I looked back at Brooke. She was staring at my Hellboy poster like she hadn't seen it a thousand times. Her lip was trembling. Freaky or not, severed or otherwise, Brooke was my friend. (4.115)
Sam may love his friends, but he's still human. He's clearly freaked out by Brooke's head and tempted to not want to deal with the situation. Still, he's loyal enough to recognize that even as a head, she is still a person with feelings.
Like Ramon and I had ever been normal. I'd always been relegated to the misfit fringe, as if the other kids could sense something innately off about me. Turns out they were right. I was different. I didn't really mind being on the outskirts of popularity, but I'd never quite figured out why Ramon had ended up there. The only thing strange about him was his association with me. (9.69)
There's nothing like dumb high school social politics to draw misfits together. What's awesome is that even though Ramon could clearly have been Mr. Popular himself, he chose a lifelong friendship with Sam over a series of fleeting admirers. Way to go, Ramon.
I had some pretty good friends. I couldn't be too terrible if they were sticking around. (9.84)
Is it possible that Sam's acceptance of Brooke after the rolling heads incident is one reason why she and the gang stick up for him once they learn his true identity? Obviously, this bizarre bunch has each other's backs.
My muscles let the secret go, and in its place, I found a bone-aching sadness. Brooke was gone. Not completely, sure, but a talking head couldn't fill the girl-sized hole in my life. I would never see her at work. I would never see her change and grow into the devastating woman we all knew she'd be. (15.66)
Brooke's talking head has to be super disorienting. On one hand, one of Sam's best friends is dead, but on the other, she's still present and can communicate in some form. Nonetheless, Sam clearly becomes overwhelmed here with the truth that the Brooke they once knew is never coming back.
"That," Ramon said, "might be about the funniest thing I've ever heard." He shoved a spoonful of Chunky Monkey ice cream into his mouth, chewing as he talked. He offered the next bite to Brooke, who was positioned on the edge of the kitchen table so Frank could brush out her hair. (17.1)
What a touching picture of friendship: A bunch of guys sitting around eating ice cream and doing their dead friend's hair. All together now—aw.
Brooke closed her eyes in contentment. I hadn't really thought of it, but this was probably the first prolonged contact she'd had since she'd died. People, even reanimated ones, need to be touched. (17.16)
Ever consider the lack of personal contact paranormal creatures experience? It's got to stink living in social isolation or basically just having people think you're weird all the time. Clearly, Brooke has missed being human.
"I only work here because of Brooke and Sammy." Ramon picked at the edges of a rogue ketchup packet. "Now…" He didn't know how to finish that sentence. Sam was gone, and Brooke wouldn't be back at work ever. (22.3)
Sam's ordeal with Douglas definitely puts his friendship with the rest of the Plumpy's gang to the test, especially when it comes to Ramon facing a long future of being at a dead-end job without his buddies.
He wiped some leftover powdered cheese on Sam's couch. He had decided that if he did enough stuff to piss Sam off, then Sam would have to stay alive if only so he could yell at Ramon. So, far he had messed up Sam's CD collection and eaten his junk food. It was a good start. (22.84)
Ramon's logic in dealing with Sam's absence is fascinating. Our guess, though, is that Sam's CD collection and powdered cheese on the couch are the least of his worries now that the Douglas Affair is officially concluded.
Sitting back down with Brooke and the girls was unbearable. Sam needed his help. Ramon was useless here […] He only had to look at Brooke to remember how bad it could go. But what was he supposed to do? It was Sammy. (22.146-147)
Watching Ramon go from goofy burger chef who sings show tunes and pelts potatoes at illegally parked cars to hero of the day is pretty satisfying for us readers. Even if he does potentially have to spend the rest of his life as a were-bear.
She leaned down and pulled a strip of cloth out of her bowling bag. Frank had put it there to cushion her neck. I guess we didn't need it anymore. She wrapped the strip around the new cut on my elbow, tying it into a neat bandage. Then she reached up and wiped my cheeks. I hadn't realized that I was crying. (31.79)
With Douglas dead, Sam's got one last thing to wrap up: putting Brooke's head to rest with her body. It's a touching scene and it seems like this is goodbye—but then, just a few pages later, Brooke comes to Sam as a spirit and agrees to join Ashley as one of his guides. He's not rid of her yet. Phew.
Auntie Lynn explained that people like him were rare. They had to be trained—he had to be trained—and his aunt could do that. Left alone, she said, their kind could destroy themselves. Go crazy. Destroy others by accident. (3.30)
Just a thought: Could it be that all this talk about necromancers needing to be trained is really a cover story for getting them under your control so you can assume their powers? It seems to be the case when it comes to Douglas and Sam, but is it the case with Auntie Lynn, too?
[Douglas] also had decades to perfect the ritual. With all the prep work and fumbling, it had taken him almost an hour to steal his aunt's powers. Repetition and practice had honed that time down to twenty minutes, and that's if the victim fought. (3.35)
Let's look at this for what it really is: Douglas is an expert at killing people. Not only that, but he sees it more as a business transaction for power than the actual end of lives. That's pretty cold, but then again, so is Douglas.
Brid watched the muscle clench in his jaw. He'd never been able to understand that in wolf packs, were or otherwise, it wasn't always the biggest who ruled. Strength didn't mean much when everyone was strong. Her brothers could change all the tires on her dad's truck without a jack. (5.43)
Werewolf logic definitely flies in the face of what we assume might be true. Bridin may not be as strong as her older brothers, but nonetheless, she's been deemed most qualified to succeed her father as pack leader. Douglas, and even Michael, who was once part of the pack himself, just don't seem to get this concept.
