Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple jobbring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeonthe Quayestri already branded him a criminal for tryingso bringing people back from the dead it is.
But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.
However, nothing is as it seemsincluding Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive
About the Author
I have always been drawn to story telling. In fact, I can't remember a time when I wasn't telling a story in my head or on paper. In grade school, we had journal writing time which I turned into story telling time, weaving tales of magic and adventure that mimicked the fairy tales and myths that I loved to read. It was there, with the help of two very special teachers, that I nurtured this love and started my journey as a writer.
I write fantasy, paranormal romance, and everything in between, seasoned with a good dash of adventure and mystery. Join me on my tales of magic, adventure, and romance.
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Ward Against Death
Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer
By Melanie Card, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2011 Melanie Card
All rights reserved.
Even in death, Celia Carlyle was beautiful. Sculpted features framed by a pool of blue-black hair gave her an unearthly appearance. Her long eyelashes rested dark against skin that was likely pale before death.
Ward gripped his physician's bag with both hands, but they kept trembling. He could wake her. He had to. He'd spent his last quintaro this morning, and while his room was paid for ten more days, he still needed to eat. And there was no way he was going home to face his family as a failure twice.
Sweat dripped from his jaw, and the copper-rimmed spectacles he wore to make him look older than his twenty years slid down his nose. He tugged on his red velvet physician's jacket and brushed a quick hand along his hairline to ensure his curled and powdered wig was straight. Despite the slight breeze blowing in from the open windows, Brawenal City's summer nights were too hot for such things, but he had an appearance to maintain and a job to do.
He sucked in a quick breath.
An important job. One that could establish his fledgling career. If he just focused on the details, turned the situation into an intellectual problem, he might be able to forget her father waited across the hall.
He concentrated on the young woman swathed in silk sheets on a monstrous canopy bed.
How heartbreaking that someone his age could fall sick and die. Because of her beauty, her death must have been an emotional, political, and possibly financial blow to the family. In his summons, her father, Lord Carlyle, said she had died of a sudden illness. But there was no abnormal discoloration on her cheeks or around her eyes, nor any dried mucus around her lips or nose, which would have suggested an imbalance of her yellow bile. There were so few clues to this fascinating puzzle.
Ward set his bag at her feet and reached out to push back an eyelid.
He jerked his hand back. This was not a necropsy on a body he'd stolen from a graveyard. He hadn't been hired to determine her cause of death. This was a wake. All of her family—her very powerful family—waited a wing away for word that they could have a final fifteen minutes with their beautiful and cherished daughter. Besides, when he woke her, he could just as easily ask what her symptoms were before and during the illness—even if that was cheating.
With another breath, he opened his bag and removed a vial of cow's blood. He eased the stopper from the vial, dipped his little finger into the dark liquid, and drew an open goddess-eye on her forehead.
He could do this.
He imagined the power of the cow's spirit igniting the innate gift within him. Grandfather said it felt as if his entire body tingled, but Ward had never experienced that sensation, or any sensation related to his gift for that matter. He was blind to it, unable to sense the ebb and flow of life energy, but still able to manipulate it. Maybe that was why he struggled to perform anything more difficult than a wake.
Or better yet, maybe he wasn't destined to be a necromancer, but a surgeon. Surgery, however, had yet to be made legal, and his expulsion from the physicians' academy had ended his prospects of becoming a doctor.
And that was just the way things were.
Unclenching his jaw, he resigned himself, yet again, to his situation. He placed his left hand over her heart, his right hand on her forehead, and closed his eyes. He called on knowledge from the Light Son, power over the dead from the Dark Son, and grace and well-being from the Goddess. He envisioned the veil between worlds, a gauzy film of writhing mist—or so his grandfather said—opening, and the spark of her spirit flying back through it to her body.
She gasped. Icy blue eyes flew open and examined him, her gaze jumping from his face, to his wig, to his jacket, and back to his face. Her eyes narrowed and her hand snaked under her pillow. "It's not wise to enter a lady's bedchamber without her consent."
Ward plastered on his calmest, gentlest expression. The newly wakened dead often assumed they had just roused from sleep. "You've been unwell."
"Unwell? Is that what my father told you?" A hint of dark colored her tone.
"Yes, well ... in a manner of speaking." She wasn't acting the way she was supposed to. Noblewomen, particularly those around his age, were usually demure or aloof. They weren't ... suspicious.
