Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Necromancer's House - Christopher Buehlman


The Necromancer’s House
Christopher Buehlman
Ace

Horror/Paranormal

Andrew Blankenship looks more or less like anyone else in his rural neighborhood.   His hair might be a little longer, he may not attend church, but he’s just another guy.  Unless you know him.  Few do, really.  You might know him from AA meetings, where he likes to exercise by dimming the lights without letting anyone else notice.  His best friend, Anneke, a sculptor who met him in AA (magic and alcohol do not mix) knows him pretty well.  She trains with him.  He’s teaching her to use magic.

Each magic user has his/her own special talents in addition to the basics.  Magic users like to barter with one another for the best spells, items, or books.  Some can walk in the skins of animals; some can make stone or metal conform to their will; some can weave subtle but strong protection spells; some are even skilled at combining magic with computers or machines.  Even the most normal-looking house can be guarded by the most intricate and lethal of wards against the unwary.

As we move deeper into Andrew’s life, we realize, bit by bit, that the light-dimming trick is, literally, the least of his powers.  He’s quite sure of his powers and has created a life that includes a wicker man servant and a rusalka (a kind of malevolent mermaid) in the nearby lake.  The rusalka starts the trouble by taking an older Russian man as her latest victim, angering some very powerful people in the old country.  Those people are not at all averse to crossing an ocean or even crossing time to take their revenge on Andrew.  As the maker of the rusalka, the blame falls on him.

When we meet Andrew, he’s bored in a meeting, doing his trick with the overhead lights.  It seems like a small enough thing.  Each step into Andrew’s life reveals another layer of magic; each bit of his past has inexorably built him into the powerful magic user that he is.  Each page reveals more and more of the world of magic, hidden seamlessly in the real world; most often, in plain sight.  By the final pages, when meteors are called down from the sky and a Panzer tank rolls into a rural front yard, it’s almost impossible to remember how it all started.  But there is a very clear line from beginning to end; actions and consequences.  The terrors start from small things, building inexorably to the explosive conclusion.  This novel is beautifully written by a major talent, and resonates for some time after turning the last page.
 
Rating: 8 ½
October 2013
ISBN# 978-0-425-25665-7 (hardcover)

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