I was lucky enough to receive an e-ARC of Twice Dead by Caitlin Seal from Net Galley and Charlesbridge Teen in exchange for an honest review.
Twice Dead is a YA fantasy and the first book in the Necromancer’s Song series by Caitlin Seal. The story follows Naya Garth, daughter of a sea captain, who travels with her father to a country where necromancy is prevalent. Although necromancy is feared and forbidden in Naya’s homeland of Talmir, while she is in Ceramor carrying out an errand for her father, she is killed and resurrected by the Talmiran ambassador to become a spy for her country, and to further the political plot that her father is involved in.
Fantasy is my genre of choice and the premise of Twice Dead sounded fascinating, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this story. Right off the bat I really enjoyed the world building around necromancy and how aether (energy) is harnessed and used by the people of this world through runes. There wasn’t a big info dump about how the rune trams, or weapons work, or how runes are used to bring the dead back to life. Instead we get that information throughout the story until we have a good understanding of how the energy system works. The aether lamps and devices had a mild steampunk feel which I really liked too.
Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was the city of Belavine. Sometimes I find it difficult to picture the intricacies of a fantasy setting, especially with so many lavish fantasy TV shows and movies around at the moment, they can all feel a bit same-same, but I really got a feel for the city where Naya was staying. Although, as a wraith Naya doesn’t need to eat, and I realised about halfway through the book that I missed this aspect of the setting. What food and drink do they consume in this world? We don’t get a chance to see that and perhaps it would have been good to see a bit more of the city before Naya is killed and brought back to life, which happens in the first chapter.
Naya herself is a likable, if not slightly bland character, and I think that stretches to the other characters as well. We don’t see a lot of backstory in this book, and I really couldn’t tell you anything about Naya and what kind of person she is, what she liked doing before this story began etc. It takes most of the book for Naya to get to the point of no return, and even then she (and the reader) aren’t really convinced about it. She just coasts along feeling confused, and there aren’t any scenes where she experiences joy, wonder or excitement. Naya is conflicted for the better part of this book, and this is told through her thoughts rather than actions. The author also introduces a lot of new, named characters in the very final chapters and we’re not given time know them or care about them. Plus, a lot of the names are very similar (Jalance, Delence, Allence) and because we don’t know these characters very well, it made them hard to tell apart.
I liked our secondary characters Lucia and Corten, but I’ve found that what endears a character to the reader is often the kindness they show to the main character during the story. Both Lucia and Corten are kind people, but there aren’t any actual acts of kindness that stood out to make me care about these characters as people. I didn’t really get drawn into the romance either, which I was a little sad about as I love romance and things like first kisses usually give me tummy butterflies.
The plot and writing were both straightforward and fine. Without giving away any spoilers this story revolves around a political plot and although we find out details along the way about the plans and motivations of the main players, there aren’t any twists and turns. I was half expecting a plot twist at a certain point where it was obvious that details of a plan weren’t voiced to the reader, but it didn’t eventuate. The writing is easy to read and understand, not repetitive (which is a pet peeve of mine), and as I said earlier, certain aspects of the world building were done really well.
Overall Twice Dead was an easy and enjoyable read, I just didn’t find myself rushing back to where I left off, or staying up late to read ‘just one more page.’ I’m giving this book 3 stars.