"Well, I'm fine, and I'm sorry my father troubled you." She threw back the covers, sat up, and stepped onto the thick rug. "Now go, be a good doctor, and tell my family I'm healthy and sleeping." She punctuated her last word by pulling her nightdress over her head, revealing a slim waist, athletic muscles, and pale skin marked with the purple bruises of livor mortis along her back. And no other clothes.
"But—" He flushed and spun around to face the wall. "What are you doing?" No. Wait. What was he doing? He'd seen a dead naked woman before. Just never like this.
She chuckled. "I'm going for a walk."
"A what? No—You can't." She really wasn't acting the way she was supposed to.
"I beg to differ."
The situation was spiraling out of hand. Damn it, he had to take control. He was the necromancer, she the newly awakened. She was supposed to listen to him.
He turned to confront her. Thankfully, she was fully dressed—in men's clothes, but at least she was dressed. "Listen, I—"
She slipped her hand under her pillow and removed a sheathed dagger.
Great Goddess! She kept a dagger under her pillow? Ward inched toward the door to block her escape without appearing obvious, although he had no idea what he'd do if she fought him. Why did he always get stuck with the difficult corpses? Grandfather never mentioned anything about noblemen's daughters with daggers who insisted they were alive.
She shoved her feet into well-worn boots, grabbed a bulging rucksack from a nearby chair, and headed to the window.
He scrambled after her. "No, wait." His voice cracked and he gulped air, doing nothing to still his rising panic.
She hopped over the sill into the shadow of a lilac bush.
"Please. Stop. You're dead."
"I don't feel dead," she said over her shoulder in a singsong voice as she eased through the leafy branches.
Ward scurried out the window and crashed through the bush to keep her in sight, but tripped over an ornamental rock covered in dark moss. He landed on his hands and knees in the coarse grass at her feet. The sharp chirp of crickets and the high-pitched buzz of cicadas suddenly stopped, leaving his ears ringing at the silence. Behind her lay the dark rim of a reflection pool, its semi-circle pressed against the stone wall of the tiny garden and guarded by red and white roses.
"You took ill," he said, before she could climb the garden wall.
He nodded. "You were sick. Do you remember?"
She stared at him as if unable to understand. His heart pounded, and he waited for her to say something, anything. She sagged onto the rim of the pool, her expression stunned.
A breeze rustled the leaves on the rose bushes, making them hiss and sigh, whispering secrets.
"Then they've done it already."
A cricket gave a shrill chirp.
"Excuse me?" What an insensitive thing to say. She'd just said she'd been murdered.
Her expression softened. She knelt before him and cupped his chin in her hands. "I need your help."
"You what?" He'd barely worked his mind around the thought that she'd been murdered, and now she wanted help. His help. No. This was all wrong. She was all wrong. One moment she was suspicious, the next begging for help.
Her bottom lip quivered. She was so close, her breath caressed his forehead, and her subtle, heady perfume intoxicated him. Was it roses or lilacs? It was difficult to keep his thoughts straight. He'd never had such a beautiful woman pay this kind of attention to him before.
"Please. The Goddess sent you to me. She must have." She grabbed his hand and held it tight. "There isn't much time. My father will discover we're gone and ..." A single tear traced a line down her cheek.
His head swam, a wave of dizziness numbing all sensation, as if he was suspended in a dream. A beautiful, mesmerizing fantasy, but her words didn't fit. There was something wrong with them; he just couldn't concentrate enough to figure out what that was. It seemed preposterous she'd ask him for help.
"You were ill," he said, one final, weak protest.
"I wasn't, and you know it. Do I look ill?"
He shook his head, although she also didn't look as if she'd been beaten, or strangled, or stabbed. Some illnesses showed no signs or symptoms, but as soon as he thought it, he knew it wasn't true.
"Please. My father is sly," she said as if reading his thoughts. "Probably a rare poison, but I need proof."
He swallowed. It broke his heart to say it, but she had to know the truth. "You'll only be awake for fifteen minutes."
"I can prove it." Her eyes shimmered with more tears.
Goddess, how could he say no?
She was just so beautiful and so desperate, he had to do something. "There is another spell, a Jam de'U."
"Then cast that."
"It requires time and components." That, and he'd never attempted it before. He didn't even know if he could cast it, but he had to try.
An angry yell from within the house made him jump.
"What am I saying? If I'm caught—"
She pressed his palm to her cheek, her eyes wide and filled with fear. "Please. You have to believe me. I'm the only one who can bring me justice. My father is too powerful."
