas, he brings the "living" head of a friend that Douglas killed and resurrected, and when his mother sees the head she says:

"Oh Sam, how could you?"
Out of all the things I thought she might say, that was not on the list. "What do you mean, how could I" I said, voice rising. "You think I did this?"
She blinked at me. "You brought me your friend's head in a bowling bag, honey. What did you expect me to think?"
"I expect you to know I'm not a killer," I said through gritted teeth.

But necromancers have a bad rep, you know. For the rest of the novel, Sam learns more about what being born a necromancer has to mean, and how he must act once his powers can no longer be hidden from the world by his mother's protective spells.

The first spirit Sam calls up is a perky one named Ashley, who seems so cheerful and unassuming that the werewolf/fairy girl Douglas has imprisoned with Sam in his basement takes some convincing to believe she's dead:

"She pointed to herself. "Dead. As in a doornail. I took a dirt nap, pushed up some daisies, reached room temperature, pined for the fjords--"
"Pined for the fjords?" Brid said.
"Monty Python," the girl and I both said at the same time.

The second time Sam calls up spirits is when he is defending himself from Douglas, who has discovered that Sam is more powerful than he thought and has resolved to rid himself of him. Left alone in the basement, strapped to a table, Sam discovers that:

"Douglas had killed a lot of people in this room. And a lot of other things.
And they were pissed....
They were all angry, and they were all howling for Douglas's blood. I doubted there were many places on earth that looked like that. I wanted to cover my ears, drown out the sound of it. I wondered how Douglas could even walk into the basement, how he could concentrate over the din. Or were they simply calling out for help from the first necromancer that came around besides their killer?"

Sam, of course, with the help of his friends, succeeds in granting the spirits their wish and ridding the world of the evil Douglas, all without doing anything actually evil himself, and with a charming nod to E. Nesbit's story "The Dragon Tamers."

I love this novel. In the modern-day spirit of Lestat and Edward Cullen, who don't want to be evil even when they find that they've become creatures who are, by definition, evil (and with a joke or two on the side about vampires), Sam tells a thoroughly enjoyable story about becoming your own person and finding the power to do it on your own terms.


Amanda said...

This sounds really fun. I hadn't even considered reading it before, but you might have change my mind. :)

Alyce said...

Ok, definitely not the book for me, but I enjoyed reading your review!

kittiesx3 said...

Not the book for me either but I am humming Elton John now :-)

Betty (Beth) said...

This sounds awesome. I'm putting it on the "to read" list. :-)

SFP said...

This actually sounds very cool.

Hey, I thought about you earlier today. I was reading something and it unexpectedly started talking about necromancy. Now I just need to remember what book I was reading when that subject came up and report back on what it was, right? Do something useful for a change?

Marie said...

Sounds like a lot of fun :-) glad you enjoyed it so much.

Jenny said...

This does sound fun! Although, yes, now the Elton John song is stuck in my head, and I'm one of the ones who thought he was saying "Hold me closer, Tony Danza," so I've got that image in my mind. :p

Jeanne said...

Amanda, Surely it's perfect for the RIP challenge.

Alyce, that's the good thing about reading reviews, isn't it? I love reviews of scary movies even though I never go to see any of them.

Elizabeth, every time I see the title the song plays in my head again.

Betty, I think you'll like the humor.

Susan, I'm tickled that you thought of me when you read about necromancy! I would definitely like to know what book it was.

Marie, it really is fun.

Jenny, I'd forgotten that line, although read it before on the misheard lyrics website. Danza is way too old to play Sam, but it would be an interesting twist to cast him as Douglas...nah. I can't see him as terribly intimidating!

SFP said...

I found it, thanks to the search function in Kindle

It was in--appropriately enough--the 13th chapter of The Way We Live Now.

Jeanne said...

Susan, the Trollope? This, along with the prologue to Tooth and Claw, is conspiring to make me delve into Victorian literature again--not something I do often (and wash my hands afterwards)!

Susan said...

Yup. But it wasn't a ~real~ necromancer, just a character wishing for one.

If I pick and choose in Victorian lit, I do okay. Trollope and Gissing both seem to suit me, but I can't read Dickens and Collins.

Cherry said...

This book was at the bottom of my "to pick up" list if ever I get around to picking up any of the books from the other day's releases just because the cover art was ugly. But after reading your review, I might have to bump this book up the queue :)

Jeanne said...

Susan, wishing for a necromancer? How very 19th century! I don't really mind Victorian literature, but I do have to space it out with other reading lest I be overcome with the emotion of it all.

Cherry, we could deduce an aphorism from that, about how to judge a book! Seriously, I think it would be right up your alley.

Laya said...

I was originally going to read the book, but now that I see the review of it it's different then what another sight had lead it on to be. Pity, because on the other sight, it sounded like just the type of book I was looking for. :(

Jeanne said...

Laya, that's what I liked about it--it isn't what I expected!