Fantasy author Sharon Shinn once told me that all authors have a “thing” they write about. ‘Your thing,’ she said, ‘is death. And what comes next.
Alright, just. I grew up on beetle juice and the Addams Family and Sondheim Sweeney Todd, so my sense of the macabre and my sense of humor are often indistinguishable. When JM Barrie’s Peter Pan said, “Dying will be a terribly great adventure,” I wanted to know what would happen next.
Fortunately, in a fantasy novel, we can know exactly what happens next. My book holy death‘her daughter is basically a necropalooza; my protagonist, Lanie Stones, is somewhat in love with death, who loves her back. Soon, Lanie and her strange sorcery will join the august ranks of necromancers, undead armies, and awe-inspiring death magicks that flow through the genre like a dark river to the underworld.
Speaking of death magic: here’s a list of types that I like, that I’ve sometimes borrowed, modified or developed…
The energy of big bones
It probably goes without saying, but the necromancer Harrow in Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the ninth and Harrow the ninth, is super badass. Feed the girl bone shards, and she can build bone armor (like, she makes herself a literal exoskeleton), bone weapons, and armies of whole bones (“skeleton builds”, to be technically correct), among other things. A powerful thanergy like Harrow’s looks absolutely wicked, but of course comes at a high personal cost.
ring the dead
I recently fell in love with D&D, through the show critical role. So my most recent experience of “bells of the living dead” is the “Toll the Dead” cantrip (thanks, undead warlock Laudna; you’re the greatest; I want some form of dread dripping with ichor black like yours). But long before Marisha Ray’s hilariously macabre Laudna, there was Garth Nix’s. Sabriel and its bandolier of bells, which control the dead and rest the undead. Sabriel’s bells will haunt me forever.
I met Raistlin Majere, as one does, in the Dragonlance chronicles of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I immediately fell in love with him, the mean rascal, because I was a teenager and because, well, he had totally boss hourglass eyes that saw the effect of time on all the creatures around him . It reminds Lady Amaltha in The last unicorn crying, “I can feel this body dying all around me!” only Raistlin i saw it happen. There is a similar scene in the incredible book by Patricia A. McKillip winter pink, when Rois Melior sees his family at the table through the eyes of Corbet Lynn and watches them wither away. Always super cool!
The art of interrogating the dead, or receiving information from them willy-nilly, is a beautiful, ancient tradition in fiction, film, and games. I love a crime-solving medium! I’m a big fan, for example, of the medium Annie, played by Cate Blanchett, in Giftand Mysterium is my favorite board game. More recently, I adored Thara Celehar in Katherine Addison The witness of the dead. He lives modestly, loves opera, and occasionally chats with the recently dead: sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because he can’t help himself. As a result, he finds himself obliged to act on behalf of those who are no longer alive in order to act for themselves.
The walking dead in the shed
In Ilona Andrews The edge series, protagonist Rose’s younger brother, George, struggles to let go. Young necromancer that he is, when he finds something dead, he keeps it alive with his own life force. This includes many forest animals, deceased pets, and Grandfather Cletus, who must be kept out of the way in the shed lest he bite the wrong human. It’s reminiscent of some of my favorite “pet zombies”, like in Shaun of the Dead Ed, and the main character of Fido (one of my favorite zombie movies!).
holy death‘s Daughter by CSE Cooney is now available from Rebellion Books.