In Bailey’s debut novel, a young necromancer must reign in his “tainted” magic and fight on the side of the righteous.
When Koristad agrees to serve as a proxy lightwielder, protecting the innocent alongside the do-gooders blessed with their goddess’ power, he makes it clear that he considers the responsibility onerous and ironic. His status as a necromancer makes him a more likely threat than ally in the eyes of many of his new comrades. But he owes a debt to Gregan, the lightwielder who refused to kill Koristad when it appeared the boy might have let his power over the dead go too far. Koristad teams up, ever-protesting, with novice healer Peril, and the two get themselves into and out of a variety of violent situations. Throughout them all, Koristad balances his disdain for lightwielder piety with a wish neither to fall prey to his potentially self-annihilating magic nor to kill when unnecessary. The story is deliberately episodic; Koristad faces a necromancer from his past, a barbarian, a werewolf and an angry mob before even hearing about the mission that sets up the book’s sequel. Most of these adventures also include flashbacks that embellish the world’s history or shed light on the kinds of players in it. The result is a well-realized mythology with limited exposition. Venturing into different characters’ backgrounds, however, sometimes serves to highlight the deficiencies of our heroes. Peevish Koristad and vapid Peril have a familiar relationship in which she wishes to be rescued more promptly and he refuses to admit more than a stoic tolerance of her. Love is surely soon to follow. Also likely in the next installment: political intrigue among the lightwielders, Koristad’s confrontation with his father’s killer and more on the identity of the mysterious Wraith, who aids Koristad from beyond the grave.
A scattered but enjoyable romp through creative supernatural history.