Twice Dead (The Necromancer’s Song #1), by Caitlin Seal
Publish Date: September 18, 2018
Published by: Charlesbridge Teen
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley and as an ARC at BookCon 2018, in return for an honest review.**
Naya, the daughter of a sea merchant captain, nervously undertakes her first solo trading mission in the necromancer-friendly country bordering her homeland of Talmir. Unfortunately, she never even makes it to the meeting. She’s struck down in the streets of Ceramor. Murdered.
But death is not the end for Naya. She awakens to realize she’s become an abomination–a wraith, a ghostly creature bound by runes to the bones of her former corpse. She’s been resurrected in order to become a spy for her country. Reluctantly, she assumes the face and persona of a servant girl named Blue.
She never intended to become embroiled in political plots, kidnapping, and murder. Or to fall in love with the young man and former necromancer she is destined to betray.
I really wanted to like this book. From the minute I saw the title, the cover, and read the synopsis, I was eager to read it. A book about necromancy told by the perspective of one who has been brought back from the dead? I thought it sounded interesting and unique. And while it was both of those, the world-building unfortunately was so confusing at times that it sadly ruined the whole story for me.
Right away, the story drew me in, with Naya, the protagonist, being murdered within the first chapter and suddenly pulled into a world of espionage for her country. Naya is an interesting character, and definitely one who I enjoyed reading about despite her ignorance of things and how she listened blindly to Ambassador Valn about what she was doing. I enjoyed her relationship with Corten, and although her character development and growth kind of did a one-eighty about halfway through the novel, by the end I still was okay with her as a protagonist. She definitely improved over the course of the story, but I wouldn’t say she was the best character I’ve ever read. The other characters were also very interesting and had a lot of depth to them, although by the end I felt like there were so many that I was getting a little overwhelmed with all of the different names of minor characters I was seeing.
The biggest problem with this book was the world-building. The magic system was explained with such intricate technicalities that I felt like I was reading a textbook entry on how runes and aether worked in this world. Eventually I understood it all and actually started to enjoy the magic, but in the beginning it felt like a struggle just to understand how necromancy and wraiths function. Then there was the history and politics of the world, which are key to the plotline and which, because they were so poorly relayed, made for a very confusing read at times. It felt like either something was missing, or I was being fed so much information that I missed something, and never really got around to figuring out what that factor was. A large part of the plotline relies on the upholding of a treaty that ended a war that Ceramor supposedly started against Talmir (Naya’s homeland), but most of the book seems to be about how Talmir is oppressing and hurting the people of Ceramor so it makes me wonder just what actually started the original war. There were just so much political intrigue and threads woven between each other and motivations for different people that I felt muddled far too often and not actually sure what was going on. Again, I can’t decide if I missed something in all the political stuff thrown at me on the page, or if there was something missing period that would have cleared everything up a bit more.
Aside from the characters, who I thought were pretty good and interesting in their moralities and developments, I just felt like the plot and world-building were difficult to follow and didn’t make sense at times. There was a point in the story when one of the dumbest decisions was made to use violence against a man who was playing a game of wits for his personal agenda, and it led to things that could have been easily avoided because obviously the use of violence made no sense in that situation? It was like the author forced the characters to make these choices just to have the conflict that, in reality, probably never would have occurred if these people were as intelligent as they claimed to be. This book unfortunately left me feeling annoyed and frustrated, and with a sour taste in my mouth from how confusing and muddled the political plotline was. The magic and necromancy stuff was interesting and great, but sadly, the espionage and world-building ruined it for me.