Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

Alistair is a paladin in the Order of Qori. Ever since an infernal dusk-flame curse killed his father some years ago, Alistair has redoubled his efforts to become the youngest full-fledged knight. Now, the Order has sent Alistair on his first solo mission to prove himself worthy of the moniker. The people of Singer’s Rest are plagued by an foul necromancer. As soon as Alistair slays the evil doer, he will achieve his goal of becoming a full-fledged knight. When he actually arrives in Singer’s Rest, however, Alistair quickly learns there is far more happening than the simple case of a rogue necromancer.

From a young age, Ignatius learned an excruciatingly hard lesson about what it meant to be a necromancer. People deride him, fear him, and if the residents of Singer’s Rest had their way, he’d be dead. But the instinct to survive is strong and he has managed to stay alive for years by foregoing all human interaction. When Alistair confronts Ignatius over stealing supplies to survive, Ignatius finds himself confronting all the bigotry and prejudice he’s worked so hard to avoid. The paladin is on a mission to rid the world of necromancers like Ignatius and it’s only the fact that Ignatius saved Alistair from freezing to death that prevents the knight from immediately putting an end to Ignatius’ life.

Being trapped by a giant blizzard manages to bring the necromancer and paladin closer to a mutual understanding. Specifically, they realize that they are more than their titles suggest. But will it be enough for them to solve the issue of what really troubles the town of Singer’s Rest? Because there is undeniably something dangerous afoot, even if it has nothing to do with Ignatius’ magic. These two will have to find a way to work together and overcome their differences, and maybe even their growing attraction, in order to save the town.

The Necromancer’s Prisoner is the first book in the Hearts of Allaria series by author Elric Shaw. It’s a fantasy that plays with and explores paladin and necromancer tropes. The story is told in alternating perspectives, split between Alistair and Ignatius. I felt like Alistair was more often in the driver seat, so to speak. Having a paladin and a necromancer for main characters mean there is plenty of enemies-to-lovers energy going on. I was impressed with how slow the burn is and how hard both Alistair and Ignatius must work to acknowledge and rectify their preconceived notions about good and evil.

As far as world building goes, I thought the fact that so much of the story has a very narrow focus on Alistair and Ignatius helped establish a clear framework for what it meant to be a paladin and a necromancer in this universe. Alistair has command of what’s called dawnflame and Ignatius has command of what’s called dustflame. These two flames tie deeply into their individual traumas. It was very neat to see how both Alistair and Ignatius start out at the beginning with rank fear about each other’s flame and how that changes over time. In addition to dawn- and duskflame, there are two more flame types that come into play as Ignatius and Alistair frantically try to figure out what evil is targeting Singer’s Rest. I also really enjoyed the council in charge of Singer’s Rest. They offered a lot of interest, and a little bit of red herring vibes.

The romance in the story was an interesting mix of instant attraction, however begrudging, and slow burn. At times, it felt a little weird for our two main characters to even acknowledge any sort of positive trait in one another, even if it was only attractive hands or a chiseled chin. And yet, the fact that Alistair and Ignatius both had traumatic pasts and were both young made it natural for them to yearn for connection with someone who understood what they’d been through. Also, just because these two eventually came to a sort of understanding about their growing affection for one another, that did not mean that they were able to set aside a lifetime of having been raised as a so-called night of the light or a reanimator of the dead. There are cycles of them thinking they’d overcome their prejudice only for it to manifest in new or unexpected ways, often inadvertently or under the guise of “for the greater good.”

Overall, I thought this was a very accessible fantasy story. There was some rich world building, but it felt like a lot of it was channeled through our MCs as they try to disabuse each other of their preconceived notions of “paladin” and “necromancer.” I thought that was a great way to explain how the “flame” system worked and was viewed, while keeping it relevant to the action on page. The “snowed in” trope and “enemies-to-lovers” were also great vehicles to explore the verisimilitudes of their dynamic relationship. If you enjoy slow burn, enemies to lovers, or high angst in the heat of battle where anything goes, I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this book.