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on 1 October 2012
The writing is average at best, but I will keep through the full series as I really want to see where the author goes with the necromancer. If you can get up to around chapter 8, it really starts getting better.

Updated: i have now read through the whole series, and it really does get better. it's worth gritting your teeth for the first book because once you get over some of the issues it is quite a good story. The characters develop much better in books 3 and by book 4 you really like them.
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on 25 February 2011
A promising start to a fantasy series. Unfortunately, the characters lack individuality and the different points of view all appear samey. Very predictable plot and too hero-driven for my liking.

Gail Martin has attempted to mix a fantasy story with a romance novel, which just ruined the fantasy story. Describing at great length how there are no less than 3 love-of-my-life type relationships forming in a small group of adventurers gets old real quick. She should have stuck to the main story line, and kept the romance to the one relationship that has a direct impact on the story line, and in less detail.

While I enjoyed parts of the story, I ended up skipping large sections. Had hoped that a lot of the "mistakes" were limited to book 1 and that book 2 would focus on good story telling. Unfortunately book 2 was no improvement on book 1, if anything it shifted further towards a romance novel. Am only glad that I did not buy book 3 and book 4.
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on 12 June 2008
I bought this book, like many others, on the strength of its blurb and the fact the cover was beautifully done and catches the eye. I was pretty disappointed by the actual content. There is virtually no character build up, so that they appear shallow and lacking personality. There are also questions about why the hell some of them are there in the first place... Harrtuck and Carroway, take a bow.

The plot is unoriginal as already said, but the fact the 'hero' is a Necromancer is a nice idea. Necromancer's usually appear only on the 'dark side' and to have one on the side of good would have been interesting... if it wasn't so boring. How can you take an idea like that and manage to make it boring?! Its a wonderful achievement on the part of the author.

The plot is poorly constructed, the coincidences that spatter the pages are embarrassing at best and the cliche's that seem to bind this book together just made me want to cringe.

All that being said, I read the whole thing. It may seem strange to slate a book like I just did, but to be honest I found it strangely compelling. Whether its clever writing (which i highly doubt), the urge to seek something mildly original among the pages, the desire to see if Harrtuck and Carroway have a purpose other than to flesh out the fight scenes, or the hope that Gail Z Martin may, somehow, manage to rescue the most boring necromancer ever to grace a book, i really don't know.
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on 16 March 2013
I managed to finish reading it from beginning 'till end, but am not going to continue with the series.

The plot is very predictable, the writing, even though she mixed in 'more difficult words', lacks depth and fails to grasps the reader's constant attention.
The characters are quite shallow, as if they were from a soap opera.
There's an obvious bad guy (and trust me, he's 100% evil!), and the hero is... I don't know, he's just got some extraordinary skills no one else in the book has and thats as far as it goes.

In short, it's not an amusing read, very childish. Maybe you'll only enjoy reading this if you're a 12y old.
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on 19 June 2007
This book left me frustrated with my own inability to finish it. Neither the characters, plot or style even pretend originality. The sole saving grace was to be the idea that the main character was a necromancer, and the only feature that saved this plot from total overdone banality. However, this is only the first time a necromancer has appeared as the protagonist in heroic fantasy (that I have read), but they have cropped up more and more frequently in other fantasy genres, courtesy of Anita Blake and others. I would not rank this combination as successful here, though perhaps it might have the potential to be in more skilled hands. Suggesting that Martin is in any way similar to Gemmell is laughable as none of the characters in The Summoner have the depth of a puddle compared constructs such as Druss. I bought this book on the strength of such reviews but what I got was a poor copy of authors I love, and a story that can only be described as boring.
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on 30 December 2016
I have done a more in -depth review of 'Dark lady's chosen' which sums up these chronicles as I don't want to give anything away! They are gory...but if you can get through that, the stories are terrific and you will , like me, find yourself sitting at the back of a cosy Inn, listening to Caroway the bard, as the wind of the winter kingdoms howls outside!! I am now on the Ascendant kings book 1. So I've read the Summoner to the Dark Lady's chosen. Thoroughly enjoyed. Just worried now in case she bumps off any of my heros!!-Enjoy!!
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on 16 August 2016
The all pervading references to wiccan religious practises make this book unpleasant to read. Imagine sitting in a room while someone tells you how great their religion is using all the terminology from it without ever stopping to explain what any of it means. You feel like you're being condescended to on every page and by the end of chapter one I'd rolled my eyes so many times that I'd made myself seasick. Two stars, one for it actually being a book and the other because the cover is pretty.
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on 28 August 2012
Please for the love of God - Joe Abercrombie, please release your next book sooner rather than later. I need some real fantasy. British fantasy. If I have to wade through another American teen-romance thinly disguised as a fantasy novel I may throw up my liver.

The dialogue is from Home and Away, the plot from a poorly thought out D&D adventure mixed with Mills & Boon.

And the final insult?


Bloody vampires!

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on 8 August 2011
I'm going to start by giving no illusions as to what I thought of this book: it was awful. The main problem with Gail Z. Martin's first novel is that the writing is terrible. Overwritten, amateur descriptive talent, and crafting that reads more like campaign notes for a game of Dungeons and Dragons are only part of what make this book such a failure.

I'll make it clear that I a) listened to this as an audio book (the version of which likely added to the overall awfulness, given that out of nowhere, this epic fantasy world was filled wall-to-wall with deep-south US accents more fitting of gruff cowboys than anti-hero smugglers) and b) having not realised that Martin's new series, headed by The Sworn (released Feb 2011, by Orbit) followed on from the Chronicles with the same characters and world, I started this first, and can vouch for a vast improvement in her writing.

