Thank you to Random House Children and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens 1) by Kelly Coon
Release Date: October 29th 2019
Tags: Fantasy / Young Adult / Gravemaidens / Religion / Boatman / Healer / Poison
Trigger Warnings: Cult Murder / Religious Murder / Suicide / Poisoning and its side effects / Forcing someone to vomit / Baby Passing Away / Mother Passing Away during Child Birth
In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.
When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.
But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.
Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
I was so excited for Gravemaidens, and don’t get me wrong, it is still a very solid book, but it is just not memorable enough.
Gravemaidens focuses on Kammani who is training under her father to become a healer. Who is trying to keep her family’s head above water after their father’s disgrace and death of their mother. When her younger sister gets chosen as a gravemaiden her world collapses. While everyone thinks it is a great honor Kammani knows it is just a death sentence. She will do anything to protect her sister.
The whole idea of the gravemaidens (maidens that were chosen to accompany dying rulers to the Netherworld) is an interesting one and what drew me to this book right away. The idea of it still stands but I do wonder how many people truly believe that being a gravemaiden is a great honor. The idea that only Kammani realizes the truth of it just seems like a different way to make her stand out from the other girls. Regardless of that the plot stands quite well.
If one looks closely at the events not that much happens but it still feels like I was able to race through the book. It is easy to follow. The book itself is also under 300 pages (or my ebook was in any case) and that makes it a great bite sized book to pick up.
My biggest critique with this story is all the missed opportunities. There is such a missed opportunity in the relationship with the sisters. While there is some development there, there was much more room for the two to get into their conflicts. Instead they bicker meaninglessly and the younger sister is put down as ungrateful. The ending of the story doesn’t change that feeling. It was unnecessary to go into that stereotype if you don’t delve into it further.
Another missed opportunity I found was the relationship that Kammani was developing with Nin, the daughter to the ruler. There was a nice foundation there and then bam, it all just came to a screeching halt. The way the story went around those two felt incredibly wrong. The villains also were tragically underdeveloped.
However some of the other side characters were a delight. Her friends, her brother. Her love interest. Do I dare say that I enjoyed their romance. The love interest was incredibly respectful and unlike their family, did not try to hound her into anything. I found that so important to see.
So I did not quite love this but despite my critiques I did quite enjoy reading it which is why I did end up settling on a 3,5 stars.