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Gail Z. Martin Reviews:

The Summoner by Gail Martin

The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin is book one of The Chronicles of the Necromancer, an epic fantasy that has all the elements of a great story. The story itself is, as with all epic fantasy, of course, simple, and is passed on to the reader through wonderful example of storytelling.

Prince Martrys Drayke is second heir to the throne of Margolan. Resolved to the fact he will not become king, Tris, as he is called, expects to live his life peacefully in a secluded manor away from the palace - content to let his brother, Jared, rule when the time would come. That night came far sooner than expected.

After a violent run in with his brutal brother, Tris and his two childhood friends, a bard and a captain-at-arms, leave the palace to enjoy the autumn festival of the dead, a time when the gap between the spirit world and real world is close enough to allow ghosts to walk clearly among the living. The trio begin to notice little inconsistencies that pique their interest, especially regarding the new mage Tris' brother has enlisted.

In an act of spontaneity, the trio decide to sneak a peak into the wizard's laboratory while he was busy with the festival by hanging from ropes to look inside the tower window. The scene they come across changes there lives forever; Tris witnesses Jared murdering the king, their father. The quick wit of the captain-at-arms saves Tris from crashing headlong into the window and into death.

From there the story unfolds quickly and carries the reader along a fast paced escape from the palace. After finding the bodies of his sister and mother brutally murdered as well, Tris is forced to run in order to save himself and hopefully return for vengeance and restore the kingdom.

Gail Martin spins a fast past adventure of a prince who finds he is much more than he believes, and brings together a variety of characters that seem to have been caught up in coincidence but find that divine providence may be the real reason. The story may sound cliché, an honorable prince found outside the protection of the castle, a noble fighter, a clever bard with many tricks up his sleeve, even a healer, a princess, and a vagabond. But Gail tells the story with a refreshing breath of zeal that lets you get carried along for the ride.

I enjoyed the tale more than I thought I would, and seeing the book on the shelf I wasn't to sure why I was buying it. It has a nice cover, and the intro on the back cover is somewhat alluring. I think what drew me to it was my interest in the darker fantasy and this book alluded to necromancers, magic that operated between the life and death, and a sense that maybe I might encounter a dark hero. The magic is more based on softer concepts, like simple folk tales of natural - nature - energies and the necromancy is extremely weak to what I was expecting.

But, I'm no died hard fan of such things, therefore I have an open mind. I bought the book and took it home thinking to put it on the shelf with the others I need to get to. I made the mistake of picking it up and checking out what's inside. I finished the book in two days - approx 8-12 hours total reading time - and had trouble putting it down. I enjoyed this story immensely and am now anxious for the other two books (which I can't find their expected release dates).

The action was done very well, though not engrossingly detailed like R.A. Salvatore's descriptions, they still pulled me along with a sense of ease. The interplay between the characters had me laughing at many places, a bitingly sarcastic humor most everyone enjoys, and some spots came sort of close to choking me up (a very hard thing to do to this heartless bastard).

It is damn fine epic fantasy; with a big, overarching story and smaller subplots that introduce a vibrant world; colorful and deep characters that are changing right before your eyes. I recommend this story to any that enjoy a good book, no matter the genre, and to those who indulge in sword and sorcery, high fantasy.

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Dark Haven by Gail Martin

Dark Haven is Gail Z. Martin’s third book in the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the first being The Summoner then followed by The Blood King. Dark Haven is a direct continuation of the first two stories and should be read in such order as several events in this book directly correlate to events previously written.

This novel is just like its predecessors, a fast, action and story driven tale made even stronger by in-depth and engaging characters. In this story, the tale starts off approximately three months after the events in The Blood King. King Martris “Tris” Drayke has defeated his brother, Jared the Usurper, and the Blood Mage Arontala, and now is trying to piece the kingdom back together while routing leftover supporters of Jared. Tension is thickening as rumors of a bastard child whose claim on the throne may be legitimate arise from the southern lands, threatening war with the northern kingdoms, which are still suffering from the devastation of Jared’s rein and probable starvation as winter hits the land full force.