"Someone has tied up your magic. A binding is usually done to keep a person from, or from, causing harm." She frowned at the teacup in her hands. "I've never seen it used to harness like this. It's like a part of your has been locked away." (9.127)
Maybe Sam's binding spared him a traumatizing childhood of seeing dead people like that kid in The Sixth Sense, but it definitely doesn't do him any favors as he tries to navigate the truth about his power. It might have been easier if he'd just been able to crush Douglas from the beginning. Of course, then we wouldn't have a story, so maybe that's a bad idea.
"There are many levels of necromancy, ranging from weak to strong. At the weak end, the end you are probably at, you are more of an antenna. You draw whatever spirit or ghost is around toward you, but you have no real control. The next level up has that as well as the ability to broadcast. Essentially, you can communicate with various smaller entities as well as summon. After that, things get interesting." (19.145)
What Douglas doesn't know is that Sam is actually closer to the higher end of the necromancy power rating than the low. As a result, things do "get interesting" when the binding is removed and Sam's powers fully unleash themselves.
I felt like Douglas was giving me a dual lesson. Sure, he was showing me how to raise a zombie, but he was also showing me exactly what he was capable of. I could just as easily become the one doing jumping jacks. (20.87)
Don't be fooled—Sam's "training" isn't about Sam at all, but rather about putting his power in a nice little goody bag for Douglas. In the end, Douglas's manipulation of the zombie is an object lesson in how he's clearly the one who holds all the cards.
"Every necromancer has his own slant on things. Some parts of the ritual can't, or shouldn't, be skipped. For safety reasons, you should always do the circle. It doesn't have to be invoked with blood, but that does make for a very strong circle. Your own will should be enough." (21.21)
Ashley's explanation of the necromancy process emphasizes something that Douglas's doesn't: that Sam possesses the will to raise the dead, which trumps all skill or use of bodily fluids. Of course, this is what he's finally able to tap into when the binding is removed.
I sucked in a breath, my spine going rigid with the force of it. This is what closing my first circle had felt like. Times a thousands. Every cell in my body took a shuddering gasp. The dam inside me had broken and all my power came rushing out. Years of unused, untouched potential, all at once. (23.13)
Up until this point, Sam kind of thinks he stinks at this necromancy thing. The removal of his binding definitely takes things to a whole new level for him—and inspires Douglas's desire to see him dead.
"I'm afraid, from what Ed was telling me, that it does make sense […] I think he was okay with having you around as long as you weren't a threat […] But once you raised Ed […] I don't think you understand what you did with that." (25.26)
It's interesting that there are different levels of power when it comes to necromancy, as well as different levels of entities. With Ed, Sam proves his ability and lays any doubt about it to rest once and for all.
"I don't know how you hid from me. I don't know how you veiled your gift once you were here. What you did actually managed to surprise me, and that hasn't happened in quite some time." He leaned down and began the circle. "Too many unknowns with you. And since your gift came out to play, I no longer need to train you to draw it out." (25.81)
The bad part of Sam discovering his phenomenal powers is that it makes Douglas super mad, which isn't a pretty picture. With Sam officially a threat, Douglas makes it clear that he intends to take Sam's gift and leave him for dead.
"I will keep this simple for you, Sam. Join me and live. Defy me, and I will take you, your friends, and your family down one by one. I will twist and mold the facts until the Council turns against you. I will slaughter you, exterminate everyone you love, and get the Council to sanction the whole thing. No recourse, just death." (8.117)
Whoa. That's what we call a death threat, folks. And it's just what Sam needs to realize that Douglas isn't just some crazy guy who happened to set foot in Plumpy's one dark and stormy night—he's a legitimate force of evil.
It was scary when someone threatened everyone you love. If I didn't do what he wanted, what would happen? An accident for my neighbors? My sister's head in my freezer? My stomach dropped thinking about it. There was no way to know where he'd strike, and no way to guess what I could do to keep everyone safe. (9.22)
If Douglas kills Brooke to get Sam's attention, he definitely strikes right where it hurts. Sam quickly becomes concerned for his loved ones' wellbeing and anxious to do what it takes to protect them.
"You know what the great thing about babies is? They are like little bundles of hope. Like the future in a blanket." He stopped waving and shoved his hands into his pockets again. "Maybe your kid will turn things around." (13.23)
Nick may not realize it, but his statement about Sam at his birth ends up being prophetic. While how he deals with his newly acquired powers remains to be seen, Sam does "turn things around" by being the one to kill Douglas.
I shook my head. What she said sounded scary. I couldn't agree with her completely. "I was born with it. You always said nothing is born bad. How can the gift be given to me by nature and be inherently evil?" (14.24)
The debate about whether his gift is a positive or negative force lies at the heart of Sam's conflict about his powers. Being able to raise the dead is a horrifying proposition, but Sam seems determined to bring something good out of the situation.
I'd run out of ideas. I couldn't join up with Douglas. Besides being morally sketchy, it was suicide. Running wasn't much of an option. He'd either find me and kill me, kill someone else if he couldn't find me, or do some as yet undiscovered, horrible third option. (15.11)
One great way to up the ante in a story is by giving your hero a really good enemy. Douglas certainly fits the bill—he's scary, threatening, and knows no moral boundaries. That's definitely a recipe for tension and conflict.
