Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Lish McBride
Henry Holt and Co.
October 2010

Sam LaCroix isn’t too happy with his current situation – fry cook at a fast food place, crappy apartment he can barely afford – but he’s used to it, and he makes it work. That all changes the day a creepy stranger with a very shiny car visits the “restaurant” where Sam works. Douglas seems to know something about Sam that Sam himself does, and within 24 hours of meeting the guy, Sam is drawn into a strange world of necromancy, werewolves, ghosts, and more. The creepy stranger? He’s a powerful and evil necromancer, and he wants Sam to join forces with him or die. With a week to make a decision that will alter the course of his life either way, Sam struggles to figure out who – and what – he is, and how the hell he can get out of the gigantic mess he’s in.

Two things about me that are relevant to this review: first, I don’t really read urban fantasy. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is the first urban fantasy I’ve ever read, so I’m having a little difficulty comparing this book to the rest of the genre. Second, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is set in Seattle, home to my sister, and site of many, many visits. It’s hard not to feel a extra fondness for a book that references real places that you’ve actually been to. Especially when that book makes fun of the number of Starbucks in UVillage.

Anyway, now you know two things about me, and two things about the book: it’s an urban fantasy set in Seattle. Another thing to know is that it’s a funny urban fantasy, although there are some pretty grim and scary moments. One of Sam’s friends is killed off rather gruesomely pretty early on, and since a necromancer is someone who can raise and control the dead, it’s not surprising that dead bodies abound. Much, but certainly not all, of the violence is implied rather than described in detail, but knowing that someone’s been beheaded is gory enough for me. All this grimness, though, is countered by some sly humor – there’s a Blackberry toting ghost, for example, and Sam seems to deal with life-threatening situations primarily by making wisecracks (like an action movie, but less smug). I also appreciated the way McBride developed the magic in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Sam unceremoniously dumped into the world of magic, and McBride (thankfully) doesn’t baby the reader by filling in the details with awkward exposition. The reader is left to piece together the details of the magic system; it’s my preferred style of world-building, and it’s done well here.

The least successful aspect of the book is the changing point of view. Many of the chapters are narrated in first-person by Sam; occasionally the narration switches to third-person to reveal events that Sam isn’t aware of. It’s a nice device to build tension, but I found it jarring, especially when characters were referred to differently by different narrators (i.e. Sam’s mom becomes Tia).  Still, this is a relatively small complaint. Recommend for readers who appreciate pop culture references, dark humor, and sweet but inept protagonists.

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