(I got my ARC from the RT Convention.)
Published by: William Morrow
Graveminder by Melissa Marr
The New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.
Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."
Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place--and the man--she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D--a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk.
1. (+) Protagonist(s ?) - I put this as a question because sometimes it felt like Byron was also a protagonist, though the story begins once Bek's grandmother is murdered... Still, both Bek and Byron are worthy characters, chalk-full of flaws but likable nonetheless for their strength, courage, and loyalty.
2. (+) the Writing - As in the Wicked Lovely series, Marr wrote in multiple viewpoints, which not only helped build the suspense towards the end but also allowed for great insight into the lives of the protagonist(s) and other characters. (And there also weren't too many viewpoints, just a few extras besides the main characters). Her writing was seamless, allowing me as a reader to slip easily into Bek and Byron's world.
3. (+) World Building - Since both Byron and Bek are unaware of their destinies, we as readers learn with them what being the Undertaker and Graveminder really mean... and because of this, the fantasy world in Claysville is developed slowly and fully. Marr made sure to flesh out the details of the weird compact Claysville made and the ensuing consequences.
4. (+) Character Development - As I noted earlier, having multiple viewpoints allowed for the characters to be fully developed. Even characters whose tale we weren't directly following had small sections devoted to them, which made them more compelling and also spiked my intrigue regarding the roles of each person in Claysville.
5. (+) Emotional Realism - Marr did a wonderful job making Bek and Byron's emotions feel palpable. I never once doubted the grief, confusion, or frustration that the two of them felt.
6. (+) the Romance - Marr didn't take the easy way out. She created a messy, complicated relationship that took Bek and Byron the whole book to resolve but felt real all the while, given their confusing past and the town's secrets. Had the romance been any other way (i.e. lots of gratuitous sex), it would've felt cheap in the midst of the grief, but it wasn't at all. Also, Byron caught my heart; he's just so sweet to Bek and feels like a man any woman would desire.
7. (+) the Villains - Since there are multiple viewpoints in this book, we sometimes get introduced into the mind of a 'villian.' The quotes there are well deserved, because the perspective of the villain we know makes us sympathize with her and her circumstances (only occasionally for the latter, that is). Even though I knew she was a villain, I liked her as a character. The other villain was more surprising and harder to understand, though.
8. (+) Death (character) - I liked the idea of the two worlds, one with Death at its head, and the fact that the Graveminder and Undertaker saw things differently. And Death, as a character, was sort of funny (Charles? The 1930s?) but still had the cunning touch you'd normally associate with him.
9. (-) Pacing - One consequence of having multiple viewpoints is that the pacing sometimes suffered. Marr did the best she could to minimize the repetitions of reading from many perspectives, but it still took me a bit longer than normal to really get into the novel.
10. (+) The Cover - Not sure I know which house that's supposed to be--the scene at the end? or ? But regardless, I think the cover still has a sort of Gothic element to it that's representative of the book. I particularly like the blurred effect of the photo and the contrasting blue cursive of the title.
Graveminder may be for an older audience, but readers of YA will definitely still enjoy this book. Marr has created compelling characters whose journey you'll want to follow till the very last page.