Douglas had come into my world, endangered my family and my friends, and taken someone close to me. Would I be able to kill him if it meant ensuring the safety of my people? The answer came a little too quickly. Yes. Absolutely. The fact that I didn't even have to think about it scared me. Maybe my mom was right. Maybe something truly dark and scary lived inside me. (19.115)
Along with debating the nature of his gift, Sam's awareness of his power also awakens some pretty frightening thoughts about what he's capable of. While his willingness to kill Douglas in order to save his friends and family is probably a normal reaction of revenge, the fact that it happens as he's realizing his power makes him wonder if he is actually evil himself.
I watched helplessly as Douglas walked through the circle, breaking it. He took his time getting over to me. His black dress shoes held a beatific shine, even after all he'd just done. I could see a small spot of blood on them. (19.170)
The image of Douglas's nearly spotless appearance even after assaulting Sam with a deadly amount of angry spirits is truly haunting. The guy really does have no feelings about inflicting pain on others.
Poor Mr. Davidson got put through the ringer just so I could learn a few things about zombies, like how strong they were, how easily controlled, and that they looked just as silly as live people when they did jumping jacks. Maybe I needed the lesson, but I think it could have been carried out in a more dignified way. (20.87)
While the description of Douglas making the zombie clean his dungeon and reenact his own death carry a darkly comic tone, it still reveals Douglas's inflated sense of power and control, as well as what he's capable of doing to Sam.
With that one drop I knew something very important.
Douglas had killed a lot of people in this room. And a lot of other things.
And they were pissed. (27.5-7)
The knowledge of Douglas's many transgressions and acts of murder seems to make Sam both more terrified of him and more motivated to destroy him. The fact that Sam himself is about to join the ranks of people Douglas has slaughtered to steal their power only makes the realization more potent.
I needed to take the house on, if only to prove to myself that I was right—that this power could be used for good. I needed to accept what I was. What I am. (31.110)
Sam's desire to transform the things Douglas meant for evil into something good is admirable. But the question still remains: Will he succeed? Or will the power that was so intoxicating to Douglas get to him, too? We'll have to read Necromancing the Stone and find out.
"You even smell a little like him," [Michael] said, his voice going throaty. […]
"Like who?" I choked out. Buff guy had a fierce grip.
"Like the grave," he said, not really answering my question. "Like cold, cold death" (2.33-35)
Ouch. Having a total stranger—who turns out to be a vicious werewolf—tell you that you smell like death isn't exactly the beginning of a beautiful friendship. On the contrary, it's the beginning of Michael doing Douglas's bidding by luring Sam into his trap.
She rubbed at some dirt on his cheek before letting go of his face. "Dougie, Charles got sick. Real sick." She paused. "He's, well, he can't play with you anymore. Charles has got to heaven." (3.21)
We feel kind of badly for young Douglas when he learns in perhaps the coldest, most disturbing way possible that his cousin Charlie is actually dead, not alive and well and in his jammies. Based on the care his mother takes in explaining the delicate matter, it's also highly likely that this is the first of many experiences little Dougie will have with mortality.
"I've been stuck in your apartment all day watching the news to see if they've discovered my body yet. It's weird, Sam, really freaking weird. I'm dead, but I'm not." (9.27)
Nobody in this story has to be more disoriented than Brooke, who has not only died, but had her head brought back to life and is now able to watch the discovery of her body unfold live on television. Mega creepy.
"What does it say on the back?" Brooke asked. Frank flipped it around. It said knock 'em dead. Frank clutched the bag and waited for us to decide if we wanted to use it or not. (9.77)
Dark humor strikes again (bowling pun semi-intended). Little details like the inscription on the back of Brooke's bowling bag are what make this book absolutely hilarious in spite of its disturbing content.
An enormous crow sat on the window ledge and started back at her. Crows were ambiguous creatures. Many saw them as ill omens, some as omens of change […] This particular crow, however, gave her a bit of the willies. (12.103-104)
Crows are big when it comes to death imagery, so it makes sense that Sam's mom would be slightly unnerved by the Arnold Schwarzenegger of black birds. For more on this, check out the "Symbols" section.
Yanking me over to a small easel, Lilly began to flip pages and tell me about her friends. She introduced them to me like they were important, like she didn't get to talk about them much. I took a good look at Lilly's friends. Something seemed off. When Haley was little, she'd drawn out pets, our family, and her friends, which were usually kids we knew or stuffed animals. Lilly's friends all looked like adults. (16.66)
What is it about stories where kids can see dead people that freaks folks out so much? We don't know for sure, but Lilly definitely joins the list of strange, paranormally advanced children in literature and cinema. Let's just hope her head doesn't spin around as she vomits pea soup.
"You're Death," I said. "In saddle shoes." I don't know why I was so surprised. It wasn't any weirder than anything else I'd been dealing with. (20.198)
Along with disturbing imagery of crows and kids that communicate with the dead, this book also has some awesomely discordant depictions of mortality. Check out Ashley the Harbinger, who's dressed like an extra from the "Baby One More Time" video and texts constantly. Not exactly the Grim Reaper, is she?
When I'd looked at the room earlier, I'd seen a haze and wondered if it was normal. I knew the answer. The air looked hazy because it held an amalgam of different specters. They were all angry, and they ere all howling for Douglas's blood. (27.10)
Imagine Douglas's decades of experiences stealing the gifts of other necromancers and experimenting with people's blood. The casualty list has to be enormous. And what's worse, every single one of them haunts the dungeon and wants Douglas dead.
