Author: Kelly Coon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Page Count: 416 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
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.
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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
When I first picked up Gravemaidens, I was beyond excited to start a book with a fierce main character and an intricate plot. Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to my expectations; the book offered enthralling world building and a complex and distinctive plot, but unmemorable characters.
Kammani knows being a Sacred Maiden is a curse and a death wish. She knows it means dying in this world to become a queen in the next, and to her that’s terrifying. She doesn’t see it as an honor like everyone else. And when Nanaea, her sister, is picked as one of the three Sacred Maidens, Kammani can feel her entire world crashing around her. Her sister, who is beyond overjoyed, doesn’t quite understand why Kammani sees it as just death. And Kammani doesn’t understand why Nanaea would want to die. So Kammani does everything she possibly can to save the Alu’s ruler from dying and save her sister from the Boatman.
I really did like Kammani as the main character; she’s easy to understand and easy to relate to; no one wants to see a family member die, especially their younger sister. Kammani was a strong and brave character who knew she was getting herself into trouble but did it anyway, in hopes of saving her sister. She didn’t have much time to be a child, so her childhood was spent with her growing up and making sure her family survived. And even with saying all that, I didn’t find much character growth with Kammani, which is why her story line isn’t so memorable to me. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an interesting character, I just didn’t feel that connection I look for with the main character.
I would have liked to see more characterization of Dagan, the main love interest. He’s already madly in love with Kammani and basically throughout the first half of the book, he spends his time trying to win her over. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, considering he wants to marry her. But Kammani isn’t ready to get married (which is completely fine), but she doesn’t seem to fully tell Dagan her reasonings, at least not yet. I did think, however, that Dagan improved as a character about half-way through the book. I liked his relationship with Kammani and I thought there was definitely something there, I just wish there was more development with their relationship and maybe there will be in the sequel.
In all honesty, what really put this book on my radar was the story line of the Sacred Maidens and the Boatman. It’s unique and intriguing. I was a little disappointed that there was not much on the Boatman in the book, but I understand why, since he comes to collect the souls of those that are dead. Either way, I thought it was a great idea. As Nanaea is a Sacred Maiden, the reader gets to see what really goes on behind the scenes with being a Sacred Maiden and why it is so important to their kingdom and their tradition to have these girls join the ruler in the afterlife. It’s an interesting concept, one that I enjoyed reading about.
Even though I was not loving all the characters, I was obsessed with the world building and the writing. Coon describes a harsh world but in beautiful and rich prose, and it’s downright captivating. The descriptions captured my attention and created an intricate picture of each scene in my head. Coon did an amazing job describing the hardships, the violence, and the good and bad within this world. The world itself is just as enchanting as the cover of this book (which is gorgeous!). If anything, the world was by far my favorite part of this book, and also the Sacred Maidens concept.
But overall, Gravemaidens is a beautiful tale, with a unique plot and harsh yet captivating world. Even thought I was not a big fan of this book, I do still plan to read the sequel, as I liked the ending and I’m curious as to how everything is going to wrap up.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars