Rappaport’s (Secrets of the Undercity, 2011) fantasy epic chronicles the misadventures of wizards and warriors in an era of high adventure.
Toth, a dogged necromancer (“the world’s first,” he says), is an innovator who claims to have discovered a new genre of sorcery, but his passion sometimes blinds him to propriety. At a mourning ceremony, for example, he immediately tries to get the dead man’s bones to use in his magic—although, when confronted by the family, he regrets his insensitivity. Within the genre, necromancers, who raise or communicate with the dead, are often caricatures, but in this novel, Rappaport renders his heroes as likable men in unsympathetic occupations. At one point, in a humorous parody of academic rigidity, Toth presents his findings to a surprisingly skeptical Wizard Council; they just won’t buy that it’s genuine necromancy. The intellectual Toth contrasts strongly with Senfra, a gold-grubbing militant. He’s not without a soul, but the nature of his work demands a certain lack of pity—and generates an impressive wake of blood and bodies. Despite his fearsomeness, he’s eventually bested by an Amazon hellbent on revenge, and that defeat drives him out of his home. As Toth investigates his new magic, and those who would use it for evil, Senfra escapes to his island lair. Predictably, they meet and must eventually work together to defeat the evil sorcerer Hisvii in an engaging adventure. Often in fantasy, swordplay gets lost in a sea of clunky explication, but not here: Characters slice, parry, spell and disarm in prose that renders the confrontations not only believable, but visible. The same goes for the characters: Toth is obsessed with the noble pursuit of the truth—it just happens to require dead bodies—and Senfra seems to be working toward a happy retirement from pillaging. It’s a fantastic world, to be sure, but populated by human beings.
A sword-and-sorcery yarn replete with magic, steel, mystery and mythos that will please genre addicts and likely earn a broad readership.