The dead were scattered like toys that I needed to put away. Biting, undead toys. I shivered against the chill of her palms and nodded. I didn't even have to try to find them. The spirits were all there at my fingertips. Go to sleep, I told them. It's done. It's all over. (29.26)
When Sam defeats Douglas, something awesome happens: Sam himself is not only free from his nemesis's grasp, but all the spirits of people whose lives he ruined are free, too. With Douglas out of the way, everyone can rest.
It felt good to sit here. I felt welcome, like all the dead around me recognized me as an old friend. It should have felt creepy, but it didn't. I didn't want to analyze it. There had been so much bad lately, it was nice to take some good at face value. (31.69)
A graveyard isn't exactly the most comfortable place imaginable, but for a necromancer, it has to be kind of like going to a family reunion. For Sam, death has taken on a completely new identity—rather than something inevitable or to be feared, it's an arena he knows quite well.
I wondered why humankind seemed so dead set on destroying all of its accomplishments. We draw on cave walls, spend thousands of years developing complex language systems, the printing press, computers, and what do we do with it? Create a cash register with the picture of the burger on it, just in case the cashier didn't finish the second grade. (1.10)
Sam's evaluation of our own culture may be a little harsh, but seriously—how did we go from complex literature and printing technology to pictograms?
By his sixteenth year, Douglas had learned all his aunt could show him. While most boys his age were chasing skirts, he practiced summoning and speaking to spirits. He could raise the dead. (3.33)
If you've got real ambition, being a teenager in necromancer culture looks really different from our normal culture. Training and practicing your spirit summoning skills takes too much time—to paraphrase the Soup Nazi, no prom for you.
If I was ever going to sleep, it was time to bring out the big guns, and my protection bag was a big gun. My mom had made it for me when I was really little and kept having nightmares […]
"For protection," she said. "You leave that thing on and you'll have nothing to worry about." (4.68-70)
The fact that Sam is a necromancer raised by a witch is rich with possibilities when it comes to family traditions. While he doesn't know the intended purpose of his medicine pouch at this point in the book, Sam does know that it's crucial to balancing his comfort level, as well as his bad dreams.
Brannoc let go of her shoulders and brushed her hair out of her face. "You aren't taoiseach yet. That wonderful responsibility still lies with me. Worry about that when the day comes." (6.49)
Bridin is basically werewolf royalty, as she's in training for the day when she will eventually succeed her father as taoiseach, or pack leader. The relationship between the two of them as she prepares for this role provides interesting insight into Bridin's driven, perfectionistic nature—as well as her dad's softer side.
Some people found Council meetings to be tedious. Douglas never had, but of course, he held the gavel, metaphorically speaking. He did not, however, sit at the center of the crescent. He preferred to sit at the end of the table, where he could keep an eye on everyone present. (7.20)
Chapter 7, where we get an inside look into how the famed Council actually functions, gives us a clear picture of the paranormal underworld's organization. It also lets us into the frightening location of inside Douglas's head as he conducts the meeting according to tradition on the surface, while secretly plotting to increase his power.
Although it was normal for pack members to go days without seeing one another, they generally checked in with the Alpha, especially if they were deviating from any regular schedule. Unless you were rogue, you checked in. Brid especially, but her father would cut her some slack, shrugging the lack of communication off on her busy class schedule. (10.32)
Not surprisingly, the werewolf community definitely follows a pack mentality. Bridin's thoughts as she's held captive in Douglas's basement reveal a lot about the close relationships within her pack, as well as the autonomy that coexists with it.
"I hated hospitals, but Kevin insisted. No child of his would be born using what he called 'hippie methods.' He reduced thousands of years of my family's traditions to a two-word phrase." (12.11)
Remember, Kevin doesn't know about Tia's witch heritage, nor how important it is to her. Still, it's understandable that she would be hurt by his insensitivity toward her family's customs.
Tia brought everything she needed to the hospital. After giving her baby a kiss, she grabbed her overnight bag and felt inside the small inner pocket for the bag of dried herbs that she had prepared at home. Mumbling the words of the spell, she sprinkled them on her tongue. The taste was pleasant, a sweet, green flavor. She placed a few on her son's tongue. (12.98)
And that, Shmoopers, is how you check to see if your kid's going to be a necromancer or not. Forget about genetic defects or other abnormalities. It's all about the paranormal super powers.
"Listen carefully. When we summon, when we raise, we are trespassing in death's domain. For that passage, we must pay." He enunciated each word, speaking slowly and clearly, like I was a child. "When we pay, we must use death's coin. Flesh, blood, sacrifice, these are the tender that death understands." (20.62)
The idea of making a transaction with death is super bizarre, but the fact that it has to be done with a blood sacrifice makes it kind of terrifying. Surely, this is the kind of stuff that makes Sam wish he'd never been born.
Ramon […] didn't know what to expect, exactly. So far they'd brewed some kind of green liquid with a lot of plants he couldn't identify and mumbled a lot of things he couldn't understand. There'd been some candle lighting and the general kinds of things one would expect from witches. He was glad that they didn't kill anything, that he hadn't seen any eye of newt or tongue of whatever. (23.132)
Ramon ripped off a piece of tape and handed the roll to Frank. "I didn't see anything, but he was moving fast. Real fast […] But if I didn't know better, I'd say you were attacked by an animal." (4.44)
Michael may look like a burly bully at first glance, but don't be fooled. Only animals can make those kinds of scratch marks, which pretty much proves Michael's status as a werewolf before Sam even becomes aware of his ex-pack's existence. Getting attacked in a darkened parking lot is bad enough without it being by someone with claws.
