ach of the stories of the Four Summoner’s Tales gets better than the proceeding one, just wilder and more edgy. First we had the story about the frontier Canadian town where children lost to a sickness could be brought back to life, but at an awful cost. Then we had the one about the Texas rancher, part of a community raided by the cartel, who could get his daughter back but only if she was used as part of a literal army of the dead, thrown against the cartel’s headquarters just over in Mexico. And now, it’s this one. Strange, weird, disturbing. And a lot of smiles.
In A bad Season for Necromancy, the main character is a young man in eighteenth century England brought up to follow in his father’s line of work (that being murder, larceny, theft and assault). His father had great plans for the boy, even finding him an education of sorts so he could ape the rich and possibly be of use in his more grander schemes. But after years of loving beatings, burnings, humiliations and even brandings, the boy objects by picking up a hammer and bashing his father’s face (literally and disfiguratively) in. Grabbing his 300 pounds of loot, he heads off to make his own way of the world.
Unlike his father, he will do it through calmer, more gentlemanly crimes. He moves to London where he poses as the son of a wealthy countryman, enjoying the arts and making his way into high society. Everything is going well – he’s picked a wealthy beautiful widow for his mark – he’ll marry her and then reveal his true status, expecting love to carry it off, too. But that’s when, to everyone’s surprise (and shock and horror) his father shows up, mangled face and all, to denounce him in the street, to strike him down and tell everyone (his widow included) who he really is, and where he really came from. And that tears it. But in the midst of this denouncement, at the moment his father is about to kill him (after having shamed him), the old man suffers a violently messy heart attack and dies.
But the damage is done. Society rejects him. His intended rejects him. The upper class, with all their inherited wealth, spurns him. But while going through his father’s effects he finds a book of curious things. He learns how to raise the dead (practicing on animals pulled from the sluggish Fleet Canal). No matter how mangled and rotted the remains, he can restore them to health.
And so he goes to his rich former friends and makes a plea, noting his love for the lady and his respect for them all. And yet still, even after watching him bring a dog back to life (in a wonderfully graphic scene), they order him to leave.
And that’s when he makes his counter-offer. He demands half of each of their fortunes, or else he’ll bring back late husbands, rich fathers, all that, and ruin them. For how can that person inherit and enjoy their family’s wealth when the patriarch is no longer dead?
A Bad Season was a wonderful romp in early Victorian England, full of twists and clever uses of the power of Necromancy. My wife and I found ourselves (as we drove and listened to the audio version) laughing and winching at each turn. And the reader was wonderful, capturing the accents of guard captains, horrible fathers and winsome widows with great orational skill. I was pleased with how the story ran, and the conclusion was quite satisfactory (and no, I’m not going to even hint at how it comes out).
So, yes, if any of the other tales I’ve reviewed from this collective have wet your curiosity, this one should seal the deal. But be ready. It’s delightfully horrific!