YA fantasy author, Melanie Card, has delivered another winner. Ward against Disaster is the third instalment in her Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer series, released by Entangled Publishing. With the beautiful but dangerous Celia Carlyle at his side, Ward de’Ath is on the trail of a deadly soul-eater: the vesperetti, Allette. Assisted by a Tracker, Nazarius de’Serra, they are determined to put an end to the ongoing slaughter of innocents. Ward’s fearless allies follow him into Dulthyne, a town ensnared by dark blood magic, in which they face a series of challenging episodes with dark foe.
Throughout the novel, there are a number of fantastic combat scenes that make for a page-turning experience. The action is written convincingly and with great skill – the fights ring true, the desperation feels real, and the characters’ strength of will leaps off the page. A necromancer and physician, Ward makes for an intriguing, altruistic central character, and his magical connection to former assassin, Celia (who is also undead) inspires conflicting feelings in them both and increases the intensity of their respective spiritual and emotional journeys. Nazarius, on the other hand, has some secrets and, possibly, another agenda. Can he be depended upon as a trusted friend?
Card is a masterful world-builder: Dulthyne is a treacherous, sinister place that you’ll feel you’ve actually visited. With its citadels, mysterious passageways, and sparkling witchstone constructions, it heaves with darkness and secrecy. Card has also developed a rich, believable history for both her multi-layered, introspective characters, and the world they inhabit. Secret cults, ancient myths, and old magic combine to create a sense of depth and history.
We are left with a tantalising cliff-hanger which will whet readers’ appetites for the next book. If you’re new to this series, I do recommend starting with the first book, Ward against Death, only because it’s such a satisfying experience to follow Ward and Celia from their beginnings. Ward against Disaster can definitely stand alone as a brilliant, fast-paced, and twist-ridden read. Fans of Kristin Cashore and Sarah J Maas will love this compelling fantasy series and its memorable cast of characters. Recommended.