Once a severed head talks, life's possibilities seem endless. (4.91)
This pretty much sums up Sam's entire situation throughout the book. To him, the supernatural just gradually becomes, well, natural.
Brid grabbed his arm and bit down hard before pulling back with her head. A chunk came free, and Brid rolled to the center of the cage. She opened her eyes. She spit the chunk of flesh out of her mouth and onto the floor, and insult Michael was sure to get. Wolves did not waste food, not ever. (5.33)
You know you've just gotten served by a werewolf when she bites off a chunk of your flesh and spits it out. File that one under Supernatural Insults.
Vampires were more Douglas's domain than humans were, since they too were connected to death and, despite popular mythology, had souls. The idea that they didn't was ridiculous. Vampires were a lot of things, but truly dead wasn't one of them. (7.24)
Edward Cullen would undoubtedly thank Douglas for clearing up that little rumor about vampires being soulless bloodsuckers. Still, it's kind of humorous that McBride uses the Council meeting as a way of dispelling culturally accepted ideas about supernatural beings.
I began to wonder what he meant by politics. Zombies in the Senate and as heads of state actually cleared a lot of things up for me. In fact, if you told most people that the White House was being run by legions of the undead, they'd probably just say, "Figures." (8.102)
McBride's comic blending of the supernatural world with the real one is one thing that makes the whole thing almost seem believable. After all, who wouldn't believe that the government actually is composed of zombies?
At first she saw nothing. Perhaps she'd done the spell wrong? But then she felt it, that whisper of arctic chill. The cold died for a second, replaced by the green smells of early spring, the taste of sunshine and growing things. But the cold came back a second later. He would take after his uncle. (12.97)
Creepy descriptions of supernatural rituals are definitely one hallmark of McBride's writing style. These details here heighten the anxiety over whether Tia's spell will prove that Sam is a necromancer.
I handed her my towel so she could dry her hands. In the switch-off, my fingers met hers and I felt my vision open up like it had in the park. Now that Douglas had shown me how to do it, I couldn't help myself. It was automatic. The difference was that in the park I'd had to close my eyes and work at it. But this time it was much easier. (14.19)
Mindreading: a great standby for supernatural literature, and also, apparently a characteristic of necromancers.
Lilly looked me in the eye, her expression pleading. "The Shadow People aren't imaginary, are they?"
I could tell her they were. Maybe then she'd live a normal life [...] Then I thought about what Nick had said to Kevin, about how she needed a guide, how it might be dangerous. Teaching her to hide from what she was wouldn't keep her out of danger. I was proof of that. (16.72-73)
Lilly is one case where Sam is forced to accept that hiding from his supernatural past isn't going to get him—or her—anywhere. Not anymore, at least. In telling her the truth, Sam is, in a way, able to begin to embrace who he is.
"Most Americans picture Tinker Bell when they hear fairy. I am not Tinker Bell." She leveled a glare at me until I held my hands up in surrender. (19.77)
Admit it—when you hear the word fairy, you think of Tink. Apparently, this is highly offensive to Bridin. Again, McBride subverts our expectations by creating a version of the supernatural world that is highly unlike our stereotypical impressions.
Brid dove out of hiding. She let out a warrior scream mid-leap and changed. I'm not sure what I expected. Some amount of twisting limbs, maybe some mucus. I guess when she told me that the process was ast, I didn't really get what she meant. One minute, Brid was howling in mid-air, her arms extended, wearing my Batman shirt and my boxers, the next minute she was vapor. (25.85)
Seeing one of your friends (okay, especially someone you just had a very intimate relationship with) change into a werewolf wouldn't be something you'd easily forget. We're pretty sure it ranks as one of the weirdest things Sam's witnessed.
Brid looked at him. "When I'm taoiseach, mistakes will get people hurt."
Brannoc let go of her shoulders and brushed her hair out of her face. "You aren't taoiseach yet. That wonderful responsibility still lies with me. Worry about that day when it comes." (6.48-49)
As a leader-in-training, Bridin knows that she's destined to someday hold the office of her father—and this isn't a responsibility she takes lightly. She clearly recognizes that power can be dangerous if it isn't exercised with the wellbeing of the rest of the group in mind. Douglas provides an pretty strong example of what can happen when power is exercised for selfish means.
"A binding is usually done to keep a person from, or from, causing harm." She frowned at the teacup in her hands. "I've never seen it used to harness like this. It's as if a part of you has been locked away." (9.127)
It's interesting that even though Tia and Nick both attempted to bind Sam's powers, there's still plenty of evidence that they're there. The fact that they can't be hidden completely demonstrates that necromancy really is something Sam's fated to be a part of.
"Nick, is it dominant? I mean, does Kevin…"
"You're worried about the baby?"
She didn't trust herself to speak. She nodded.
"Kevin never manifested," he said. "It's not like lycanthropy, where every kid gets it. But that doesn't mean he's not a carrier."
"So there's a chance?"
The idea of necromancy being hereditary is one of this book's more interesting concepts. Forget about having the deck stacked against you when it comes to heart disease and cancer—your firstborn child could end up being a necromancer.
At first she saw nothing. Perhaps she'd done the spell wrong? But then she felt it, that whisper of arctic chill. The cold died for a second, replaced by the green smells of early spring, the taste of sunshine and growing things. But the cold came back a second later.
He would take after his uncle. (12.97-98)
Doing a bizarre spell isn't exactly the most comfortable way to foretell your child's future, but at least it seems to give concrete, reliable answers to a discomforted Tia. In terms of knowing your kid's destiny, being a witch probably comes with some useful territory.