Could she really prove her own murder? This was ridiculous. She had to go back to her room. If they found her in the garden they'd accuse him of trying to steal her body, and he didn't want that kind of trouble ... not again. He reached for the goddess-eye brand on the back of his neck. It burned with remembered pain. Was there room for another Inquisitor's brand, or would he lose a body part this time?
"You're a doctor, right? You've taken the Oath?"
"Yes." But at the moment he was a necromancer, not a physician.
"I ask on your Physician's Oath."
His breath caught in his throat. Did the Oath he'd taken in the second-to-last year of his apprenticeship apply when the person was already dead? It said he couldn't refuse any soul in need, but surely the Master Physicians had meant soul in a literal sense. Of course, they didn't have the mystic senses of a necromancer. Would the Goddess see the distinction when it was his turn to cross over? If he refused Celia and her soul counted as part of his Oath, he'd face an eternity of torture for being an Oath-breaker.
"Don't let me die a tormented soul." She stood and met his gaze. Her eyes were still desperate, but there was a hardened determination there as well.
His heart contracted. He was ten times a fool and there was nothing to be done about it.
He nodded. Up down. Side to side. It didn't matter.
He followed as she climbed the garden wall, his hands finding holds in the stone, his body, of its own volition, dragging him up and over. All the while his mind, like a chorus in a mummer's tragedy, jeered and moaned the end of his career on the slim chance he'd saved his eternal soul.CHAPTER 2
Celia dropped from the wall, compensating for the sharp incline below with practiced precision, and crouched low in the tall grass.
Well, the boy ... necromancer ... whatever, couldn't be a player. It'd been too easy to convince him to come with her. She hadn't even had to bring up the anonymous note claiming an assassination assignment had been handed out on her life. Unless that was his plan. Perhaps whoever was after her had hired him to keep track of her in case she ran.
Which she had every intention of doing.
The problem was, she had no idea who was after her. Telling the necromancer it was her father just made it easier to leave since there was no guarantee she was safe under his roof. For all she knew, it really was him. As the Dominus of the Gentilica, lord of all illicit activity in Brawenal City, she wouldn't put it past him. She wouldn't put it past any of her fellow assassins or other family members either, since most were somehow involved in the family business.
She had thought her identity had remained a secret, but someone could have let it slip, and now her options for who was trying to murder her had blossomed to anyone in the city.
The evening breeze cooled her skin and teased her loose hair, and the waist-high grass tickled her face and hands. It smelled of salt and fish and kitchen smoke. Under her foot was a rock the size of her palm, a possible weapon—though not as effective as her hands, and messier.
A thud made her glance over her shoulder. The necromancer lay facedown in the grass, his ridiculous wig askew on his head and his spectacles hanging off one ear. If he got rid of those and the old man's coat, he'd probably be handsome.
Nope, he couldn't be out to manipulate her. He'd melted when she spun her lie and called on the Physician's Oath. A little pout, a few tears, and he was hers. Which meant—
She really was dead. But she didn't feel dead. Wasn't there supposed to be warmth and golden light when she crossed the veil?
She slunk down the hill on the east side of her father's estate, wading through thick grass and wildflowers. With eyes and hands brushing over dirt and rock, she felt for the nearby sewer grate. If she was dead, it was fortuitous she'd tricked the necromancer into coming with her. She'd have to keep him around, at least until he did that Jam de spell thing or she'd proven him wrong.
The necromancer scrambled to his feet and staggered down the hill toward her.
"So what now?" He folded his glasses and put them in an inside jacket pocket.
Someone yelled on the other side of the wall. She grabbed the necromancer's lapels and pulled him down.
"First," she said, taking his wig and throwing it down the hill, "we try not to stick out."
"That was my father's—"
She pressed a finger to his lips and strove to keep her voice even. She needed him compliant, and the damsel in distress card was the one easiest played. "We need to escape and hide."
"But my father bought that wig from a Yarbonian physician in Kaltreck," he said, his voice soft and sad and small.
Goddess be damned. She felt like she'd just kicked a puppy, but the wig was conspicuous. Too dangerous to keep if they wanted to escape. It was better off left in the grass.
But his gaze stayed on the wig, and something inside her squirmed. She had very few things of sentimental value, but those she cherished the most she kept on her person so they'd never be lost. She had a pair of knives from her mother—guess the necromancer had a wig from his father.
