Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Ward Against Death by Melanie Card

Ward Against Death by Melanie Card
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Pages: 306
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.

However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…


Best couple ever!

Ok, here's the thing you need to know about Celia: She's an assassin. I was a little afraid that based on that blurb, she'd be a whining damsel. But she TOTALLY isn't. Not even close. I also wasn't expecting her narration, but when chapter two rolled around and her voice was the one telling the story, I practically crowed with joy. I loved seeing the story through her perspective. This really helped give depth to her character and she scores highly on the WWMCD test. 

Though her constantly changing feelings about Ward got a little wearing after a while (make up your mind already, Celia!), I liked that there wasn't a hint of insta-love at all and instead their relationship was of the hate-love-hate-love-hate-love variety. Maybe there was a little too much back and forth, but I'll take that any day over the dreaded insta-love.

Ward is a different story. He is the second narrator and while I was expecting this to be more his story, he is often overshadowed by Celia's larger than life personality. I felt like I only truly got to know Ward when he was alone. Also, where Celia scores highly on the WWMCD test, Ward ranks a bit lower. He still rates well, but sometimes it seemed like Melanie Card was trying to make him too many things at once. He felt a little less consistent than Celia--but only a little. I did very much like what I saw though. Ward is a quiet scholar, but he's also not afraid to take risks in the pursuit of greater knowledge and doing what is right.

So why the "Best couple ever!" title? Because the strength of these two is when they're together. Though Celia does have a tendency to overshadow Ward, they both bring out qualities in the other that are better than when they're alone. In a lot of ways they remind me of Will and Alona from The Ghost and the Goth series by Stacey Kade. They're opposites, they bicker, and they're not afraid to call one another out. But they also care and it's so sweet. I get the feeling their relationship will be even more fun to read about in the sequel and I can't wait to find out. 

What a wonderful world

Oh world building! One of my favorite things about the fantasy genre is the opportunities for world building, and Melanie Card does a fantastic job at creating a world that is both inventive and plausible. She weaves in so much--politics, magic, religion, history, professions, guilds--and then she ties it all together to create a world with incredible depth and possibilities. I really liked learning about the world and this held my attention just as much as the mystery and characters.

Except she doesn't nail it. She almost nails it. I get the sense that this world is fantastically formed in her head, but she's only transcribed 80% of it here. Now sure, I know some of it we'll learn about as the series unfolds and that is natural and fine, but it sometimes felt like I was on a movie set where everything seems very real until you realize that everything is just a thin plywood facade. If there was just a little more explanation about the world--just a tiny bit more time spent on "stage setting" and fully fleshing everything out--then it would have been amazing.

Well, who killed her?

This question is the driving force of the book and kept me turning the pages. Each chapter sees Ward and Celia come a little closer to the answer. Though this isn't quest fantasy, things almost read like a quest story with Celia and Ward sent in first one direction, and then another and another, in search of the truth. I was never white-knuckling it, but the pacing was brisk and steady and never suffered any lulls.

But this brings me to another "almost." The plot was almost perfect...until the info-dump at the end followed by the easy-peasy resolution. Things were cooking up to Something Big...and then wrapped up like a 30-minute sitcom. It was still fun, but I was a little disappointed with how easily everything was resolved.

Bottom line

Though plagued by "almosts" (Ward, the world building, the resolution), even "almost" was good enough to keep me entertained and make me anxious to read the sequel. There's so much potential, and I have faith that Melanie Card will take those "almosts" and do her ideas justice in the future. I think it's all in her head and it must be brilliant. I just hope she lets us in on all the details in the next book.

With the way Ward Against Death ends I imagine it will have a sequel, though I don't yet know when it will be published It will be published in December 2011! The ending is open enough to lead smoothly into the next book with the next "mission" set up, but the main story is wrapped up nicely. No killer cliffhangers!

One final caution: this is much more of an adult/YA crossover than straight up YA. The characters mention sex in a much more mature manner and the overall vibe is more like an adult book.  

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Ward Against Death that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!


  1. Great review! I received an ebook from the publisher. I'm looking forward to reading it. Glad to hear the world building rocked and was plausible! Yay! Sounds like a page turning mystery for sure :)

  2. I also requested this from Netgalley and I'm really excited to read it now that I know there's a great female character in it; hopefully I'll be able to get to it soon.

  3. This one sounds cool, I like the 15 minutes turned into more idea.
    And though, like you said, it sounds like it was almost there in a lot of aspects, it sounds like it was good enough too.

    I'm going to add it to my maybe list!

    Thanks for the review,


  4. You know, I think "almost" is good enough for me. It definitely sounds like it has serious potential in all aspects that you mentioned even if it doesn't quite make it.

  5. I agree this definitely felt like an adult book and Ward and Celia had amazing chemistry. But I struggled at times also with because fantasy is not my usual genre.

    Great review again Small!

  6. I haven't heard of this one but it sounds appealing. It's too bad that though that everything gets resolved easily. I'm even more bummed when that happens with a book I'm really loving. Still, I'll add this one to my wishlist.

  7. Don't most men try to be too many things at once? For this reason, Ward sounds plausible to me, and I'm half in love with him already.


    Okay, maybe not, but I think I'm willing to give him a try.

    Awesome review. Love the break down, as usual.