"He's going to be in danger his whole life. Even if he was normal, you'd feel this way. Your baby's just going to have… more specific problems, that's all." (13.19)
It can't be comfortable for Tia to know that young Sam faces a life of dodging Douglas and hiding from his gift. But in a way, Nick's right. Don't all parents fear for what the future holds for their children?
"I was hoping his power would feel like a trickle. But it feels like a river. A big, icy river, and he's just a baby." He kissed Sam's knuckles. "No, you're right. He needs to be hidden, and now." (13.57)
Even as an infant, Sam's incredible powers of necromancy are more than evident and more than enough to give Nick and Tia pause. Clearly, he's an extraordinary child destined to grow up to have an extraordinary gift.
Nick pulled a safety pin out of his jeans and pricked his finger. He used the blood to draw a small symbol on the baby's forehead and another over his heart. "We try again," he whispered, and closed his eyes. (13.63)
You kind of have to feel badly for Sam during this flashback to his infancy. First his mom does a weird ritual with some herbs to determine whether he's a necromancer, and then he has to go through the blood ceremony of binding not once, but twice. He's only a baby and his life is already super complicated.
I'd learned a lot since yesterday, but I felt no closer to understanding what I needed to do. I'd run out of ideas. I couldn't join up with Douglas. Besides being morally sketchy, it was suicide. Running wasn't much of an option. He'd either find me and kill me, kill someone else if he couldn't find me, or do some as yet undiscovered, horrible third option. And even though I knew now why my powers were bound, that didn't change the fact that they were bound. (15.11)
After learning the truth about his past, Sam realizes that Douglas really is a formidable and dangerous adversary. No matter how much he wants to avoid the whole situation, he can't open a single door without running smack into him. It seems Sam is fated to have a confrontation with Douglas that will either kill him or allow him to prove his powers.
"I get all his stuff?" I said slowly. "Including his house?" The house I'd been trapped in for days. A chill went down my spine as I thought about it. I had no desire to set foot in it ever again.
"Yes." The lawyer handed me a pen. "And a temporary council seat until you can be voted in properly or until we can find a more suitable candidate." (30.83-84)
If Sam had any hopes of going to back to his regular life at Plumpy's after killing Douglas, they've just been shattered. Being a necromancer has always been such a total part of who he is that it's inescapable. Even if he has no personal desire to go back to Douglas's creepy house.
I needed to take the house on, if only to prove to myself that I was right—that this power could be used for good. I needed to accept what I was. What I am. (31.110)
It's significant that the book ends with Sam accepting his identity as a necromancer. No more running and hiding for him, and no more bound powers. He's clearly embraced it as his fate.
I tried to take some pride where I could. If I was going to be a dropout loser, then I was going to be the best dropout loser. That pride came with some complications because it always depressed me to spot anyone, short of a manager, working fast food over the age of eighteen. I didn't look in any mirrors until I got home and out of my uniform. It was better that way. (1.12)
For someone who aspires to be "the best dropout loser," Sam sure seems ashamed of his job. He does have a point though: What twenty-year-old wants to be working in the fast food industry?
My room isn't what I'd call a haven. Right now it's more like ghosts of Sam's past […] Most people felt lost after high school. Sometimes I felt like I'd never really been found in the first place. (4.60)
Drifting aimlessly through life without direction is probably pretty normal for a lot of twenty-somethings, but in Sam's case, there's a reason for it. With his necromancy powers bound, the thing he's actually supposed to be doing is off limits, making all other attempts at interests and careers fail.
[Ramon] picked up some books on voodoo, death, and the spirit world. If he'd waited until after my meeting, I might have been able to narrow down his choices. He just had to borrow books on necromancers. I swallowed thickly. We weren't only researching Douglas anymore. We were researching me. (9.38)
If you were to mention necromancy to Sam before this whole ordeal went down, he probably would have laughed in your face. Not anymore. As he begins to accept it as part of his identity, he also acknowledges that it exists—and that the literature on the subject is legitimate.
I'd never wanted so badly to be by myself. There were lots of times growing up when I felt isolated. Being the lone boy in a family can do that. Your biological dad showing no interest in you only shores up the feelings. So I'd felt alone a lot. But this was the first time I really wanted it. (14.32)
Sure, Sam's powers are bound, but being abandoned by your dad doesn't exactly do very much for an only son's self-concept. Finding out that your mom is actually scared of your powers doesn't help much either. No wonder Sam wants to be alone.
No wonder I'd always felt lost. I actually was. The knowledge felt terrible, but in a strange way, it also felt good. Now I knew why I'd never connected to anything. Why I felt like I was outside the world around me, moving at a different speed from everyone else. That amputated piece of me explained everything. (21.43)
It's interesting that necromancy is such a part of Sam's identity that when his powers are bound, he totally fails at everything he attempts to study or take an interest in. He even feels completely separate from the pace of normal life. Considering that he spends a lot of the book mad at Tia for not telling him the truth, the time he's lost just wandering through life probably doesn't help.
Even among the anomalies, I was an anomaly. I took some pride in that. Or I would have, if my source of pride hadn't also been my death sentence. (21.45)
Considering that Douglas's creepy house is one gigantic freak show, the fact that Sam's binding makes him feel out of place really says something. There's nothing normal about his situation—not even himself.
