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Title: The Necromancer: Through the Veil
Author: Stacey Oakley
Original Release: April 17th, 2020
Full disclosure: Stacey Oakley and I are both authors from the Newfoundland & Labrador indy writers scene. I’ve known Stacey for a few years through the convention circuit. Stacey was an early supporter of my work, Gold & Steel, and has since become an author herself. Even though we have bought each others books, this review is my own and is as uninfluenced as possible. With that out of the way, let’s have a look at The Necromancer: Through the Veil.
This is Stacey’s second book, but the first of her work that I am reading in long form. I became familiar with her writing through short story anthologies in which we were both featured, but writing short stories and novels can be quite different experiences. So, while I had a taste of Stacey’s work, I didn’t feel like I could accurately say I had a sample of how her novel would read. I feel that I should add that I own her first novel, Hunter’s Soul, as well, and I do intend to read that one too, but this one jumped out at me a little more, so it gets first dibs.
With all that said, the question remains: how does The Necromancer: Through the Veil hold up?
Fantastically, if I do say so.
It’s a short read, clocking in at only 113 pages, but Stacey manages to pack a fully fleshed-out, pulse-pounding tale of action and excitement into that space, which is an impressive feat to say the least.
In a (spoiler-free) nutshell, The Necromancer is about Cora Morrigan, a Reaper (which are supernaturally enhanced humans engaged as ghost hunters/ushers-to-the-afterlife) who suddenly finds out that one of her Reaper kin has gone rogue, so to speak, and become a necromancer. It’s an uncommon thing, but not wholly unheard of amongst reapers. However, when it does happen, things tend to go sideways quickly and horribly for all involved. So, what is Cora to do when a necromancer suddenly pops up for the first time in eons in her home of good ol’ St. John’s? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.
Principally, it’s a mystery novel, which is my second favourite genre after fantasy; it’s also a supernatural novel, so much so that Stacey’s world would blend in seamlessly with the TV show of the same name. I could easily envision Cora and her brother Jet teaming up with Sam, Dean, and Castiel for some crossover action and neither set of characters would seem out of place. I digress, though.
As for the mystery aspect of it, I will say that mystery novels are a skill in their own to weave. There’s a certain knack to knowing what to reveal to the reader and when. You have to be hyper-aware of the breadcrumbs you drop, lest you give away the whole loaf too soon; but you also need to drop enough that the reader keeps following. It’s a skill that I would hazard to say might need to be innate for a writer to wield with any measure of talent, especially in their first go in the genre. Stacey Oakley, I can say with confidence, definitely has that skill and is fully aware of how to use it. The story unrolls at an excellent pace and feels neither rushed nor overdone with exposition. The aforementioned crumbs are always there, and you’re guessing right up to the climax. I can’t say enough good things about it, but in the interest of keeping the review from being too long, I’ll leave it there.
The characters are all realized and brought to life quite well. Cora’s whole family gets involved, as Reapers operate primarily through a network of globally dispersed and ancient familial clans, so you get to meet a whole host of other Morrigans up and down the family tree and a few members of the other clans. Jet, Cora’s brother, was a favourite of mine. I also quite enjoyed the blossoming relationship between Cora and Emily, a love that gets thoroughly stress-tested by the drama unfolding around Cora. There’s a whole slew of ghosts too, mostly friendly, and when Stacey does talk about them, well, let’s just say she knows how to pull at the heartstrings.
Another difficult aspect of writing mystery novels is getting the setting right. I refer to the example that Michael Connelly set with his Harry Bosch novels and how real L.A. feels. He brings you right into the heart of the city and connects you to it in a way that makes you feel transported right there to it. Some authors have difficulty with this aspect. They get the street names and the landmarks right, but it takes more than that. In Stacey’s case, she nailed it. She knows St. John’s; I mean, of course she does, she lives there. I used to live in the city in my 20’s, but now I live a few dozen clicks outside it, so I have that visual reference of St. John’s to know what she’s referring to. Yet, I feel that even without it, Stacey illustrates the colourful, old city in a way that shows what it’s made of, warts and all.
The last thing I should speak of is the length. Some people might find the shortness of it to be not enough. To me, it felt like an episode of drama, like the aforementioned Supernatural. The whole thing reads as if it could be wrapped up inside an hour on TV (give or take commercials). This brings me to what I hope is the future of it: more episodes. Stacey has set up a fantastic fantasy Earth with The Necromancer and it feels like she’s just scratching the surface of the potential stories that these reapers have to tell. I hope there are more The Necromancer-sized books for perfect quick shot reads that continue to expand on the adventures of Cora and her family and friends. Beyond that, I hope these books get into the hands of a TV producer somehow, because this would make for a heck of a show.
Don’t stop writing, Stacey!
Also, if you want to get your hands on a copy yourself, click on the link in the title on the top of the page (or right here) to go straight to the Amazon page.