The Necromancer's Gambit - Nicolas Wilson

(I got a free copy of this book through ARR #1665 in the Making Connections group, in exchange for an honest review.)

The Necromancer's Gambit is one of those conundrum books I don't exactly know how to rate, because it had strong good sides, but also strong points that disagreed with me. Part of me liked it, while another part didn't really want to go through with it.

Mostly I was really interested in the background it developed, with mages organised in groups ("gambits") aiming at settling disputes, protecting their cities, and so on. Each gambit has a defined set of members, named after chess pieces, with defined roles: Kings and Queens on the political scene, Rooks as guardians, Knights acting as sheriffs, and so on. These members are also well-versed in different kinds of magic, from tracking spells to necromancy to devising bombs and traps. There are definitely lots of possibilities and combinations here, especially considering the presence of other supernaturals such as vampires in town, and I don't doubt the series—since this is book #1—aims at exploiting them more later.

There's also mystery, a noir flavour, murder attempts, murders performed through the use of gruesome magic, necromancy (I'm such a weakling for necromancy)... It's certainly not a kind world. And the novel plays on enough different aspects, between action and investigation, that a reader will likely find something to his/her taste in it.

However, I found it hard to focus on the story, and it came down to two problems for me. The first was editing. Some sentences had a weird structure, making them hard to follow (punctuation included). Sometimes, it was also difficult to follow who was talking, and who was the POV character for a given chapter (mostly Knight, with forays into Rook's and Pawn's sides of the adventure). Also, I think some bits of dialogue should've been omitted, as they made scenes a little too long. This ties into the second problem: a serious overload of sexual jokes and innuendos? Now, this is coming from someone whose degree of well-being is measured by her friends by the amount of dirty jokes she makes (I'm worse in that regard than most men I know). Such jokes normally don't bother me... but there were just too many of them, in situations where they fell flat and disrupted the narrative flow. Almost every character would sooner or later talk about his junk—or someone else's; more than once I found myself thinking "why aren't they getting to the point instead of mentioning X's dick or Y's boobs or whatever? It's been going on for ten chapters." As a consequence of those two issues, I tended to lose track too often, and I bet it prevented me from seeing some of the more subtle sides of the story. (A shame, since betrayal's involved.)

I'm definitely liking the world those characters evolve in, and I wouldn't mind discovering more about it. As it was, though, I'd have appreciated it much more without all the asides.