I screamed then, an unending peal of torment. The pain was excruciating. The pain felt glorious. I could feel every nerve in my hand, every cut in my back, every sensation magnified until the line between good and bad blurred into something so awesome, so awful, that I had to open my mouth and let it out […] My gift was tearing me apart. (29.16, 18)
Necromancy may be what Sam was born to do, but that doesn't mean it's all fun and games—when he kills Douglas, he literally becomes fused with the pain of all the creatures and people his nemesis has tortured and killed in the dungeon. Having such close identification with the dead has to be one of the downsides of entering the trade.
"Since you've leapt from Plumpy's Employee of the Month to fancy necromancer—" Ashley said.
"Hey!" I pointed an indignant finger at her. "I was never employee of the month." (30.108-109)
Talk about a wakeup call about how lame your life was before becoming an official necromancer. Sam can't lay claim to a thing in his previous existence. Not even employee of the month at a fast food joint.
"You don't have anything to be sorry about. Yeah, I'm sort of dead, Ramon is sick, and you got the shit beat out of your. You also met a girl, got strange mutant powers, and kicked some ass." (31.20)
And that, dear Shmoopers, is what we call a character arc. Sam's identity fundamentally morphs throughout his character's journey, taking him from loser fast food worker to seducer of werewolves and slayer of evil necromancers. Not bad.
Now, if only I could say that with a straight face. (31.110-112)
It's funny how although Sam accepts his identity as a necromancer, he's still amused by the bizarre nature of the whole thing. The whirlwind of the last several days has to be surreal, and it's our guess that the truth of who he is hasn't sunk in yet. Again, we'll have to check out the sequel to see whether necromancy loses its humor for him.
By his sixteenth year, Douglas had learned all his aunt could show him […] He'd grown powerful, much more so than she. She'd started to figure that out, toward the end. Unfortunately for her, Douglas had fully grasped her lessons concerning ruthless practicality, and he'd noticed that his teacher had grown overconfident. (3.33)
Douglas gets his first lesson in manipulation when he realizes it's possible for him to steal his aunt's gift by killing her and acquiring her power for himself. Word to the wise: never underestimate the necromancer you're training.
Douglas had to teach the boy how to get his gift under control. The last thing he needed was to give the Council an excuse to remove him as leader, and a rogue necromancer was a very good excuse. If training didn't work, he could just kill him. Both plans had their merits. (3.34)
Douglas sees Sam's appearance in his life as a win-win situation—by manipulating Sam and the Council, he can both protect himself as leader and acquire more power, even if it's just the miniscule amount Sam appears to project. It's chilling, though, that he sees killing Sam as an errand he has to do to accomplish these goals. Douglas really is a ruthless creep.
The evening kept playing out in my head. I kept hearing the man's voice, his implied warnings and threats. They scared me a whole hell of a lot more than the guy who wiped the floor with me. Bullies are easy to understand and outthink. I'd dealt with bullies aplenty in school. But the other guy? He was full of unknowns. (4.64)
Clearly, Sam's spooked by Douglas, and it's not hard to figure out why. Perhaps the "unknowns" he perceives when he meets him at Plumpy's are Douglas's skills at manipulating situations and people to get whatever he wants.
The man wanted a hybrid from one of the weaker families. Less noticeable, easier to handle, that was the implication. Well, if he thought stealing one of the others would have gone by without notice or care, then he was ignorant of how the pack functioned […] The pack wouldn't take that lightly. And her father would hunt down anyone who took one of his own. (5.22)
Douglas may be one creepy dude, but he's kind of ignorant when it comes to werewolves. As Bridin explains here, he doesn't give them enough credit—while he thinks they would just let the absence of one of their own go, he also underestimates their dedication to each member of the pack. As we know, this ends up being not such a good deal for him.
[Douglas] could tell by their faces how they were all going to vote, and could see no gain in exercising his dominance in this particular case. But if he made it seem like accepting the girl's petition was his idea, well, that he might be able to use. Especially since another weak wolf in the area would stretch Brannoc's resources even more. (7.47)
If Douglas were an ethical leader, having him as Council leader wouldn't be such a bad thing. Considering that this guy is basically just out for himself, though, his careful consideration of how to distort their perception is pretty dangerous. Douglas is obviously concerned with only one thing about the wolf girl's proposition: how it can benefit him.
"Why don't I look like everyone else?" I asked.
"Because you're not like everyone else, Sam. Necromancers are linked to death. The underworld, the spirit world, whichever particular appellation you choose to give it, you are one of the ties that binds this world to that." (8.77-78)
Being a necromancer not only gives Sam access to the spirit world, but the ability to manipulate and control it. He may not have Douglas's evil intent, but he can nonetheless access the previously closed sphere of the dead.
Tia raised her eyebrows. "You're suggesting that a member of the Council can steal talent?" She frowned. "Even if that is possible, the karmic debt alone…it's unthinkable. The Council is supposed to protect us."
"Yes, it is. But I suspect Douglas has begun to dominate the other members. Pushing them toward his desired direction." (12.69-70)
The idea that Douglas cares about protecting the paranormal community is a nice thought, except it's not true. And the idea that Mr. Nice Douglas might just be a façade isn't exactly comforting to those like Tia and Nick who have submitted to his leadership.
Her cold dread washed over me and I understood. She feared the power would corrupt me, that it would get out of hand. Perhaps someone else would use me for vil. For the first time, I was afraid of the thing inside me. (14.26)
The thing that frightens Sam the most about his powers is arguably not what Douglas could do to him; it's what the power itself could do to him, potentially transforming him into the same kind of manipulative troll as his nemesis. Sam recognizes the potency of his powers, and fears becoming evil and manipulative.
