I know, I know. Death of the Necromancer sounds like a particular sort of sword-and-sorcery fantasy, part of a long series, all titled The [Noun] of the [Noun]. I can even picture a cover, with a wizard/mage in a pointy hat and windblown cloak shooting lightning out of his fingertips at another cloaked-and-hatted fellow, or maybe an elf. Well, this is not that book.
Imagine instead a Sherlock Holmes adventure transposed to a city with the feel of 19th-century Paris, told from the point of view of a sympathetic Moriarty and his crime syndicate, and that their nefarious underworld activities are aimed at taking down a villain who really, really deserves it. Brilliant actress Irène Adler is Moriarty’s partner in crime, and their relationship, while not exactly a bed of roses, is a love affair between equals who take turns backing one another up in a fight. They’re backed up in turn by a disreputable ex-soldier, some loyal safecracks, and an opium-addled sorceror who is only intermittently reliable when sober.
The city is Vienne. Nicholas Valiarde is our Moriarty, charming and ruthless, a man of so many personas that even he isn’t sure which is the “real” Nicholas. Actress Madeline Denare is the only one who knows all of his secrets. And their long revenge, just coming to its conclusion, has run into complications. Crimes are being committed on the streets of Vienne, and, for a change, not by them. Missing children, desecrated corpses… in fact, given the rage for classic-plus-paranormal mashups lately, the publishers might want to reissue this title as Sherlock Holmes and Ghouls.
This fantasy caper reminded me of all the adventure classics I loved as a teenager, from The Prisoner of Zenda to The Scarlet Pimpernel to The Count of Monte Cristo. Dashing characters, antagonists who secretly admire one another, teamwork, banter, chases through the sewers of
Paris Vienne: it was right up my alley. (Even if, as Valiarde’s daughter comments in a later book, “it’s a very dark alley.”)
The library catalog will tell you that this book is second in the Ile-Rien series, but it’s a series only in the sense that the books take place in the same universe. I enjoyed Number Two just fine without any knowledge of Number One, which takes place generations earlier.
You can read chapter one online at the author’s web site.
Check the WRL catalog for The Death of the Necromancer.