Incursion (The Necromancer’s Key #1) by Mitchell Hogan

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The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

IncursionIncursion makes a very good start to the Necromancer’s Key series.  The introductory chapters really set the scene.  Queen Talia’s realm is under attack by the Knights of the Order of Eternal Vigilance who believe she is a necromancer and the epitome of evil.  The Queen, on the brink of defeat, tells her Captain, Carred Selenas, to leave and to await her return.  The Queen then uses dark magic to cause a blast strong enough to kill what remains or her army and many of the invading knights, killing herself in the process.

We then jump forward a number of years and make the acquaintance of Anskar who is training to become a knight and is studying hard for the forthcoming trials.  Anskar, is an orphan, raised by the Knights of the Order since he was a baby.  He works hard and looks forward to dedicating his life to the knighthood but as the trials begin he starts to experience certain dilemmas that fill him with doubt and internal conflict.

Meanwhile, Carred Selenas, maintains the rebellion movement planning constant attacks on the Knights and their attempts to wipe out any trace of Queen Talia.  She awaits the Queen’s return but is growing desperate.  Resources and people are in short supply and she begins to despair but rumours of the Queen’s missing daughter keep her hope alive.

Saraya is a Nyandrian woman, one of many rounded up by the Knights in an attempt to capture the dead Queen’s daughter.  By rounding up all the young girls of a certain age they hope to nip rebellion in the bud.  Saraya is also a potential knight in training, however, she has her eye on Anskar and the two of them find it difficult to maintain any thoughts of chastity when they’re around each other.

The world here is pseudo Mediaeval with Knights of a Holy Order fighting against evil.  Although, as the story progresses you begin to understand that good and evil are not always quite so clear cut and there are two sides to any argument.  The magic here is well developed and again leans on dark vs light – also showing that maybe one isn’t better than the other.  Necromancy is of course real, as are other menacing creatures such as corpse eaters and wraiths.

The characters are quite well rounded.  Anskar is desperate to know more about his heritage but receives few answers.  Saraya is angry.  She has much skill and is a confident adept but is bitter about the way her people have been treated since the Knights of the Order took over.  I think Carred is probably my favourite character.  She’s tough and resilient as the same time as desperate and becoming a little short of hope.

In terms of criticisms.  I think there is a slight feeling of bloat here and there, where things feel a little drawn out.  In one respect I really like the level of detail, it adds so much depth, but, there is a point where it also slows things down a little.  There was also one particular scene where Anskar and a number of others rode out on a mission and were attacked.  Don’t get me wrong, this was very well written but at the same time it felt a little like a situation that was there purely to allow Anskar and Saraya to demonstrate their darker magical abilities.

Slight issues aside this is a well written, confident, swords and sorcery style story with a mystery at the core and although it has a slightly generic feel in terms of some elements I think that the inclusion of things such as talking heads and mysterious and hypnotic crows definitely raises the level of intrigue and the twist at the end was quite unexpected.  It will be interesting to see how the series develops.

I would like to thank the author for providing a copy for review.  The above is my own opinion.