Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Okay, this is the third time I'm trying to figure out what I thought of this book. It's sort of like meeting someone, who's pretty weird, and occasionally annoying, and just saying, okay, she's not so bad, and she makes me laugh once in a while.
In general, I'm not someone who really cares if a book follows the rules. I'll do my best to not mess them up too much in my own writing, but I know that every once in a while you need a bit of an infodump, or there's a kind of trite or obvious way to create drama, and you know, why not take it? But the people who can get away with those cheats have a reason for it. They want to tell you something because it's serious, and important, and meaningful, and they've found a way to say it in a powerful and moving way. Or there's something awful that is going to happen, and you're going to fear it, and the easy dramatic moment feels like a punch in the gut.
Lish McBride chose a different path. Instead of using infodumps to build the drama, or horrible dramatic irony to emphasize the seriousness of something, she makes light of it. If she can find a way to make 'basic necromancy instruction' quirky and amusing she'll take it, even if occasionally the joke falls flat. She will even work a joke into a scene that ends with a teenager being beheaded. I'm not making a judgment on this. That's just how it works. And I'm sure it worked really well for some readers. It didn't work for me.
In the end, I really couldn't engage with this book. There were moments that made me laugh. I liked most of the characters... pretty much all of the characters, even Elaine. :) But whenever I put it down I never felt the urge to pick it up again. Finally, near the end, it picked up a lot and I enjoyed the action scenes. But really, there was no impact. It was like running into a pillow. (Not like getting smacked by one. The physics are different there.) I probably wouldn't have made it to the end if I hadn't been reading it for the book group. I couldn't care about it, and the author kept adding more and more complexity that ended up having no meaning.
Before, I said it felt like Lost Girl fanfiction (except with fewer bisexual succubi and no Hot Doctor Lauren :( ) and once I hit upon that attitude I could just take the world as a given. Fine, Seattle contains more Necromancers and werewolves and fey-hounds and satyrs than you can shake a stick at. There's no reason why they're there. They just are. The world building is just 'everything but the kitchen sink.' The plot is boy is born with superawesome powers that are hidden from him until adulthood. Boy defeats evil overlord and inherits mad cash. Inexplicable POV shifts are jarring, but whatever.
Lish seems like a cool person who I'd like to hang out with and talk about Celtic Myth and kick-ass girls. I really did have a strong negative reaction to the first third of the book. I just couldn't figure it out. I didn't get a feel for what it was trying to be or trying to do at the beginning.
I said this before:
"I think it's really hard to present a complicated world in a single story, especially if it's one with a huge amount of variety with it's mythical creatures. It's something I've worried about in my own writing, and perhaps, the huge muddle that I'm feeling when trying to sort it out is a decent reason to be careful with it. Sometimes a little bit of an infodump early on can really assuage confusion later on."
I think what didn't work for me was that there was no unifying statement. Just one sentence, early enough, to give the reader an idea of what to expect. The sudden werewolves were a little like being slapped in the face by a wet towel. (POV shifting didn't help that.) There wasn't even in evoking of the possibilities that the world might be more than humans and necromancers.
I have a tendency to be very easily feel betrayed by books. I really did generally like most of the characters in the beginning, but I felt that the sudden cut to the villain's POV as right outside Brooke's house was cheap. However, as things continue on, it is beginning to feel like the author really does have a good deal of affection for her characters, (even Douglas) which makes a lot of the possibly irrelevant dialogue comforting. The idea that the author may not care about the characters and is just doing stuff to them to emotionally manipulate the reader is something I cannot stand. Which is why I hated it at first. But, in the end, she turned out to be the kind of writer who ends a story with, "and now we're going to be an awesome superpowered team! Superspecial Necromancer, Ghost-Girl, Were-Bear, and ... er... Frank!"
It worked. The book was a struggle, but the taste of candy at the end made the bad tastes go away, even if it was a little more saccharine than expected.
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