|The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum,
is the second of the Necromancer Chronicles, set two years or so after The
Drowning City. Isyllt Isksldur, necromancer and sometime spy, is now
spending her days as a kind of royal detective in her adopted home city of Eris?n. Her
pleasant life of solving murders, drinking too much and pining for a meaningful
relationship is interrupted one day by the discovery of a royal token on the body of a
Isyllt's self-destructive tendencies from the first book have grown
worse, and though she is capable, powerful and well-respected by royalty and commoners
alike, I found her very difficult to like and harder to sympathise with. Her negative
traits, while making her a very well rounded character, make her a bad heroine, and a poor
person to risk the fate of a nation on. It is almost a relief that she is completely
overshadowed by Savedra, a transgendered royal courtesan, who is trying to her best to
balance her mother's schemes with her relationships with the Crown Prince and his wife.
Savedra and Isyllt work in parallel to find out how the ring of the dead Queen connects
to the murdered whore, the vampires who live in the city's lower levels, and the mad
sorceress who refuses to show her face and works blood magic. Our two heroines are
helpless to stop the villains of the piece, and instead must follow along behind them,
dropping exposition as they go. I spent a lot of the book feeling like I had forgotten
crucial piece of information, but it turned out I'd never been told it in the first place.
Rather than growing organically, the drama of this story is led by the discoveries of the
two women. Consequently, The Bone Palace reads like a police
procedural in a traditional fantasy setting and the disconnect reduces the cohesiveness of
Amanda Downum has a strong, descriptive style of writing. The city of Erisin and the
Bone Palace below it are richly explored, characters unto themselves. Magic is neither
pointlessly weak, nor a bazooka-macguffin, but layered and varied, and well integrated
into the world.
While the prose is less purple than The Drowning City, I feel
The Bone Palace is a step down overall, due to it's unlikeable
and sometimes inexplicable characters, and a less organic plot.