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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2007
Prince Martris "Tris" Drayke of Margolan learns what hell really is when his brother, Jared, murders their entire family and seizes the throne. Tris barely escapes and flees with a handful of loyal colleagues. The shock triggers the awakening of memories that his grandmother, the legendary sorceress Bava K'aa, had sealed closed from his conscious mind. Tris has always been able to see and communicate with the ghosts of Margolan year round, even though others could only see them during the annual Feast of the Departed. However, Tris has no idea of the years Bava K'aa had spent training him on the use of his power; power he had no idea he could wield.

Jared's new ruling over Margolan is mainly through fear. To increase his land and power, he is forcing Princess Kiara Sharsequin of Isencroft to wed him. With the years of ruined crops and her father under some sort of wasting spell, Kiara fears she may not be able to stall the ceremony for much longer. After creating one last excuse, Kiara goes upon a Journey by the Sisterhood in hopes of finding a way to cure her father and save her people.

Foor Arontala, a Fireclan mage, is Jared's chief advisor and dark sorcerer. He may be helping Jared claim the throne, but Arontala has his own evil agenda. During the Mage Wars, the Obsidian King's soul had been banished into a Soulcatcher orb by Bava K'aa, due to the major threat he caused to Margolan and the Winter Kingdoms. Arontala intends to release the Obsidian King's soul from the Soulcatcher. But there is more to fear about Arontala than simply the fact that he is a powerful mage, much more.

Tris and his small group trek for a hidden place that may have the vital knowledge he seeks to help him understand and control his newly awakened power. As the group travels for a place that may not even exist, Tris must learn to call on a different set of allies: the ranks of the dead.

***** This is a THICK book, but I never grew bored, not once. Hand-to-hand combat, necromancy, goddesses, good and bad spirits, magical combat, betrayal... I cannot begin to describe all the different elements that the author, Gail Z. Martin, has spun together to create this outstanding tapestry. The book ends in, what I believe to be, the perfect place. When I finished reading the last page and closed the book, I sat for several minutes just thinking it all. I am in awe of this author's talents and have to wonder if she may be a sorceress herself. In a word, "PERFECT!" *****

Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
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on 14 August 2012
Here is a new fantasy series that should rightly stand alongside the other great writers within this genre, on the bookshelf next to Kate Elliot, Brent Weeks, Janny Wurts and many others who all have produced something of outstanding caliber. The chronicles of the necromancer is a four part series comprising of the summoner as book one, the blood king as book two, dark haven and dark lady's chosen as book four which concludes this epic saga that is overwhelmingly good. These eye-catching books stand out not only because of their striking, captivating covers but also being something refreshingly original and unique taking fantasy fiction to a whole new level. This spectacular book marks the debut of a great new talent with the beginning of an epic story, by a writer who shows her accomplished skill and visionary imagination. Here I found something unmatchable in originality, engrossing and absorbing which has since become one of my all-time favorite series of this genre.

In a world of magic and powerful sorcery Martris Drayke's life will never be the same again when his brother assumes the throne by murdering his father, hence his once secure world begins to spiral out of control. Martris leaves the kingdom with a handful of loyal acquaintances who are willing to stay by his side, to try by repudiating his father's death and restoring honor once more. To fight against the living Martris' only hope is to harness and control his own magical powers to take on the allies of the dead, calling on them for aid thus closing the gap between life and the afterlife. Ultimately Martris wants revenge and closure of the futile death of his father; hence he learns to understand the true meaning of loss and of life itself. A character-driven tale in which one is able to empathize and relate to the characters on such an intimate and personal level, where you can feel their emotions, their pain which touches your inmost soul.

