Necromancer Fantasy: A Guide to the Genre (2024 Edition)

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Some of the most popular sub-genres of fantasy that you may be familiar with are high fantasy, urban fantasy, and dark fantasy. Each of these categories includes further breakdowns of even more specific genres. Necromancer fantasy is a genre that is growing in popularity. It is a versatile genre that can fit into many other genres. There are necromancer fantasies that are also vampire fantasy, low fantasy, and so on. 

Necromancer fantasy novels are complex, interesting, and can appeal to a wide range of readers. This is a genre that has a lot to offer a reader. Keep reading to learn more about this interesting genre and some of what it has to offer. If you decide to dive into the genre, there are recommendations for necromancer fantasy novels at the end of the article. 

What is Necromancy? 

Before we can begin to understand necromancer fantasy, we must understand what necromancy is and what a necromancer does. Necromancy is the act of communicating with the dead using black magic. It is also known as death magic, for obvious reasons. It has a long, complex history that we will get into further down. 

People who practice necromancy in stories communicate with the dead in a variety of ways. There are many different ways that a necromancer may communicate with the dead. However, the two main means of communication with the dead include summoning spirits or bodily raising them. Not everyone who practices necromancy has the ability to do both of these things. They may only be able to communicate using one means of communication or another. 

There are many reasons why someone might choose to practice necromancy including discovering knowledge, bringing someone back to life, or learning about the future. Whatever the reason is, necromancy can offer insight into our world and the world of the hereafter. 

Some argue that necromancy is a skill that can be learned, but in general the consensus is that necromancy is a skill that someone is born with. It is not something that just anyone can start doing. It takes a special type of person with a special skill set to be able to communicate with the dead. 

History of Necromancy 

The practice of necromancy dates back to the ancient times of Egypt, Rome, and Greece. There have been necromancers almost as long as there have been humans. Though the rituals and practices of necromancy have changed over time, the basic premise is still the same. Seances are the most common means of communication with the dead. The ritual of the seance differs between cultures and across time, but the basic premise of a seance still remains the same. 

Throughout history, necromancy has been generally condemned by most religions. Many people who practiced necromancy in ancient times were sentenced to death or imprisonment. 

In medieval times, necromancers believed that they could accomplish three things with necromancy. Those three things were manipulation, illusions, and knowledge. With these three things, medieval necromancers thought they would bring wealth and prosperity to themselves and those around them. They also believed that they could influence the future and learn about what was to come. 

Necromancy is still in practice today, and it usually takes the form of seances. It is most commonly referred to as manipulating death in modern days. Countless TV shows, movies, and other pop culture feature necromancy in various forms, both fictional and not. Though necromancers may not receive a death sentence for their practices anymore, it is still not a practice that is held in high regard. Many religions still condemn the practice, and there is a huge amount of mistrust in necromancy in general. While it may not be something that everyone believes in or trusts, there is no doubt that it makes for interesting and exciting media. 

Necromancy in Literature 

There have been countless instances of necromancy in literature over the years. Whether fictional or not, necromancy is an interesting story aspect and it can add a lot to a piece of literature. Necromancy in literature is a great way for characters to gain more information and to be used as a plot device. 

One of the oldest instances of necromancy in literature is in The Odyssey by Homer. If you are unfamiliar with this classic novel, it is absolutely worth a read for the action and adventure alone. In The Odyssey, Homer describes many traditional necromancer rituals. Odysseus travels to an underground world and summons spirits to give him knowledge about his upcoming voyage. He communicates with the dead on many different occasions, and their information is not always the most helpful, but it is definitely an exciting addition to an already amazing story. 

Aside from The Odyssey, there are also instances of necromancy in the Bible. In these ancient times, necromancy was highly discouraged and could even result in a death sentence. It was associated with demons, even though most necromancers were not trying to summon demons. In general, necromancers in this time were trying to communicate with lost friends and family, or gather some insight into the future. 

Necromancy has been featured in literature for hundreds of years, and it seems that it will stay that way. It is an appealing feature to a novel, whether it is fantasy or not. 

What is Necromancer Fantasy? 

Necromancer Fantasy fanart

Now that we have an understanding of what necromancers do and how they came to be, we can begin to discuss necromancer fantasy. To put it simply, necromancer fantasy is any fantasy novel that features necromancy. It is pretty easy to define, and pretty easy to point out in a novel. 

