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Book Review: Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

The Brief Review:

I love this book hardcore and if you don’t read it minions will die and dragons will torch the Earth.  It will be all your fault.  Plus, you will be missing one of the most laugh out loud reading experiences you will ever have.  People will sit around at dinner parties talking about it, rolling in laughter, and you will feel left out and wonder what you are missing.  And what you are missing is awesomesauce!

The Real Review:

Necromancing the Stone is the sequel to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, a title that appears on my Top 10 Reads for Buffy Fans.  That is your first clue that this is a good series.  The question you are asking yourself is this: Why? Here are 5 reasons.

Synopsis: With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn’t exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He’s pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can’t help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he’s not exactly sure how to use it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it’s time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead? (from the Goodreads page)


The Snark is Strong with This One

Sam is a likable guy as a main character.  An “average Joe” really who doesn’t really know what to do with his skateboarding, fast food life until FATE takes over and we learn that Sam was never really average because he is a necromancer.  I will save you the trip to dictionary.com and tell you that a necromancer is someone who can raise and control the dead.  And Sam does all of this while punning away and providing snarktacular quips as asides.

 
“I know you’re frustrated, Sam, but the reality is you’re in a world now where the majority of the people you run into will be able to snap you like a twig.”

“My world was like that before.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

 
“Slow down and explain to us plebeians. If you have to, use sock puppets.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

Don’t Let the Snark Fool You, There is Depth

Many people get up in arms when magic and witchcraft and zombies appear in a book, and they definitely have a right to their personal opinions.  But here is the deal: Sam is an incredibly moral young man thrown into a bizarre world with incredible power that could absolutely corrupt him and he struggles immensely with making sure he uses that power responsibly.  He lives in a world where people murder people – even animals – without a second thought and yet Sam has second, third and fourth thoughts and makes some profoundly difficult and moral decisions.  And he is a vegetarian; again another personal lifestyle choice, but another example of how he regards the sanctity of life and his moral character.  A lot of paranormal fiction I read (and I read a lot) has some shady ethics and puts some admittedly despicable characters on a pedestal.  Seriously, sometimes the heroine in paranormal falls in love with a guy that you wouldn’t want your worst enemy dating in real life.  For example, although I love many things about Masque of the Red Death and feel it is an excellent book, one of the 2 male sides of the love triangle just squicks me out – he would not be a real life option for anyone other than those type of girls that write letters to serial killers in prison.  But I digress, my point is this:  Sam is likable, relateable, commendable, funny and thoughtful.  I don’t mean thoughtful like he’ll bring you flowers and open doors on a date, but thoughtful in that he thinks about this world he has been thrust into and what it all means and who he wants to be as a part of it.  He uses both his heart and his noggin to navigate the landscape.  Bottom line: Readers will like Sam and root for him.

 
“Life is a series of calculated risks, James. I happen to think that this one is worth it.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
 
“Sometimes life offers you up that kind of dichotomy, that soul-shearing rift of two very different things happening at once.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
 
“Fear, left unchecked, can spread like a virus.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

The Joss Whedon Family Effect

I believe the underlying meme of the Whedonverse is that we are broken people and we build our own families.  And is this not the quest of the teenage years to find your pack (or hive or group or whatever)?  And the reality is, friends and family sometimes fail us – we can forgive or wake up one day as old cranky people yelling at the neighbors to stay off of our lawn.  Sam’s story is one about finding family, choosing to love and forgive, and accepting the weirdness that comes when your best friend can turn into a grizzly bear.  What?  Oh, did I not mention there were a lot of cool fantasy elements and characters?  My bad.  There are.  It is fun.  There are dragons.  I want a dragon.

“And maybe I was a fool, but I wanted to believe – I needed to believe – that James had started to see us all as friend. As family.”
– Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

Bonus Points for Strong Women

I am a huge fan of Brooke.  And Brid.  This is our Brid: “I’m sorry, did you just try to order me around?” (p. 297).  Sam and Brid have some serious bumps in their relationships here; although to be fair, they did meet while being held hostage in a cage together in book one.  Plus, Brid is surrounded by a pack of alpha males that she is supposed to lead, which is no doubt challenging.  And she doesn’t really have an easy time of it here in book 2.  McBride puts her characters through some unkind challenges, because even in the midst of paranormal worlds, real life still happens.  That’s the beauty of it – the characters and heartbreak are relatable even if you won’t find yourself surrounded by magical creatures and such.  But I am holding out hope for Sam and Brid.

Name That Tune

As with Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, every chapter title is a song lyric.  I wondered if McBride would go with movie titles given the nod to Romancing the Stone as the title, but it’s song lyrics.  Right there you have a fun built in contest or way to use your social media page with teens – have them find out what song the lyrics are from.  You will want to as you read.  (Okay so I just went and looked it up, there is a song called Romancing the Stone by Eddy Grant.  The universe is once again in synergy.)

Sample chapter titles:
Hello darkness, my old friend
Our house, was our castle and our keep
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
Summertime, and the living is easy

I obviously like and recommend this series.  It gets bonus points because I think teen guys will read and love it and Sam.  I am always looking for good guy reads, it is my quest.  Pair this series with A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.  Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride is nominated for the 2012 Cybils in the Teen Science Fiction/Fantasy category.  It was published in 2012 by Henry Holt. ISBN: 978-0-805-09099-4. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Top 10 Reads for Buffy fans
Book Review: A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
Book Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan