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[Spoilers for the ending.]

I got this book from the Palestine aid bundle.

The premise was really interesting, be it the setting of the tomb or the concept of Ree. An archivist learning about ancient magic, and deciding to research and learn it, at the cost of being powerless in the meantime, in order not to be locked into the path of necromancy.
I liked the writing as well, as well as the humour, and it read easily. I spent the best part of one of my shifts at the library reding through it, after being intrigued by the premise of a librarian.

However and sadly, I can't really recommend the book without talking about its last portion, which felt like it really came out of the blue and was quite disappointing.

Long story short for people who don't want to be spoilered:

time travel that doesn't really feel well-integrated or meaningul, character who is seemingly all-powerful without much reason, and weak payoff to a major plot element.



At some point, Ree, to learn about the ancient magic she's been seeking for years, enters the territory of the Lich, a necromancer so old and powerful he's been stripped of humanity.  And... the Lich, not managing to kill them with a curse, sends them back in time through a ritual.
I don't exactly understand how someone locked into necromancy managed to cast time travel. I might not be seeing a link that was explained and I missed. But time travel is something very powerful that can easily mess with the balance of a story.
Here, little is really done with it. It mostly serves as exposition of some background elements and to set up the next arc, where the protagonists have to undertake a dark ritual or die. You could say that Ree going to the past is what set someone practicing the magic she sought to write a book about it, but she already had found plenty of books about the subject, and it didn't feel like time travel was necessary for the plot.

Then, there is the problem of a character learning necromancy and being able after two months to do several really impressive, bordeline impossible feats, which is... half explained by the fact that "a necromancer who would also be a scholar and commit to learning would become the most powerful of all", and half explained by his drive to prove people who looked down on him wrong. The problem is that his amount of power doesn't feel earned. The character surpasses many powerful necromancers in two months, and, even starting as a strong magic user, it doesn't feel right in the context of the book.

Last... Ree continuously thinks about how people who looked down upon her for not learning necromancy will regret it when she learns this ancient magic and shows them how powerful she can me and make them fear her.
The problem with that is that the only use of that magic in the book (apart from a speed boost?) is to shapeshift into a crow. There is a discrepancy between the amount of hype and the end result. This might partly be a set-up for the sequel, where we'll see what's exactly so fearsome about therianthropy, but it feels pretty underwhelming in comparison to everything necromancy can do.

I'm sorry to have to be negative about this book. I really liked the setting, the writing, and the beginning, and I wish my review reflected that more instead of talking about the ending. If you're looking for something light with likeable characters and can disregard (or are not bothered by) the points I mentioned, go for it.