Necromancy in a fantasy novel can take many different forms. As long as a character is communicating with the dead, it is necromancy. Seances and rituals are a common way for characters in a novel to communicate with the dead, but it is not the only way. Because this is the fantasy genre, many times we see characters with special powers for communicating with the dead. They are not required to practice a ritual to summon a spirit to speak with. Also, magic plays a huge part in necromancer fantasy. 

The motivations for characters practicing necromancy can vary greatly between novels. Their motivations generally mirror those of ancient necromancers. People who practice necromancy are seeking to gain something, whether that is knowledge, wealth, or something else. It can also be used as a means of closure for a character. Being able to communicate with a lost loved one is a story device that is fairly common in the genre.

Necromancer fantasy is a genre that can get dark very quickly, simply due to the nature of the material. Communicating with the dead is something that can be more wholesome and well-intentioned, but it is also something that can come with dark consequences. Authors of necromancer fantasy novels have free reign to take it in any direction they please. Just know that, in general, it is a fairly dark genre. 

Examples of Necromancer Fantasy 

Given necromancy’s long history with many different types of necromancer and necromancer rituals, it is hard to pin down exactly what a necromancer is. The definition can vary based on who you ask. And necromancer fantasy reflects that variation in that it is very different from novel to novel. 

Each of the novels or series below takes necromancer fantasy and puts its own twist on it. Of course, there is not just one way to tell a story in this genre. As we will see below, authors have taken liberties and decided what works best for them and their story as they write their necromancer fantasy. 

Before you dive into necromancer fantasy, take a look at the recommendations below. Then, you will be able to decide for yourself what kind of story you want to read. Each of the examples below offers something different to its readers.

The Necromancer Chronicles 

The Necromancer Chronicles are a trilogy of novels by Amanda Downum. This series is full of interesting characters including pirates, revolutionaries, and, of course, necromancers. The main character of this series is Isyllt, who is a necromancer. She is also a spy who is determined to overthrow the corrupt government. Isyllt uses her special abilities to start a revolution and take down the imperial government. As she progresses in her journey, she finds that even the dead are plotting revolution. 

This series is a great start if you are new to necromancer fantasy. The young adult audience will enjoy this trilogy’s interesting characters, unique plot lines, and fascinating system of magic. Throughout the series, readers will go on many adventures with Isyllt and they will encounter necromancy in many different forms. The motivations and reasonings for practicing necromancy in this series are interesting. It is a page-turning series that is definitely worth a read. 

The Kingdom of Shadow

The Kingdom of Shadow is a 2002 novel by Richard A. Knaak. This novel is part of a series that takes place in the Diablo universe, but it can be a stand-alone novel. The entire Diablo series features necromancers and people communicating with the dead, but it is most heavily featured in The Kingdom of Shadow. 

This novel follows a sorcerer who hires a mercenary captain and his crew to search for the city of Ureh. The city is said to have risen up to heaven with all of its inhabitants. As the story progresses, we learn more about this magical city and the people who lived there. In communicating with the dead, the characters gain knowledge, wisdom, and wealth. 

This novel and the series that it is part of is quite unique. Not only is it a massive series with several different authors, making it unlike the majority of fantasy series out there, but this series is based on a video game. The game is called Diablo and it is so popular that it warranted a companion book series. Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to be familiar with the video games to enjoy this series. This series is epic in its own way, and The Kingdom of Shadow is a great necromancer fantasy. 

The Locked Tomb

The Locked Tomb is a series of necromancer fantasy novels by Tamsyn Muir. This series currently contains three novels, with a fourth coming in 2023. This series is without a doubt one of the best necromancy fantasy series out there. The storyline is rich and unique, the characters are lovable and hateable, and the magic is so intense that you’ll wish it were real. 

This series follows a girl named Gideon who has some special abilities. She is ready to flee the life she has known and make a new way for herself. But before she is able to be free from her life of servitude, she must face her childhood nemesis. Gideon faces many trials, falls in love, and learns new skills on her journey to start a new life.

The necromancy in this novel comes into play when a necromancer needs a swordsman. Gideon just so happens to have a sword. Muir has done a good job of creating a world that is full of magic, interesting characters, and an engaging love story. This series is worth the read, and worth the wait for the next installment in the series. If you’re interested in necromancer fantasy, The Locked Tomb is a good place to start.


I hope this article has helped clarify what this genre is all about and given you some ideas of books to read in this subgenre.

And if you want to read more about unique fantasy subgenres on this blog, check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another fiction-literature-related topic!

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