The Summoner begins well: Prince Martris Drayke is forced to flee with a handful of friends--two fighter-types and a bard--after his half-brother brings about the murder of his father, mother and sister. Then, Tris begins to realise he has the dormant powers of a Summoner--in fact, he is the Mage Heir of the Summoner, Bava K'aa. Conveniently, his grandmother.

When Tris and his friends have to run, with Jared's hatred hot on their heels, aided by a mage who pulls strings from behind the scenes, the story should turn into something riveting and exciting. It doesn't. The only part of the book with any genuine excitement is the beginning. And we're talking about a 600+ page book, here. It's a long story.

I wish I were exaggerating when I say nothing happens. The same formula carries the book from page one, to page six-hundred-and-too many. They travel, encounter trouble, someone is wounded, they recover, Tris discovers more about his magic, they travel. And repeat. The "chance" meetings along the road are obviously staged and the plot becomes very transparent. It's a huge pity, because Martin's world is beautifully crafted and original, let down, again, by bad writing and a terribly constructed plot.

I've mentioned how bad I felt the writing was, so let me elaborate. Martin over-describes her characters as though she's showing them off in a pageant, almost as if she's constantly reminding us how they look. She does this with such detail that it's like a constant reminder of how handsome or beautiful they are. See, Tris! See his white-blond hair! See it a thousand times that he takes his fairness from his mother! See a thousand times more than Jared has a darkness to his face that Tris doesn't! See for the thousandth time Tris' hair dye has worn off, showing off his white-blond beneath. It becomes annoying to the point that you feel constantly patronised.

Martin uses the same descriptions over and over again, describing everything and anything. She uses the same lexis so often that you begin to realise when she does, you actually focus in on the words because she uses them so much. More than a few times Martin described the healer Carina in the exact same way after an encounter: all this demonstrates is an unimaginative writing style and a lacking descriptive vocabulary. It's dully repetitive.

Further to this, Martin overwrites everything to the point that the story takes on an uncomfortable air of melodrama that does not belong. Martin writes in a fashion teenagers are scolded for during Creative Writing class; she constantly overeggs the pudding and by the end, whenever anything dramatic does happen, whenever there is a hint of something original (and not a repeat of past events) happening in this book, it is met with a roll of the eyes and a groan at the sheer and awful melodrama instilled by her dreadful craft.

Martin's characters could have been attractive, interesting and original, if they weren't let down by her writing. It feels as though Martin created the entirety of the Chronicles of the Necromancer as a huge story arc, knowing the details before she began writing The Summoner, and it seems that the first novel was a means of getting her characters from A to B. 600+ pages is an excruciatingly long A-B. Too long.

The Summoner is the most boring fantasy book I have read. The most annoying, too, and certainly the most patronising. Nothing in this book keeps me interested in reading the sequel--The Blood King--and then further in the series after that. It is, in fact, The Sworn that restores a little of my faith in Martin's ability as a storyteller. Whilst it exhibits some of the overwriting that I have a feeling Martin never outgrows, the crafting of The Sworn is far superior and any flaws are only noticeable after having read The Summoner.

Honestly, it's just not good enough. A writer's craft is allowed--expected--to develop throughout a series. However, it's unacceptable for it to take an entire series (especially with books weighing in at 600+ pages) to do so. I can only assume the writing of the remaining Chronicles is as bad as the first, steadily growing in competence, until we reach The Sworn.

Everything that happens in The Summoner can be summed up in precise bullet points, and without the overwriting, the repetition and purely indulgent encounters that serve the single purpose of having Tris take baby steps with his powers, it could have been half the size it is. Then perhaps it would have been a good book, with interesting characters, an intriguing plot and an original world.

Instead, we have a drawn out story with a video-game like course (travel, encounter, rest, and repeat) that not only bores the reader into submission, but infuriates to the point where you feel Martin must be having some kind of private joke with herself given the quality of her prose. It's so awful, I thought the book must predate 1990. It doesn't. To my alarm, I discovered it to belong to 2007. Modern fantasy is no longer entirely filled with 600+ page slogs through a writer's imagined world--and if these exist, the craft of the writer is honed, deliberate and precise, unlike Martin's sloppy workmanship.

I lose count how many times I literally yelled at the audio book, cutting out sentences, toning descriptions down, and generally losing my temper at seeing a perfectly decent story absolutely gutted and slaughtered by terrible, terrible crafting.

At worst it reads like clumsy fan-fiction (and even some fan-fiction is better) and a melodramatic narrative flecked with an attempt at the moral philosophies of life, death and their meanings. Perhaps if someone else had written this book, the review would be very different.

However, I do intend--though in how long, I can't say--continue with this series. Why? Because of The Sworn. The improvement in Martin's craft is tenfold, and having been invited to her world, having glimpsed the originality of the setting, I want to trust her and I want her to improve. The Sworn promises improvement and I can only hope this improvement is realised somewhere between the remaining three books of the series.

A truly awful book that seems to have had the last laugh either way; I will be reading further, and I already bought the books. But thank god they were second-hand.

Unless you have the patience of a saint, or the stubborn curiosity of a dedicated reader-writer, I do not recommend this book: if any of the above sounds as though it might annoy you, then this book will leave you fuming and wishing you'd reached for another book on your "to-read" pile.

Reading this book was not a pleasure. Instead, it was a long trudge through bad writing, melodrama and wasted characters that sort of felt like trudging uphill on a beach, in the rain, whilst molasses pour downwards.
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on 7 August 2014
I gave this five stars not because it is great literature but because I really enjoyed the story pure and simple. The author blends a dark theme with the constant hope of a better tomorrow. If you a looking for the depth of story of say Raymond E Fiest however if you want an enjoyable and relaxing read this is for you.
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