Tris must coordinate the autumn festival, his wedding with the princess Kiara, and the siege at Lochlanimar against Lord Curane, a Jared supporter rallying the southern lands. At the same time, Jonmarc Vahanian, Tris’ friend and self-appointed protector, was given the title of Lord of Dark Haven, a northern stronghold and land holding, after the battle against Jared. He must take charge of the battered keep by restoring it and restoring hope to people of the land. All the while he must make peace with the Blood Council, a cabal of vampires, called Vayash Moru, as the appointed mortal lord of their realm. With a splinter group of vampires who no longer respect the old ways, the old pact between mortals and immortal undead, Jonmarc must prove himself worthy of being their leader.

Martin, again, spins a fabulous tale that is not only interesting and engaging but chock full of scenery and lore. In the previous books we learned about many of the customs throughout the northern lands and some of the rules the world is built on, but in Dark Haven she elaborates more on those rules while introducing us to more cultures. Throughout this book she doesn’t bore us with inane details and unnecessary trivia, it all matters and is an enriching experience at the same time. As with The Summoner and The Blood King, I enjoyed returning to the characters and seeing her world come to life.

First, to get past the negative, because it really isn’t negative, I will confess one disappointment. The first two books are comprised of one encapsulated story, meaning each book is, in its own right, a logical beginning, middle, and end. With The Summoner and The Blood King, I could read those two and if I so choose never read another word of Martin’s work. Those two stories stood by themselves. Dark Haven reads like a continuation of the first two books and does not complete itself. This book reminds me of the middle book of a trilogy where the story just kind of continues as a placeholder for things to come. I’m left feeling like I’m truly missing out on the best part of the whole story. I don’t call this cliffhanging; it’s more like climbing the mountain and only making it halfway and resting while the rest of the way is set for another time (the next book’s release – Dark Lady's Chosen, due in 2010).

That’s really my only gripe. I loved the story, I would still gladly pick up this book and read it again – to which I will when the next book is released. I love her writing style; it’s very fluid, dynamic, and involving, never lagging or tiring. The world she has created is beautiful and rich in texture, always getting better with each book. The characters are truly three dimensional and enjoyable, my favorite being Jonmarc. But, with all the trials and tribulations the characters are involved in it’s easy to get entranced by the events unfolding.

She is definitely making an impact in the fantasy genre as her stories change, evolving and bringing a degree of tension and drama that still maintains the classic fantasy feel. I will certainly be grabbing her books off the shelves as they come out for years to come. A series I highly recommend to fantasy and non-fantasy readers, especially when her next book comes out.

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Dark Lady's Chosen by Gail Martin

Dark Lady’s Chosen, by Gail Z. Martin, is the fourth book of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series. In book three, Dark Haven, Gail left the readers with a rather painful cliffhanger, a full novel left nearly unresolved. The Dark Lady’s Chosen finalizes this. Gail graciously, and with a flare for storytelling, brings together the wild threads of the entire series. With skill, she creates a delightful tale that stretches across all four books without falling short. In this book, she closes the story with all the flourish and natural ease of a master.

King Martris Drayke continues the siege at Lochlanimar against Lord Curane and his Loyalists to the usurper king, Jared Drayke, Martris’ older brother. Tris, as Martris is known, must also fight wicked blood mages whose power is derived from the chaos that has gripped the magical force that spans their world, all the while leaving his new bride and unborn son to rule in his absence. Kiara is finding herself slowly losing her friends and benefactors to plots within the royal court and has suffered assassination attempts that have been closer to being successful than not. She has little time to find the traitor and is having a hard enough time keeping herself alive.

