Thursday, December 20, 2012

Silence by Michelle Sagara (Queen of the Dead series)

It is like Sixth Sense meets Ghostbusters, crossed with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Emma sees dead people.

Except for that one little detail, she is a pretty typical high school girl.

In this new urban fantasy series, the dead are a psychic power source, and certain people called Necromancers possess the ability to tap into and manipulate that power, usually for nefarious motives and evil deeds. Surprise surprise Emma turns out to be a Necromancer, but she is completely ignorant of her abilities until they literally hit her over the head and, even then, she refuses to be a typical Necromancer.

On top of that, a secret organization that fights and kills Necromancers has dispatched agents to eliminate this fledgling Necromancer, but they are biting off more than they can chew. Assassin-agents who fight big scary things and kick butt without batting an eye find themselves completely at a loss for dealing with high school teenagers. Emma and her friends decide to help the dead and convince those agents to tentatively ally with them and postpone their mission. Then, real Necromancers come to crash the party, and things get really interesting.

This book gives you: The chosen one, the one with a tragic past, the popular girl, the best friend, the quiet one, the kind-of-crazy guy, a secret organization, a world beyond the everyday one, and snappy dialogue during fight scenes. The trademark features from teen urban fantasy are presented in a fresh way with strong characters that go beyond the clich├ęs.

Character development is one of the novel’s strengths. The characters and their interactions with each other are believable, especially their sincerity, without coming across as trite. One of the characters puts it best, “You all have your problems, your little fights---but you also have your generous moments, your responsibilities. . . your thoughtless kindnesses” (64). Emma and her friends demonstrate this with the care with which they watch over their autistic friend, Michael. His autism is taken in stride, written about in a sympathetic and thoughtful manner that does not belittle or mock his condition. Furthermore, Michael’s autism gives him a different perspective and insight into the world around him. It is this kind of care in the writing that makes it such a thoroughly engaging read. Sagara backs it up with wonderful prose, great dialogue, and a solid plot containing a healthy dose of laughter and tears, taking the familiar and giving them interesting twists. She handles the darker elements of death, grief, and the dead with thoughtfulness, insight, and eloquence.

Look for Silence on the VBPL Catalog. For more fantasy by Sagara, try her Chronicles of Elantra series, starting with Cast in Shadow. For more necromancers, try the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix (beginning with Sabriel) and Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series (starting with Street Magic).

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