A Necromancer Called Gam Gam
Review by Krystle Matar
A grandmotherly necromancer seeking resolution for her past with the help of her loyal entourage: an undead cat and a spectral knight.
A girl on the run from the Eternal Empire for the mysterious power she possesses.
When a chance encounter pulls them together, Gam Gam will do what it takes to protect Mina from the rogue sergeant hounding her–including raising the dead. As long as they’re dressed for the occasion.
Let’s get the initial disclaimer out of the way: yes, the author is a dear and beloved friend of mine, but my inability to read books I’m not enjoying ensures me of my ability to be objective about whether any particular story is working for me or not. So, though I’ve declared Mr. Holcombe the Best Adam, I trust the emotional resonance that I felt with Gam Gam.
Because it’s amazing.
A Necromancer Called Gam Gam pulls a brilliantly executed bait-and-switch: the vibes of the entire project lures you in with the promise of something cozy and light, and while you’re giggling about skeletal cats and zombies wearing knitted outwear, it slips a gentle, loving dagger between your ribs, tearing your heart wide open with a deeply relatable story about grief. Mina and Gam Gam face similar arcs of learning to grow around their respective losses, saving each other in a very literal narrative sense, and also in its thematic layers.
As I triage my way through All The Feels™ Gam Gam inspired, I think what impressed me the most was how humanely the narrative treats the zombies. Gam Gam of course respects them, offering thing knitwear to keep them comfy after she raises them from the dead, but the narrative respects them, too, treating them with compassion as they shuffle through the story. The ways in which Holcombe manages to wring so much emotion out of the undead becoming re-dead during the chaotic and violent effort to save Mina are truly impressive.
The storytelling itself is effortless and paced wonderfully. The novella is a hard medium; the most common complaint about them is that they’re too short and the reader is left wishing there was more. And while Gam Gam was short and tightly paced, it was built skillfully to live fully in its pages. The ending is satisfying (if heartbreaking) and while I want more Gam Gam and Mina, the story is definitely complete. I can’t wait to see what comes next for these characters!
If I was forced to come up with some quibbles, the only thing to come to mind would be Mina’s age. It wasn’t immediately obvious how young she was. It wasn’t until she said she was 12 years old somewhere past the halfway point that her actions clicked into focus. She’s a very well written as a child, her actions believable for someone so young, but not knowing she was so young for the first half of the book sometimes made me question her choices. Once that element was clearly stated, I liked her so much more, and her struggles through the story became ever more heartbreaking. But that itself is only a minor complaint in the effort to give a balanced opinion about this delightful little novella.
Readers who love cozy but don’t mind Mr. Holcombe ripping out their hearts and squeezing them into a pulp (don’t worry, it’s a happy ending, but deeply and relatably bittersweet) should absolutely pick up A Necromancer Called Gam Gam. It’s a perfect little bite of a story, and the debut to what promises to be a stunning career.
Adam Holcombe daylights as a programmer and moonlights as an author. After spending years toying with the idea of writing, he decided to fully commit and work toward releasing his first novel.
Then Gam Gam got in the way, and his first novel became his first novella. The novel will come later.
When he’s not locking himself in a cold basement to type away, he can be found squishing his dog (but not too hard), squawking at his tortoise (but not too loudly), goofing off with his wife (in perfectly ordinary, non-weird ways), DMing for his friends (I even got to play as a character a couple times!), or the usual chilling at home. He is a lover of books, board games, video games, and swords.
Adam is currently working on more Gam Gam stories, as well as the launch of a Sci-Fi series with the novel Bounty Inc.
TESTIMONIALS ABOUT ADAM AS A PERSON:
“THE BEST ADAM” – Krystle Matar.
“ALSO GAH” – Virginia McClain
Check out Adam’s Goodreads