Necromancer’s Gambit by A J Dalton
A dead hero opens his eyes. To his horror, he finds he has been raised to serve as the undead minion of a desperate necromancer called Mordius. Our hero’s body has been stolen from a battlefield contested by two kingdoms that have been at war for generations. No one knows why warfare is now the way of life, but what is apparent is that the dark forces vie for dominion over the entire realm.
When it comes to fantasy my needs are simple – heroes and villains, kingdom versus kingdom, gods and monsters. I’m looking for groups of disparate characters thrown into a situation that they can’t control. Add in a quest to locate a magical macguffin that will solve all their problems and I’m sold and I’m pleased to say that this book covers all these bases.
Necromancer’s Gambit by A J Dalton is the first book in the Flesh and Bone trilogy. In it the reader is introduced to the inhabitants of the warring kingdoms, Dur Memnos and Accritania. The necromancer, Mordius, is searching for a mystical object that will help to end the war and bring about a much needed peace.
Saltar, the hero raised from the dead, makes for quite a good central protagonist. When his journey begins he has no memory of his past life and it felt natural that he should continually question his situation. As Saltar learns more about his origins, so does the reader. From those around him he comes to realise what it means to be alive, and his voyage of self-discovery is really the core theme of the entire novel. When he is first introduced, he is like all the other zombies in the novel, essentially soulless, but I felt he noticeably changes throughout the book. His character displayed a genuine sense of development.
The other characters I really enjoyed were the two King’s Guardians. The Scourge and Young Strap are tasked with hunting down necromancers, to try and stop the spread of their dark magic. Both characters are constantly bickering with one another and The Scourge comes across as a cantankerous old sod, just the sort of character I like [can’t imagine why that is – ed.]. He is continually battling against external forces to maintain an honourable and just society, while everything falls apart around him. Young Strap, his protégé, finds himself at odds with The Scourge’s rigid views. The dynamic relationship between the two was one of the novels highlights.
There was one thing that detracted from the story for me, and that was the poor editing or printing in the novel. There were a higher number of typos than I am used to seeing. Now normally, I will let things like this slide but there was also one or two words completely omitted. An example of one sentence that totally threw me is, just at the point where the book was reaching its climax and I was entirely caught up in all the action I read the following – “Lucius and Young Strap would never the white sorceress again“?? I will go to my grave always wondering what they would never do to the white sorceress.
With the exception of these technical annoyances Necromancer’s Gambit is a pretty good read. The action scenes work well and the descriptions of the various battles are suitably gruesome. The undead zombie hordes are described vividly and I liked the idea of using them as an army to take back a country. The majority of the necromancers the reader meets are a sleazy bunch making them perfect villains. I’ll admit that it did take a while for the book to win me over, the story starts slow but does pick up pace as the book continues. I am glad I stuck with it though as there are some good moments.