Truth-drawing and engaging this was a book that I was unable to put it down for even a second, as I lost myself within its pages that transported me to a different world full of danger, mystery and magic. Whilst reading I was so engrossed within Gail Z Martin's absorbing writing that daily life around me was blocked out as if my mind had been plucked from my body, sending chills down my spine as I sat in constant suspense wanting to read on. This action-packed, fast-paced adventure is thrilling and breathtaking, sending the reader on a quest of a lifetime that is comparable to Robin Hobb or Terry Brooks by leaving the reader spellbound. The combination of a complex, detailed plot within an imaginative setting by distinctive characters makes this series not just a good one but a great one which once read will leave you wanting more. This is epic fantasy at its very best and one that I grantee will captivate you making you fall under its spell, that which you won't want to let go. After reading the chronicles of the necromancer I cannot wait to read more of this authors work, which if it is anything like Martris Drayke's story can only be incredible and staggering. If you have not encountered this author or series as yet then I strongly urge that you do so, as it will impact upon your literary experiences ultimately changing your perception of the fantasy genre.
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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 1 April 2012
Good and evil, light and dark, a dark-one imprisoned but on the verge of escape. Regicide. Kings and princes, nobles and peasants. A healer with a pouch of herbs. A trainee mage. A plot driven by strange characters popping up and "Just Knowing" where our heroes need to go next and what they must do when they get there. Heroes who obey without question.

It's pretty traditional stuff. Probably the most traditional fantasy since Eddings let us watch while an anthropomorphized Prophecy shuffled his game pieces around the map.

A couple of things are a bit jarring:

Firstly the language. The dialogue sits uncomfortably between very informal modern American English, and over-earnest Australian Soap-Opera English. It doesn't feel quite natural.

Secondly, "Steaming trenchers". Food is always served on (in?) "Steaming trenchers". No-one in Ms. Martin's world appears to have got round to inventing the plate. Or a trencher that doesn't steam. Does the food itself ever steam? -- that's left to the imagination of the reader.

That said, it's by no means bad. If you're not expecting too much of a challenge, or anything strikingly original, it's pretty readable and entertaining. I'll certainly be reading the second book.
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on 10 January 2009
The is an ok book but nothing special.

It follows the standard fantasy quest format, with the bad guys being really bad and help from a goddess and ancients orders of priestesses etc.
The amount of amount of pushing and prodding from the Goddess makes it feel more like a children's book than an adult one.

Its well written and the characters are likeable enough even if the are stock fantasy clichés.
The plot goes along at a reasonable pace but you are never really surprised by anything that happens and it does seem to take itself very seriously for such a light-weight storyline, there is no real humour in it at all.

If you like Eddings or Lackey maybe this'll be your sort of thing, if you prefer a bit more originality or intelligence don't bother.

It kills some time painlessly if you have nothing better to read but that's about all.
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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2008
The Summoner is a fun, fast read -- even at 637 pages -- with it's fair share of flaws. It's bursting with stereotypes, and reminiscent of quite a few other fantasies.

Harking back to some of the stereotypes of the fantasy genre, the good guys are all seriously attractive -- and the bad guy so unnervingly attractive (in an icy cold way) that he must be evil. There's an evil despot prince, Jared, him of the evil beauty -- brother to the hero Tris -- who had a powerful magical advisor who soon sees to it that the king is bumped off ... and is, what else, trying to summon a vastly malignant evil, The Obsidian King, back into the world, because yes, that's a good idea.

The Summoner, while not treading new ground per se, does integrate a few cool ideas. One of which is the vayash moru, essentially: vampires. I've always been a fan of those guys, but with so much stereotypical urban fantasy around, I've often thought how good it would be to have them show up in a fantasy novel. There's nothing fantastically new done with them as characters but 'twas good nonetheless. Another thing is the necromancer aspect of The Summoner, and here it does do something I haven't read that often before. Why do necromancers have to be evil just because they communicate with the dead? Well, they don't. Our hero, Tris, is one of these guys -- in fact, he is the only one at present, following the death of his grandmother, an extremely powerful Summoner herself.