She bit back a growl. So much for being a cold-hearted assassin. She dragged him down the hill, grabbed the wig, and shoved it at him. "Keep it hidden."
He crammed it into the front of his jacket and opened his mouth, but she glared at him and he closed it. If they had to keep the wig, they could at least be quiet about it.
She continued her search for the sewer grate until her fingers struck the coarse bumps and pocks of old metal. Just where she remembered it. She found the hinges, braced her feet on either side of the grate, and, with it groaning in protest, heaved it open.
She didn't feel dead at all.
Which meant the necromancer had to be a player assigned to keep an eye on her.
His jaw dropped, and his eyes grew wide, as if he'd never seen someone force open a rusty sewer grate before.
A very good player. As much as she disliked the idea, she'd have to dispose of him before they got too far.
Straddling the hole, she placed her hands on either side of it, stretched her legs down, and felt with her feet for the ladder carved in the wall. Her toe caught something, and she shifted to get a better foothold. She put on her I'm-a-helpless-woman expression and looked at him. "Please. This is our only escape."
The necromancer swallowed and ran his hands down the front of his jacket. "In there?"
More yells from the direction of the house. Closer. Her father's men were likely scaling the garden wall at that very moment.
Excerpted from Ward Against Death by Melanie Card, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2011 Melanie Card. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ward Against Death is a historical paranormal romance/fantasy/adventure/mystery in which Ward de'Ath is a necromancer, who is hired to call back a young woman, Celia, from the dead. Typically, a necromancer does this so that the family can spend 15 minutes with their loved one and say goodbye. In Celia's case, things are a little bit different. You see, Celia was murdered, and she is bound and determined to find out who murdered her. She manages to convince (or manipulate) Ward into helping her. Ward's first and foremost desire is to be a physician. In fact, he was practically there. Unfortunately, his obsession with surgery, which was outlawed in those days, nullified any chance of that happening. Though technically, he isn't a physician, he still holds his physician's oath in the highest regard, and it is that oath that Celia uses to convince him to help her. Ward performs another spell on Celia, which is supposed to allow her to be alive for longer, so that they can find her murderer. He improvises some of the ingredients, and really, Celia seems much more alive than she should. Ward pushes this fact aside as they embark upon the quest to discover the identify of the murderer. In the course of their investigation, Ward finds himself in situations he never dreamed of, and he also finds himself attracted to Celia, which is strictly forbidden in his profession, and forbidden by law. There is also a lot more to Celia that meets the eye, and Ward quickly finds out he has gotten himself into something over his head, but because of his oath (and his feelings for Celia that he tries to deny), he doesn't abandon her. He and Celia find themselves in one dangerous situation after another, and the things they begin to uncover soon reveal that the reasons behind Celia's murder are much bigger than they ever expected. Ward Against Death was an intriguing and interesting book. Melanie Card's take on necromancy and magic was original and entertaining. The story itself sort of reminded me of an old Sherlock Holmes story, with the whole "who done it" theme going on. I enjoyed Ward's character, he was kind of goofy, yet endearing at the same time, and very honest and loyal. Celia is ruthless and cunning, yet she seems to develop a soft spot where Ward is concerned, and soon discovers that when you get past the outer layer, he is very attractive. The books is filled with magic, murder, mystery, adventure, fantasy, and romance in a historical setting, and if you enjoy stories about necromancy, this is a book you may want to check out. I look forward to seeing where Melanie Card takes Celia and Ward next in Ward Against Darkness coming out in June.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Ward Against Death by Melanie Card! Ward, a necromancer, and Celia, an assassin meet and against all odds become teammates working together to find out who killed Celia. Ward is a physician who is not allowed by law to practice medicine, so he uses his skills to wake recently deceased people to talk to them for a short time and find answers about their deaths. He was performing a wake on Celia for her family. When she woke, she escaped because she was determined to find her killer. The wake should last only fifteen minutes but Celia stays awake longer! A broad mix of symbolism and magic create a dark sense and the humor lightens the story; 4 stars for an interesting mix of fantasy and supernatural fiction and fun characters!
