Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2015
Finn Gramaraye is a most unusual ex-con. He’s a talented necromancer and one of a group of magically gifted humans known collectively as the Arcana, living surreptitiously among the “mundane” population. His crime—assault on a creature of the fey—and his punishment is exile to the Other Realm, the place beyond the mists the fey call home. There he’s forced to relive his most intimate memories for their amusement. Those exiled to the Other Realm feel no sense of the passage of time and when his sentence is completed, 15 year old Finn is transferred into his now 40 year old body.
Normally, such a sentence wouldn’t constitute an insurmountable culture shock to an Arcana. Finn’s body has been loaned out the past quarter century to a changeling who will catch him up on the life he’s missed. His parole underway, the transfer ceremony runs smoothly right up to the moment someone interferes using dark magic. Finn survives the attack but the transfer is incomplete, and he ends up without those crucial memories of his life since incarceration. For someone stuck in an 80’s frame of mind, 2011 is going require some major adjustment. As if that’s not enough for his still adolescent mind to deal with, he’s just been framed—again—this time for the murder of the same witch he was convicted of assaulting all those years ago.
Now he’s got 72 hours to not only exonerate himself but to unravel a conspiracy that threatens the uneasy peace between Arcana and Fey, a conspiracy that someone—or something—will do anything to keep him from solving. Concurrently, Finn finds himself dealing with an older brother who just might want him dead, a younger brother who thinks he’s a waerwolf, a zealous enforcer who isn’t particularly interested in due process, and not one, but two romantic entanglements from his past. For Finn Gramaraye, exile is not looking so bad any more.
Finn Fancy Necromancy is a novel that took several attempts to fully immerse myself in, perhaps owing to the present state of the genre. Since J. K. Rowling exploded on the scene, a sort of “Harry Potter Effect” has manifested as publishers chase the phenomenon. It’s an unavoidable side effect of Rowling’s success–a glut of knock offs and wannabe’s, all published by an industry desperate to replicate her success while the subject is hot. Upon cursory reading, I feared Finn’s story was going to fall into the “wannabe” category and set it down in search of something else. Revisiting the novel a few months later, I discovered the folly of my initial impression. Neither Randy Henderson nor Finn Fancy Necromancy deserve the “also ran” moniker.
Randy Henderson’s novel has all those things you’ve come to expect in Urban Fantasy: Mundies (those regular folks, clueless to the magical world around them), Arcana (those gifted with magical abilities, living un-noticed by regular society), Fey (magical creatures such as Gnomes, Sasquatch, Witches and Waerwolves), all of them maintaining an uneasy truce while they pursue their own goals. Of course, with all these competing factions, there’s need of a magical police force, the Enforcers, tasked with keeping the peace, or at least some version thereof. All very standard fair in your typical Urban Fantasy, but it’s also got that certain something that makes a particularly good fantasy story stand out. Whether it’s the interspersed humour, the compelling characters, or an intriguing mystery, Henderson has found the storyteller’s sweet spot. Add to that plenty of action, whether in the form of Sasquatch fights, Warlock rumbles, or a mission impossible into the heart of an Arcana vault by Finn and company and you’ve got a winning combination.
There’s also action on the emotional front. Finn’s tale is a coming of age story, as he tries to recapture both his lost youth and his estranged family and finding out neither may be possible. Having no experience with the foibles of teen relationships, when he runs into his former girlfriend (now a mother with her own teenager), he’s ill equipped to recognize that though she may be the girl of his dreams, that’s possibly all she ever was. Nor does it help that the mundie girl he used to pal around with has grown into a beautiful women who’s no longer shy in demonstrating her affection for this clueless boy in a man’s body.
Finn’s relationship with his family is also complicated, considering the eclectic nature of their personalities. His older brother Mort is consumed by jealousy of Finn’s necromantic abilities and fears that Finn’s re-emergence may usurp his position within the family necrotorium. Finn’s younger brother Pete adores him, unaware of Finn’s participation in a youthful prank that may or may not have turned him into a lycanthrope. His father has lost his mind but not his ability to conjure, and his sister is literally allergic to magic, a decidedly unhealthy malady for someone from a family whose business revolves around the one thing she can’t be near.
All in all, it’s a magical blend of Six Feet Under and the Addams Family upon which Randy Henderson has placed his personal stamp, and an excellent debut to a series which continues in Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free, out this February. Randy Henderson maintains at RandyHenderson.com.