On the day of his dad’s funeral, Nicolas Murray’s terrifying visions of the dead pull him out of his bedroom in Austin, Texas into a land where the undead serve the living. As he traverses the new world with his guide and teacher Mujahid, Nicolas must learn to master the art of Necromancy if he ever hopes to return home. But they’re soon on the run; Necromancy has long been outlawed by the Archmage Kagan, and anyone caught practicing risks execution.

(An aside: I know the author Nat Russo personally, and while I will attempt to provide an objective review, I realize it’s not completely possible. It’s scary to review a book by someone you know because it’s entirely possible his labor of love could be terrible. And then I would have had to write a bad review. But luckily, Necromancer Awakening is a traditional hero’s journey in a fresh fantasy setting.)

This highly original fantasy world has a unique magical system based on life and death magic. The plot is fun, in that it’s full of twists and unexpected turns, even for an avid reader of fantasy used to traditional plots and archetypes. Necromancy isn’t what you think — its multiple worlds and intelligent species rely on the sacred priesthood of necromancers to raise and purify the dead of their sins.

Nicolas is strongly characterized with his snarky Texas dialect and idioms, and you root for him to get home to his girlfriend and, especially, his dog. But it’s Mujahid, the ostracized wizard necromancer, who’s lived under the sickly yellow sky in a world of too many earthquakes, few trees and even fewer children, waiting for the prophesied savior, who captures my imagination.

Occasionally, Nicolas’ country jargon feels out of place and disrupts the pace. A few plot devices and characterizations could have been set up more in the beginning, because I never quite understand the bad guy’s motivations or how powerful the Necromancers are and what we should expect is normal in the magical system.

Highly recommended for fans of adventure fantasy, particularly for anyone with an interest in alternate interpretations of the occult. This one is full of surprises!

“I don’t know which is worse…bad men doing evil, or good men doing nothing.”