"Although Ling Tsu has the ability to function and make decisions on his own, I control his primary will. That is one of the main skills you need to cultivate as a necromancer. Each time you raise or summon something, you are betting that your will is stronger than its own." (19.157)
Let's see if we've got this straight: According to Douglas, necromancy is one gigantic feat of manipulation all of its own, all about asserting your own will over that of the entity you're trying to raise. If this is the case, we can see why that power is so dangerous when placed in the wrong hands (like, say, Douglas's).
"You should have just gotten a portal showing me. Geez Sam, you shouldn't have even gotten a portal. I should have just heard you calling."
"So once I did that?"
Brid slumped in the cage. "You officially became too dangerous." (25.30-32)
The incident with Ed the Upper Level Entity is a game-changer in the battle against Douglas. Once Sam is able to gain full control of his powers, he proves himself to be too much of a threat to Douglas, thus causing him to up the ante on his plan of destroying Sam and taking his gift. No longer able to manipulate him, Douglas has only one choice left: kill Sam.
My pulse began to speed up despite my attempts to stay calm. This huge guy was talking about my blood, and he looked really, really happy about it. But I wasn't just going to hang here and die in the parking lot of Plumpy's. (2.38)
Running into a scary looking dude in a dark parking lot isn't an ideal position to be in, and having him talk about your blood like he's talking about a chocolate craving probably isn't so awesome either. Sam's first encounter with Michael provides a glimpse into the twisted role that blood plays in the paranormal world.
Douglas sighed. The old adage was true: It was so hard to find good help these days. Not that he cared about Michael smacking the boy around. Violence certainly didn't bother Douglas. No, what bothered him was Michael's lack of finesse. He'd simply escalated the violence too quickly. (3.4)
We're not super surprised to hear Douglas admit to not being bothered by violence, especially if it has a means to an end. What's interesting is that he sees violence as a tool that needs to be carefully wielded to get your desired outcome—so apparently, there is such a thing as too much violence, even for someone who kills people to steal their powers.
Auntie Lynn never tastes the sedative in her sherry, and she didn't wake up when he slit her open and stole her gift. As he'd knelt there, covered in her blood, his hand lolling to the side but still holding the dagger, drunk on her power, he couldn't help but think she'd be proud. He'd become the perfect pupil. (3.33)
Whoa. This description of Douglas stealing his aunt's power is one of the more frightening moments in the book, not just because it shows what Douglas is capable of, but because it reveals the bloody nature of the path he's chosen in using his gift. Covered in blood? Drunk on power? That's pretty intense, guys.
Long, bloody furrows went from my shoulders to the bottom of my rib cage, like I'd been pawed by a giant cat. I'm sure all the blood, dirt, and bruises made it look worse than it actually was. Or, at least, that's what I was hoping. (4.31)
Regardless of how bad it really is, the grotesque appearance of Sam's back gives a grisly picture of the aftermath of Michael's attack. The phrase "long, bloody furrows" alone is enough to make us feel Sam's pain.
Frank managed a quick hop as Brooke's head rolled to a stop in the middle of the floor. It had been severed cleanly at the neck, making her ponytail appear longer as it trailed behind like the trail on a grotesque comet. I couldn't see any blood. In fact, the wound looked cauterized, which didn't make it any more pleasant. (4.87)
Everyone loves getting packages in the mail, unless they contain your dead best friend's head. Then things get a little less festive. Especially when it rolls across your kitchen floor and starts yelling at you.
The spirits poured into me, hands grabbing, slicing, hurting. The pain drove me screaming to my knees. I dropped Brid's hand on the way down. I shut my eyes and tried to curl up into a ball. All I know if that when Douglas finally called them off and the pain stopped, I couldn't get up. (19.170)
As if getting attacked by Michael wasn't bad enough, Sam has to endure violence at the hands of dozens of angry spirits Douglas summons for the purpose of torturing him. We weren't aware that ghosts have the ability to slice into your body, but apparently, they do.
The whip-crack of pain across my already injured back made my whole body seize up. It didn't bring me to my knees. I'd been on those. Now I was on my hands and knees trying to breathe past the pain. Either Douglas was tired of the visceral thrill involved in beating me bare-handed or his hands were getting sore from smacking me around. (23.1)
We already know that Douglas considers violence to be a useful tool of manipulation, but it actually seems like he's sort of enjoying beating the snot out of Sam as he tries to force his power out of him. There's no way around it, folks—this guy's pretty sadistic.
He came at me with the knife, slicing into the still-bound arm. I gritted my teeth, but the scream came anyway. A long thin line of red erupted along my arm, right above the blue of my vein. He caught my blood in a bowl that was way too big for my liking. Big bowls meant more blood, and Douglas was the greedy type. (27.2)
Giant bowls of blood? If you have somehow managed to go this whole book without being totally grossed out, this detail just might be the one that breaks you. Nobody likes having blood drawn for medical reasons, so having your arm sliced open so someone can put it in a huge bowl is just… shudder.
He jerked away from me, pulling the knife free from his neck. Blood fountained, spraying me in the face. I must have hit an artery. His blood struck my tongue—a viscous, heavy saltiness. My heart shuddered. No, not my heart. Douglas's heart. (29.8)
Let's face it: There's no getting around describing Douglas's death without using graphic imagery. And as graphic imagery goes, this is pretty sick. Douglas's blood goes in his mouth. Ugh. Not only is that all kinds of unsanitary, but the description of the "viscous, heavy saltiness" almost makes us able to taste it. No thank you.