Definitely more 3.5 stars, arrived at due to a 3 star first half and 4 star second half.
We start on a planet(?) kingdom(?) post-apocalyptic-world-with-necromancy(?) realm(?) dimension(?) that is dark and gritty in the extreme–so, so very gritty. By about halfway through I realized that no one was an actual zombie/undead necromancer type, but I definitely felt like everyone should have taken a shower with a loofah at least once. For a cast of characters living in an stylistically(?) abandoned(?) / derelict(?) giant mansion(?) / castle(?) / estate(?) they’re so very sweaty, dirty, bloody, paint-smeared.
But! What a frustrating book, at times enthralling and other times too style-obsessed by half. This book is the definition of in media res, and while there’s nothing wrong with that there’s a limit to how long I’ll hold out for understanding on what exactly is going on. As it were, I gave up trying to construct
1) a logical framework for the magical/fantasy elements
2) blurbs for various characters’ motivations
3) eventually, figuring out what the main conflict was
I don’t think #1 is ever resolved in this book, and while Muir has another two novels to expound on this topic “confusion about the entire magical schema” is not a great way to keep readers hooked. Luckily the denouement for #3 delivers some pretty thrilling reveals (even if, once revealed, I groaned because OF COURSE but I was taken, no buts about it), because #2 was also haphazardly delivered mere chapters before the climactic ending.
Do I think this is the Best Fantasy Since I’m Not Transphobic “JK” I Totally Am Rowling? No. (I don’t think it’s actually billed in relation to Harry Potter, I just wanted to make that joke)
But I think because this ends on a great note, I will read the next one when it comes off of hold. I’m vaguely curious what comes next!
But I will say, for a book that’s billed as LESBIAN NECROMANCERS there is lots of necromancy (I think, it’s hard to say what all the characters are doing other than escape room puzzles, there is a surprisingly small amount of necromantic death) and very little lesbians.
Gideon does her thing, ogling all the pretty ladies (although I’m not convinced that what she was reacting to wasn’t the fact that the two ladies she was into were the only ones who were not literally slimy). But for a story billed as LESBIAN necromancers, I expected more than a Dramatic Reveal where Harrow reveals secrets that she’s kept for the past 17(?) 18(?) 20(?) years, a fade to black kiss(?) hug(?) understanding(?) and then a necromantic Bury Your Gays.
Let’s dig (ha) into that some more, why don’t we: a lesbian necromancer story should end with la petit mort and eating out your partner. Somewhere along the way, that got confused and this book ended with Gideon’s actual mort and Harrow eating her soul. Easily confused, perhaps! Not at all the same!