Welcome to “upper YA,” which I hope to see more of. I’ll be featuring a couple of books in this new genre this week. See what you think. Today’s offering: Ward Against Death, by debut author Melanie Card.
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is. But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her. However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…
MY THOUGHTS: I had to get past a couple of quibbles with Ward Against Death: There’s that apostrophe’d last name, De’Ath, which is one of my personal fantasy peeves, but at least it’s pronounceable and we don’t see it very often. And Ward himself maybe has had a few too many life experiences to be twenty years old. But it’s not as quibble-producing as the YAs that feature 16-year-olds upon whose thin shoulders rest the fate of humankind, a plot device that annoys the crap out of me. None of that here.
Once I get past those two minor quibbles, this is a really fun read. In a nice reversal of what we see in most YA, where the girl is the naive one with sudden inexplicable powers, here we have the guy, Ward, who’s the ultimate geekboy, cute but awkward around girls and way out of his league around the spoiled, lethal Celia. He’s caught between what his society will allow him to be and where his real talents lie (this is set in a medieval-feeling fantasy kingdom), whereas Celia is caught between the machinations of her family and whoever, or whatever, killed her before Ward raised her from the dead. (And she has an annoying habit of redying, which makes him have to hang around to revive her again.)
There’s a lot of humor, a sweetly developing relationship, a fun fantasy world that has both an urban fantasy and a medieval feel to it, and a couple of memorable characters I hope to see more of. This is the first in a new Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer series.
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