For What It's Worth

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Ward Against Death (Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer, #1) by Melanie Card

Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.

However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive… ~ Goodreads

I stumbled upon Ward Against Death after having Melanie Card on my blog as an AAD featured author. I'm so happy to have discovered this world of death, magic and assassins.

After reading the summary I expected something very different than what I ended up reading. I hadn't planned on being introduced to a very different type of hero than the typical brooding, confident YA boy.

Ward is a necromancer, and not a very good one at that. His dream is to be a physician and surgeon. Unfortunately he's been kicked out of school for digging up dead bodies to study. So now he works as a necromancer, hired by families to wake their loved ones for a few minutes so they can say their goodbyes.

His latest client is the wealthy and powerful Lord Carlyle who wants his daughter Celia raised. One problem. When Ward wakes Celia she doesn't act like a dead girl with only 15 minutes to make peace with her family and pass then on for good. She's convinced that she was murdered and wants Ward to help her escape and find her killer.

Ward Against Death brings of a bit of a change concerning gender roles. In this story, Ward is the damsel in distress and Celia is the white knight doing the rescuing. In the wrong writer’s hands Ward could end up quite unlikable & whiny but Card infuses Ward with warmth, kindness and intelligence. He's immediately smitten by Celia & his physician's oath won't let him turn his back on her after he promises to help. However, Ward is no pushover - he knows Celia is more than she appears. He adapts very quickly to life on the run and constant danger.

Celia is one bad ass chick!  And an assassin! Oh how I love cold hearted assassins, lol. She trusts no one and will do whatever it takes to find her killer. Including seducing and using Ward. She has mixed feelings having to drag him along. Celia needs him to keep her alive (well - awake anyway) until she can find her killer but she also senses a power within him that even Ward doesn't realize he has.

Over the course of the book the two need to decide if they can trust each other as they fight against a soul stealing seductress that has big plans for Celia. There are powerful organizations at work against them and time is of the essence.

The story is told in alternating POV's which is becoming a favorite writing style of mine. Especially in this novel where Ward and Celia have such different personalities and perspectives on the same situation. It really adds another layer to the story. I’m happy to report no insta-love here. Instead we see a slowly blossoming alliance turned to friendship with a wonderful romantic undercurrent. 

I'm not usually a fan of magic and I will admit to being confused by the different names of the secretive crime/magic/assasin societies. That's something I'm always horrible with until I'm really engrossed in the story. Until I can connect a character to something, it usually flies right over my head. I did get it all straight as the story progressed though. I loved how Card described necromancy and magic even though it’s not something I typically enjoy. Also, I would never thought it would be interesting, but when Ward talks about surgery and medicine I was completely riveted.

The pacing was a bit uneven at times. As I said I loved the dual narrative but then things seemed to slow down for me whenever Ward and Celia were apart. The witty banter and chemistry between these two is so good that I just kept waiting for them to be on the same page again.

A few characters were introduced that seemed very intriguing but then didn't play as big a role as I had hoped and the ending was very abrupt. No cliffhanger - but I would have liked a few more pages. Very minor complaints to an otherwise fantastic story.

Rating: 3.5 out 4 If you are looking for something outside the usual YA box definitely give this one a shot. Great world building and multi-layered characters make this series a stand out. I can’t wait to read more of Ward’s adventures.

Author: website | Twitter | Goodreads
Source: Purchased
Buy the book! Ward Against Death (Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer, #1)
Challenge book for: Midnyte Reader's Authors After Dark Reading Challenge



  1. This one sounds great! I am going to have to give this one a try.

    Great review. :D

    1. It was really a fresh change of pace. i enjoyed it a lot.

  2. Glad you liked it! I also get the magic rules/spells/organizations mixed up in nearly any supernatural book I read. And a non-whiny beta male is a good addition to the story, too. :-)

    1. I think you would like both Ward and Celia. In addition to being great characters right front he start - they also grow and change a lot over the span of the book. That was my favorite part.

  3. Okay, you convinced me. : ) Ward sounds like a great character.

  4. Interesting, so this is YA? I thought it was adult when I saw that cover. Sounds good and the guy is the damsel in distress, I like the idea but I read a couple of books (a series) a while ago with the same change of roles and I cringe and shudder because I felt it was off, I like the idea but I guess those books couldn't pull it off. But if YOU like it, I'm sure this a well written change of roles. ;)

  5. This has been on my wishlist forever and today you finely pushed me over the edge LOL I had to go and get it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Evil internet died on me and I forgot what I was supposed to say...but yes YA? huh

    1. I have seen it classified as YA elsewhere but I really think I should go straight to the source and ask the author. It's definitely older YA if so.

  7. This sounds REALLY good!! I love the sound of the reverse gender roles. I have had an eye on this book, thanks for the awesome review, Karen!

  8. Sounds like a solid read, and I always like to have some adult recommendations on the backburner for when I need a change from YA, so this one's going on the to-read list! I like the whole gender reversal idea. It's nice to see a little change up now and then with the male/female dynamics in books! :)

  9. Hmm. I'll put this on the list. I was already interested having read the introduction on Goodreads, and I don't think I can just ignore this book now you've found it so good. I look forward the necromancy and interesting characters!!!