While this alone makes for a decent story, Gail weaves in the saga of Jonmarc Vahanian, the new roguish lord of Dark Haven. A group of Vayash Moru, or vampires, have broken the truce between mortals and undead, and Jonmarc must confront the leader of this coup, a young vampire named Malesh who has gone beyond the control of his undead master. In a plot to lift himself to godhood, Malesh has broken the truce, forcing humans to once again hunt the undead. He’s taken everything away from Jonmarc, including his bride-to-be Carina and forced the Dark Haven lord’s hand at vengeance. Carina, whose time is limited by her condition, finds that she may be able to heal the Flow and help balance the magical forces that threaten to cause so much devastation. But at what cost?

Also, King Donelan of Isencroft must thwart an uprising of divisionists who feel Donelan has sacrificed the throne by marrying Kiara, the king’s daughter and heir, to Martris Drayke. Cam of Cairnrach has been captured by the divisionists and only he knows enough information to help Donelan stop the revolt. Gail keeps the reader on the edge of their seats with Cam’s fate alone, not to mention the rest of the novel.

The characters, built over the first three books, stay true to their form. Gail has a firm hold over the voice and tone of the story while keeping the reader’s interested in each the character’s plights. Her settings are well thought out and described with utmost care, never bogging the reader down with too much information or leaving them wondering. The dialogue is meaningful and fun at the same time. She throws bits of humor through her characters and even their situations at just the right time. The tale itself is mostly a gloomy, against-all-odds kind of tale but she sprinkles in the right amount of mood in perfect order.

Dark Lady’s Chosen is well written and brings the reader fully into the universe. I had a hard time putting the book down and found myself perfectly satisfied against the cliffhanger of the third book. I’m anxious to read more from Gail and can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for Tris, Jonmarc, and friends. For fantasy lovers and those who just love a damn good story, the Dark Lady’s Chosen and the Chronicles of the Necromancer are the perfect read.

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The Sworn by Gail Martin

In book one of The Fallen Kings Cycle, The Sworn, Gail Z. Martin continues the story she unleashed in the Chronicles of the Necromancer series. It takes place about six months later with the Margolan king Martris Drayke and his queen Kiara bitterly relishing their victory over their recent battle with the Blood Mages and Lord Curane. The war was hard on the kingdom with harvests extremely lean and a plague spreading across to the surrounding kingdoms. Kiara’s homeland of Isencroft has put down a civil war and continues to deal with the Divisioninsts upset with their princess being married to the Margolan throne. Jonmarc Vahanian crushed a rival faction of power hungry vampires not pleased with serving the new human lord of Dark Haven and now faces a new challenge of taking in and caring for refugees fleeing the plague.

As each of the Winter Kingdoms try to put things right a new threat has returned following on the heels of the plague, as it did a hundred years before. The Durim, a cult of worshipers devoted to destruction and darkness, have been moving across the land and violating sacred barrows while releasing shadowy creatures with blood sacrifices to further their cause. But, prophesies are showing a new threat rising from across the ocean that may be in league with the Durim to bring about a War of Unmaking.

In The Sworn, Gail seems both merciless and ruthless to her characters by giving them just the barest shred of hope while immersing them yet again in a new threat. This story picks up quickly and builds into a relentless pace as she marches her readers, alongside her characters, to war. This story is filled with wonderful tidbits of knowledge that expand the realism of her world proving that Gail has put every ounce of effort to creating this tale for our enjoyment. Each of her characters, well known to the readers who’ve stayed with her through the other books, are just as familiar yet slightly more mature as they progress through each book. Readers just starting the tale can jump in here and still be taken on a grand ride filled with action, intrigue, and a bit of romance, but I’d advise them to indulge in the first four books just to get the full scope of what Gail has generously given to us.

Gail, like her characters, has matured in her storytelling, bringing a depth and clarity to her world that welcomes her readers with open arms. The Sworn takes all the lore of the Chronicles of the Necromancer stories the reader is familiar with and slowly brings the threat of a foreign kingdom into perspective with such careful attention usually not seen in other fantasy novels. These invaders marshal the reader to rally with the Winter Kingdoms and dare them to put down the book while the story unfolds before them.

Gail Z. Martin is destined to truly make a lasting mark on the fantasy scene and I’m certainly glad to have been on board since the start. 10 out of 10 stars!

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