The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman
Hardcover, 410 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Ace Hardcover
Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang, and a massive library. He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak with the dead through film. His house is a maze of sorcerous booby traps and escape tunnels, as yours might be if you were sitting on a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago. Andrew has long known that magic was a brutal game requiring blood sacrifice and a willingness to confront death, but his many years of peace and comfort have left him soft, more concerned with maintaining false youth than with seeing to his own defense. Now a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him, and frost and death are coming with her.
Excerpt: (Adult language)
This is what Andrew does at the AA meeting.
He says his piece when he has to.
He translates the God stuff in his head so it makes sense to him.
He tries very hard to let the new people know he’s listening to them—he brightens his speech when he says “Hi, [new person]” and “Thanks, [new person],” and he does his best not to categorize them into will-be-back, won’t-be-back, because that feels just a little too black-and-white, sheep-and-goats Manichean to him, and one thing Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is not about is black and white.
He is a calm-eyed icon of gray areas.
And if he does sometimes think, That guy’s just here because it’s part of his DUI deal or That woman’s going to drive into the parking lot of the Driftwood Bar and Grill and back out again three times tonight before she turns her car off and trots in with her head down, he chides himself afterward.
Who are you to caricature them?
What do you really know, O wise seer?
If you saw someone like yourself walk in, would you know what you were? Could there be two of you within driving range of this rural Presbyterian church? And how did it feel to have them all look at you when you first came? And know that some of them were thinking, Probably a faggot, and some were thinking, Belongs in the city with that hair.
Not that new people come in so very often, or that they’re really all that new. The woman who’ll probably go to the Driftwood buys produce at the Orchards—he’s seen her with her faintly electric bottle-red hair and the buzz-cut child who pulls at her sleeve and whines like he’s two years younger than he looks. The DUI guy he doesn’t know, but a Lexus pulled up and ejected him while Andrew smoked with his friends.
More about them in a minute.
DUI guy probably found the meeting online in Rochester and drove out to the sticks to make damned sure the Anonymous part of Alcoholics A stuck.
Looks like a real estate agent, maybe a high-end car salesman, some industry that’s been whomped and he’s one of the last ones standing, barely hanging on by his martini habit, which stretched from three after work to four and he thought he was just getting a speeding ticket when the young-enough-to-be-his-nephew cop said, “Have you been drinking, sir?” and his heart skipped a beat, make it two, and he peed just a little in his khakis and tried on his first pair of handcuffs. When we pass the basket he’ll be all slick and fold his court-ordered attendance slip in a dollar bill, make it a five because he’ll want to show us he’s making it okay, and then the basket will come floating back with nothing in it but the signed slip and make its way to him like a homing pigeon and he’ll sheepishly pluck it out and pocket it. So much for discretion. I prefer the DUI guys who drop their slip in like an ace-queen in blackjack, defiantly, BOOM, fuck everybody in the ROOM.
I’m doing it again.
Knock it off, Blankenship.
So Andrew blinks his lazy icon eyes and listens to tonight’s chairperson (Hi, Bob!) talking about humility, and just for fun (and exercise—the exercise never stops) he dims the good Presbyterian fluorescents above their yellowing Presbyterian screens, stopping before Bob notices, then brightens them again, stopping before any of them pop.
Chancho and Anneke both look at him.
Chancho the honcho and Anneke-Harmonica.
They of the smoking troika that watched the Lexus birth the DUI guy.
Chancho looks at him in a guilty Mexican Catholic stop-fucking-around way. Because this is guero God but still God’s house and you’re just lucky he doesn’t strike you down for being a brujo in the first place.
Anneke, who wants to and will be a bruja because Andrew is teaching her, side-eyes him as if she’s unsure whether he is the source of the phenomenon. His icon eyes reveal nothing. He casually reforks the samurai-style bun on top of his head, though, and she knows he’s doing that to fool Chancho into thinking he’s too distracted to fuck with the lights and to let her know that he’s fucking with the lights.
She wishes he were a woman.
He wishes she liked men.
Chancho wishes the meeting were over so he could go home for another plate of his wife’s mole enchiladas and an hour of UFC on Spike.
Andrew’s only real complaint about this particular group is that they run a more-than-normally religious meeting. Stands to reason, out in the sticks like this. Still beats the darkly secular town chapter with its constant friction between doom-saying bleeding deacons and cigarette-mooching relapse punks.
During the hand-holding Lord’s Prayer, only Anneke and Andrew are silent. That was what first made them notice one another, their shared agnosticism. And the fact that, except perhaps for Laura (Hi, Laura!), a runner-up for Miss New York in 1999, they are the two most empirically attractive people in the room, misaligned gender preferences (hers, not his) aside.
Praise for The Necromancer’s House:
The logic of the plot is eclipsed by the eruption of characters who evoke Dickensian whimsy and range from the merely unusual to the bizarrely imaginative. Within this magical universe, rivalries, revenge, and self-seeking contend with the willingness to sacrifice. The final confrontation, evolving in part from Andrew’s prior service to Baba Yaga and her daughter Marina’s defiance, wreaks an ambiguous ending in an explosion of enthralling fantasy. The vibrant, bracing atmosphere easily overpowers any niggling concerns about a few incongruous incidents. – Publishers Weekly
“Buehlman quickly grabs the reader’s interest and holds it until the last page. His method of jumping from one event to an ostensibly unconnected one works surprisingly well in exploring the complicated characters and their various obstacles. And though seemingly unrelated at first glance, the various mysteries of the book come together in a completely unexpected way. The characters are very dynamic; each has his or her own struggles and secrets that add to the mysteries of the book, and finally, the modern mystical setting makes full use of technology, magic and science.” – RT Book Reviews
About the author:
Christopher Buehlman is a native Floridian and author of the literary horror novels Those Across the River andBetween Two Fires. He won the 2007 Bridport Prize in poetry and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best novel in 2012 for Those Across The River. He is also the author of several provocative plays, including Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka. Many know him as comedian Christophe the Insultor, something of a cult figure on the renaissance festival circuit. Christopher holds a Bachelor’s degree in French Language from Florida State University, where he minored in History. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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