The Necromancer’s House

I finished reading The Necromancer’s House just after midnight. It’s a book of many chapters, where almost every chapter is incredibly short, the start is great, there are two or three good chapters and then the end is disappointing and there’s too much groping for a happy ending that renders what goes before meaningless.

This is the third of Buehlman’s novels that I’ve read, after the one about Depression-era Deep South werewolves (very good) and the one about the 1950s vampire motor heads (good in parts, then a bit rubbish at the end when the Roman Catholic plot armour is delivered to provide an unnecessary happy ending / set up for a franchise).

It starts well, with a mysterious occult woman drowning an old Russian man in a lake. Then we hear nothing more of that for a while and instead get what reads like some kind of wish-fulfilment fantasy about a middle-aged warlock attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, who has a lesbian girlfriend who he’s training to be a witch and oh come on what the hell am I even trying to explain this for…

So roughly, is this a roman a clef describing the life Buehlman wanted to have? Should we hide the booze now, or later?

It goes on, and on, and on. There are some bright spots, like when the warlock is making enchanted devices (by playing bad trumpet music at coins was my favourite) and there are some good, horrific parts (when Baba Yaga starts eating children it’s pretty heavy duty) and because Buehlman is sooooo over protective of his characters, when one actually does get killed it’s fairly shocking.

But the whole book reads, when I reflect on it, like the transcription of a role playing game. All the PCs survive till the end, there’s set pieces galore, there’s long periods where really nothing much happens, as though the GM can’t bear to kill any of the people in the group, but also forgets half his loose ends (eg the psychic Jehovah’s Witness who we see but once).

There’s what feels like it could be a great back story about witches and American tourists in Russia in the 1980s, but that comes to an end far too soon (I guess the GM lost interest in that digression) and there are lots of fun little bits and pieces, but I imagined what it would be like as a film and I realised it was proper b-movie, straight to video fodder. But maybe that was all part of the plan.

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