Necromancing the Stone picks up a few months after where Hold Me Closer, Necromancer left off, and takes everything above and turns it up an additional notch. The book sees newly empowered Sam taking Douglas's necromancer spot on the local Council, trying to work out not only the strength and ethics of his own necromantic powers, but also the proper care and feeding of the staff of Douglas's house and whether or not he actually has a shot with Brid, the heiress to the local werewolf pack who's clearly madly in love with him. Meanwhile, Douglas, having escaped death through arcane necromantic means but not quite alive himself, is working out a second plan to kill Sam and reclaim his power and—perhaps more importantly—his house and its cotierie.
There's a lot of twists and turns after the early setup—and it's definitely better that I don't just sit around and tell you what they are—but the book felt like it was less about Sam and more about family in general, both real and adoptive, and it's very satisfying how all the pieces fit together. Douglas's non-dead arc, in particular, is oddly satisfying; it's super-important to the plot, adds a significant amount of humanity to Douglas (though using questionable fridging tactics), and makes the ending a lot more powerful than another fighting showdown could have been.
Sam is also one of my favorite male protagonists in recent YA fiction: he's likable and funny without descending into the class clown archetype (which I generally like but seems to be far too common) and doesn't look alien and unfamiliar to me (too often, male characters seem to me like some gross, exaggerated stereotype of what boys are supposed to be like and not what boys are actually like, which worries me). Getting the balance right is very difficult, and it's always nice to find a male lead who isn't an emotion-suppressing stoic robot.
I'm sure McBride has at least a third novel in store for us, and though I'm not sure where it's going to lead, clearly it needs a lot more Brid.
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