Review: Codex Nekromantia by Greg X. Graves

Necromancers have filled Constantinople with zombies!

No, not that Constantinople.

Constantinople, Illinois, a nucleus of urban sprawl in the middle of midwestern soybean fields.

Codex Nekromantia is the chronicle of the survivors of the zombie catastrophe. Well, survivors makes them sound organized. Stragglers is more accurate – how can the self-raised corpse of the city’s founder count as having survived anything? Greg X. Graves tells the story of life, love, necromancy, the fragile human condition when caught between the jaws of a very robust human condition, and wholesale zombie slaughter.


I’m not one to usually read zombie fiction, truth be told zombies freak me out and I have a hard enough time handling them in games and movies, even though I can’t help but love me some zombie apocalypse (try and figure that one out). I thought I’d give zombie fiction a whirl with Codex Nekromantia, a novel verging on a quick read with plenty going on and undercurrents of black humour.

While black humour is right up my alley, there are certain aspects to the comedic side of the tale that wore on me after a time. Codex Nekromantia reminds me very much of Terry Pratchett’s writing style in that there’s enough nonsense to create a sense of chaos. This is how I perceive that type of humour, Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, and similar can be enjoyed by many a reader/movie lover, but I can only handle it in small doses. So while I appreciated particular actions, reactions, or wit, it wasn’t because it catered to my sense of humour. It was more so for the Gothic side of things as I would constantly imagine Greg X. Graves’ work as what Terry Pratchett would be like if he went Goth. That’s a concept I found entertaining.

Humour aside, accepting that my comedic tastes might just be fussy, there were a couple of hiccups I came across which stopped me from completely enjoying this novel. Hence the verging on a quick read statement. I felt almost there so many times, close to being utterly caught up and invested, but unfortunately these hiccups distracted me too much. In a few instances names were mixed up, with two characters who were quite different, so it would be jarring when I’d come across it and I’d have to double check it was the character I believed it to be. I understand it’s hard to catch everything and luckily the name changes weren’t something that occurred often.

There are also the characters. I didn’t enjoy any of them and I know sometimes it doesn’t matter if you like any of the characters or not, but this wasn’t the case. I began to like and enjoy a few in the beginning, but that favour petered out somewhere before the middle of the story. I think the main character that bothered me was actually the main character, Casimir, and he didn’t seem to have much direction to me. Of course there was the desire to do certain things and reach certain places, but at times I felt as though he was changing where he was going abruptly without any actual discernable reason. Maybe it was just me and I missed the reasons. Or maybe Casimir is flighty. I don’t know. I just know he frustrated me.

I don’t want this to sound like I didn’t enjoy anything about Codex Nekromantia because that’s not true. Up until a certain point in the book we get to follow both sides of the tale, the good guy’s journey and discovery, as well as the bad guy’s activities. And I like that, as I wasn’t in the dark as much. I would have preferred for the two parts to continue through the whole story, but can see how it wouldn’t work if we’re only meant to follow Casimir and Ravilious. It also gives the reader an interesting outlook to see how Ravilious isn’t necessarily a bad guy, but sometimes people can get caught up in unpleasant events. I also really liked Ravilious’ bedspread, which is something else I think would appeal to Goths at heart or at least fans of Cthulhu.

As for the story itself… I’m not quite sure what to make of it, mainly thanks to the ending. No matter what, the ending will always colour my perspective and this one was very intriguing. I felt it was very open-ended, enough for another novel, but I’m aware not all open-ended stories are planned as a first in a series. I don’t have a problem with that, some of my favourite stories are open-ended, but this one felt more cut off rather than concluded with enough left to the reader’s imagination to tie up. To explain it completely would lead to spoilers so the best I can say is it left a lot of questions unanswered and made me wonder what was going on in the end.

While the story didn’t quite reach my funny bone, and the characters didn’t appeal to me, I’m sure plenty of readers would get a kick out of Codex Nekromantia for many reasons. On the surface the story is capable of engaging those who love zombie fiction, but could also capture those readers who like to delve deeper. Codex Nekromantia brings the darkness of humanity to light, along with loss, wrapped up in a little silliness and an abundance of zombies.

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