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This book had me hooked from the beginning. The action starts almost right away, as soon as Celia wakes up. Throughout the rest of the book, the action never ceased, the characters always had to face an enemy or a threat, and once I got into the story, it took a lot of effort to stop reading. Furthermore, the world that this is set within is captivating. I thought I'd get a fantasy set in the modern, contemporary world. Instead, it was set in a sort of alternative, fantasy world, where things like surgery are illegal and necromancers are a normal part of life. This made for a great world to escape to and lose myself in. The world-building was phenomenal, from the government itself all the way to the world of criminals. Ward is such a great character to read about. He's quite funny, often clumsy or partially clueless, and he has his own unique charm. While I don't mind a flawless hero every now and then, to have an imperfect hero like Ward, quirks and all, was very refreshing. I immediately liked Ward and hoped that all would end well for him, which just fueled my need to read and kept me reading until my eyes were tired. The other main character is Celia. Technically dead, she is a master manipulator, an assassin, and overall somebody you do not want to mess with. While she may be dead, she doesn't lose herself or sight of her goal: to find out who killed her. She was a complete daredevil, in my opinion. At times, she appeared reckless, but that only added to her character. She and Ward were fairly opposite each other, with Ward more timid and unsure, and Celia courageous and determined. This made for some amusing dialogue and situations, which added much-appreciated humor to this story of death and magic. The main issue that I had with this story was the attraction or romance between Celia and Ward. While there isn't a full-blown romance within this book, there are many references to the characters feeling attraction to each other, at the very least. These things certainly can be weaved well into an action-packed fantasy such as this one, but the author didn't balance their attraction to each other with the main issue within the story. I would think, for example, that Ward would not be considering Celia in a romantic or sensual way, as he often did, while they were in such a dire situation. It seemed out of place and somewhat forced. I think that it would have been better if the author had toned down the romantic aspects within this book and saved it for the next in the series. All in all, this tale of a charming, somewhat awkward necromancer and the lady that he has brought back from the dead is one that I enjoyed reading. While the romantic bits seemed a bit out of place for the situation at hand, the world-building was amazing and the action kept me turning pages for hours on end. I recommend this novel to fans of stories filled with magic and action. If you're interested in a new adult / mature young adult book about necromancy, or a change from the usual vampires and werewolves of the paranormal and fantasy genres, this book is for you.
Ward Against Death was an amazing story. Ward de'Ath (yes ha ha he's heard that joke before) is a necromancer - a fairly good one from what I could gather. But his true passion is to be a surgeon - something is most definitely illegal in this time and place. Running from the law in several provinces, he finds himself in the mother of all trouble when he performs a wake for Celia Carlyle. Now, there are parts of this world that may have needed a tad bit more explanation at the beginning. There were a handful of times I wondered what the heck they were talking about - almost like this was a spin off series of some sort. But I still loved every minute of it! Celia and Ward are the most unlikely partners you could find, but somehow they manage to make it work. There are some trust issues scattered about - easy to understand since one is a criminal and one was a recently dead person. They still manage to solve a mystery and save the day - sort of? An amazing start to a very interesting world. I'm looking forward to starting Ward Against Darkness soon. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
These were some really fantastic books to read! The story is very well written, and is excellently paced. The world building and explanations of events can be a bit tedious, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get over it. I liked the mystery elements that are in these books and the fact that there are a lot of different characters and laws at play in the story. After I got the hang of the different titles – like Innecroestri, Dominus etc – I flew through the books, enjoying all the different aspects coming together. The one thing I wasn’t too fond of was the romantic elements in the story. While I wasn’t all that fond of Celia, I felt the romance between the two was a bit lacking. Most of the time they act like they hate each other, and it was frustrating. However, that doesn’t get in the way of a really great story with lots of magic and mystery. If you’re looking for a new character to love and a new series to be completely addicted to, Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer is definitely one you should read. *I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
Ward Against Death follows the adventures of Ward De'Ath, young necromancer and physician. Part of his job involves waking dead souls so they can give last messages to loved ones. Called upon to raise the corpse of a young woman called Celia, he is little prepared for what follows as the woman immediately dresses, takes a dagger and asks him to help under his oath as a physician. Trapped by his word, Ward follows Celia into an adventure that he didn't ever imagine. This book is excellent. It's exciting, romance and chock full of action. Ward is a wonderful character. A slightly stuffy academic with hidden depths, Ward is a reluctant but noble individual called upon to stay with Celia until she can discover her murderer. If Ward is incredible, Celia matches him. She's no fainting violet, but a cool, calculating assassin, who leads Ward through parts of the city that he certainly doesn't want to go. The romance isn't insta-love which is a definite plus. Despite the acknowledgment of attraction, Ward cannot get past the fact that Celia is dead and Celia is suspicious of Ward's motives. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's got brilliant characters, a fast paced plot and buckets of fun.