Reading so many books, one after another, it's only the really memorable characters that will stay fresh in my mind -- barring another re-read -- and those, of course, tend to be the most developed, and interesting. In The Summoner, Tris was one of those, as was Kiara -- princess of another nation -- and despite the put-the-book-down-in-shock surprising fact that they inevitably fall for one another, they were to the large part good characters to read. Not that fleshed out, but better than the rest. Vahanian, even if he was the atypical Lan ... erm, soldiery type, was fun to read, too, and as the novel progressed, he definitely got more interesting.

While there is a fair bit that can be poked fun at in The Summoner, it was a very fun read, and those nigh on 700 pages flew by. It's not redefining the genre, and with the promise it showed with some of it's better ideas, it is slightly disappointing, but I did immediately -- even if it was a quick, guilty fix -- get stuck into book two, which has to say something. It's the kind of thing I'd give to someone who doesn't read fantasy that often and isn't quite so weary of the stereotypes as we might be. There was a lot of enthusiasm in The Summoner; Ms. Martin is clearly in love with her genre, which is more than can be said of some writers. Plus, I love the artwork, and on a purely aesthetic point, that counts for something!
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on 28 April 2008
I coudn't wait to buy this book as i had heard good things and there only a few good new fantasy books coming out, however i quickly realised that The Summoner was actually really rubbish.

The main problem with it, is that it is simply too boring. You know where the book is going as a five year old could figure out the plot. At the very least you would expect a couple of good twists and turns, something unexpected, but sadly the only unexpected thing was just how bad this book was, which is a shame because the premise behind this story could have been turned it something quite wonderful.

Another problem comes from the characters. They are very basic and seem to have no depth to their personality. Relationships between the characters also seems just plain dull. You will also find yourself questioning the very necessity of some "major" characters e.g. Harrtuck, Carroway. The only interesting character seems to be Vahanian. You also start to wonder why the hell are there are vampires roaming around??? (apparently vampires are a passion of the author's and so finds it necessary to include them in no matter how contrived their raison d'etre).

The synopsis on the back says, and i quote, "The Summoner marks the debut of a stunning new talent in the fantasy firmament, and the beginning of an epic story that will leave readers gasping for more." Does the old maxim, don't judge a book by its cover, ring any bells? The author certainly is not a stunning new talent and the only epic feeling you get from this is just how a great a waste of time it is to actually read it.

Save your money people there's much better stuff out there. I would recommend anything by Scott Lynch, Jim Butcher, Terry Goodkind and Robert Newcomb.

The author does, however, receive one star purely for actually managing to get this piece of rubbish published.
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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 8 May 2008
Bought this as I thought the plot (from the blurb on the back) had potential. Whilst the prose isn't too bad, the 'coincidences' that other reviewers have alluded to really got in the way of the narrative. Also, the addition of the vampiric subplot and the oh so tired 'dark power trying to rise again' theme left me dissapointed. As stated, I finished the book in an afternoon as most of it was qute readable if not exactly ground-breaking stuff. It would have been much better to simply have Tris learning to use his new powers to remove his usurper brother from the throne, rather than suddenly being confronted with the threat of this dark power which is only introduced in the final third of the book and had me groaning with dissapointment. All in all, whilst the first part is readable (the action could do with slowing down in places), the second dives straight into cliche territory and revisits the old haunts we know only too well. It's a shame because this could have been a wonderful new addition to the genre.
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on 18 November 2010
I have bought this book a bit on a whim and I admit, I couldn't put it down. I am a big fan of Trudi Canavan's writing and was looking for something to fill the gap after I finished reading The Black Magician Trilogy and The Age of Five series. "The Summoner" is adventure packed and gradually introduces all key characters, however, leaves them enough space to grow and change throughout the series.

A young prince, Tris Drayke, stands for all the great values a positive hero always cherishes: honour, friendship and love. After his brother murders their whole family, Tris has to flee and quickly develop his magical power to keep him sane and safe. He discovers his ability to summon the spirits of the dead extends far beyond the circle of long gone family members and friends.

Gail Martin keeps the world building rather simple and focuses instead on several strong plot lines. The first book left me hungry for more so needless to say I ordered all remaining volumes and didn't regret it one bit.
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