I'd love to know if Sabriel was an influence on this book, I know necromancy isn't a new topic in fantasy fiction, but the idea of treacherous journeys into the deadlands struck a chord between the two (at least in my opinion).
I was fascinated by the idea of a world where raising the dead isn't seen (by everyone) as a bad thing. The theme of the benefits and dangers of change in a society governed by the same person for centuries or more was played out beautifully in these pages. I enjoyed the way the dead were seen as a part of normal life and by extension, the necromancers were just another form of a magician. I feel like a lot of fantasy focuses on death magic as purely a negative, dark magic whereas this book seemed to find the happy medium between positives and drawbacks.
I will state outright now that this book has far more romance than I was anticipating. Personally, I don't mind a book with a heavy romance element (especially with an own voices representation of a bisexual main character) but some people may find this distracts from the necromancy, who am I to judge. What carried more than the romance for me (though the two are tied) was how much of this book was devoted to the idea of grief, and how we cope with death - a particularly interesting concept in a world where, for most, death doesn't have to be permanent. The need to shut out all emotions and the gradual healing process was far more heartwrenching than any romance plot.
This book also has a mystery element to it, with intrigue and plots piled up to the roof. I thought this was written well, with Odessa finding out information as and when it made sense for her to do so. Often in books like this, the main character stumbles upon information that it doesn't actually make sense for them to have. I thought this was set up perfectly, with the reader able to work out a rough idea of what's going on just before Odessa does, creating some gorgeous moments of dramatic irony.
The magic system in this book was also interesting, with different people able to do different kinds of magic. My personal favourite was the idea of beast mastery (anything to make dogs love me more, anything). But there's certainly scope to develop that further in the sequel (yes there is a sequel, though this book would definitely work as a standalone). I think that would be my take from this book - there are some incredibly strong characters and some interesting elements of worldbuilding that will hopefully be expanded on in the sequel to flesh this setting out a little bit more.
I had the best time reading this book. I devoured it on release day - if I could have I'd have taken a sick day from work to read it all in one go.
My rating: 5/5 stars
All opinions are my own.
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