  8. Julie, Thanks! I can’t wait to read your review to compare notes. So far I think my review is the lowest starred one I’ve seen! I really liked the world and I’m really curious to see how she develops it further in the sequel. Definitely a page turner.

    Bookworm1858, I was very surprised with her narration, but it became the strongest point in the book. She’s an interesting woman, that’s for sure. But I feel like we only got to scratch the surface with her, which I guess is good considering this will be a series. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on it.

    Alex, It is cool how the 15 minutes gets turned into more. I liked that plot idea a lot and it has so much potential for the next book. It really was good enough. There’s room for improvement for sure, but if it never gets any better than this in the sequels, I’ll still happily read them.

    Aylee, Almost is good enough for me too. It can improve, but even if it doesn’t, I’ll still be happy with it. I really like the plot, world, and characters.

    Nic, Ooh, I can’t wait to see your review! That’s true, it did have a very big fantasy vibe and since that isn’t your genre I can see how it could be a struggle.

    A Canadian Girl, I can see you liking it. It was a shame about the ending, but I kind of expect that with fantasy books to a point (you know, big long quest with super high stakes and then eh, toss a ring in lava and you’re done! Kind of thing).

    Missie, Haha, yes, that is true. I can totally see you swooning for Ward. :)

  9. Yikes, I don't know if I can get behind one of the main love interests being a reanimated corpse. Sounds interesting though.

  10. Madigan, I would normally feel the exact same way. That's one of the reasons I DNF-ed Die For Me, but for some reason it didn't bother me at all in this book. Celia is so...alive. Ward also struggles with the same idea.

    I can't really say anything more because it will give away a big plot point (that will continue on into the next book), but Celia isn't exactly what we're led to believe.

  11. Even as an almost awesome book, I'm sold on your descriptions. This couple sounds so good together! Awesome honest review :)

  12. Sounds like a book that is good but not great. I love that they reminded you of Will and Alona. Although the love/hate repeat thing gets tiring. Too bad the worldbuilding didn't quite make it.

  13. I'm with Aylee. Even with the "almost" qualifier, the plot and world sound pretty darn cool!

  14. Bummer about the info dump- I do hate that - but the world sounds fantastic!

  15. Hmm, I'm curious to see if I would enjoy it. I always get the feeling of dissatisfaction when there's so many "almosts" and that tends to overshadow everything else, so I wonder if I'll come to the same conclusions as you did--about liking it I mean. I hope I like Ward, especially since it's supposed to be his narrative. I love it when it's in the guy's POV. I'm going to have to check it out now.

    ~ Asher (from Paranormal Indulgence)

  16. Melissa, They are really good together, and I have a feeling they'll be even better together as the series goes on. I'm really looking forward to that.

    Alison, Yes, exactly. Though I don't regret reading it at all. The love/hate back and forth did get a little annoying after a while. least there was good reason for it.

    Logan, I think you'd like it!

    Alyssa, Yeah, it was a let down, but the rest was fun. The world is cool.

    Asher, I thought it was supposed to be Ward's narrative, but it's really more evenly split between the two. I'll be curious to see what you think of it!

  17. I'll put up with a lot of stuff but the info dump at the end that ties everything up in a bow really kills it for me. Is that what happened? And fantasy...what are we talking about? Creatures names that I can't pronounce and worlds I've never heard of? Fantasy can mean faeries to me. So what is this fantasy? (Before I order the book:)


  18. Heather, good questions! It is an info dump and a neat resolution....but, there are still a few things left open that will be explored in the sequel. It's kind of like The Iron King's ending. Meghan wraps things up pretty quickly in the end with Machina, but the overarching story is far from over.

    Not fairies. Hm, it's kind of hard to takes place in a world sort of like The Conjurer Princess (think the villages, taverns, similar level of technology, magic accepted as a matter of course), but there are colleges of wizards, necromancers, guilds and powerful families. The world feels more developed and a little darker. There's also a lot of mention about an ancient race who had access to greater magics but a lot of that knowledge has been lost. Hm, have you read Poison Study? The world is sort of similar to that feel. I hope this gives an accurate impression.

  19. Definitely! I can understand that kind of fantasy. Undetermined time or place similar to our world but with belief suspended about certain things. Yeah, I can handle that! Still don't like that pat ending. I've read too many of those lately and I think it was because they didn't want to write a sequel. Glad she's going to keep up with the series. I think she can only get better then.

    No didn't read the Poison Study. Still haven't read Iron King!

    Still, I think I'll put it on the list. It sounds like it's going to be really good series.

    Heather BuriedinBooks

  20. Shoot, I even went to your Goodreads page to see if you had read The Iron King so I wouldn't spoil you (why do I think I saw you rated it five stars? Weird). I'm so sorry!

    Yup, sounds like you have the right idea. And you should SO read Poison Study! It's part of a series, but it ends just fine as a standalone. I hope you like Ward Against Death :) I really, really hope she continues the series because I think it will get a lot better the more she writes.

    Yay for the tip working! :D

  21. They make a very good looking couple!
    Don't worry, you didn't ruin anything about the Iron King for me! I already told you about that! I vow to read it before Iron Knight comes out!

    Thank you for expounding so much. The word fantasy can mean so many things and it usually brings a certain "illustrator's" book to mind for me.
    Glad to clear that up! Conjurer Princess makes it all better!



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