Title: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1)
Author: Kelly Coon (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: October 29th 2019 from Delacorte Press
Format: Kindle ARC via NetGalley
Goodreads Synopsis: 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 am on the street team for this book, so I was provided a copy of this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. My thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used in this review.*
This year has been awesome with being on the street team for Kelly’s book! If you’ve seen some of my blog posts over the last several months, a good group of people, including myself, have been doing interviews, spotlight posts, reviews and many other related posts to this book. Now I can finally share my review as the book publishes this week! Even though I have been on the street team, I wanted to give the most honest review as possible.
My favorite aspect of this book was the world building. This fantasy world is inspired by ancient Sumer, which is a setting I’ve never really seen as a point of inspiration for fantasy. This world is more ancient, with people wearing sandals and tunics, using flowers and plants as tinctures and remedies and stone buildings. Kelly did such an amazing job to describe the beautiful world, with all the fashion, flowers, courtyards and how the Maidens dressed. This world felt very lush and colorful, especially with the pampered life the Sacred Maidens live at the palace.
As far as the plot goes, the last half was my favorite part of the story. The first half was a little rough to get through because I felt like parts were repetitive and didn’t move as much. I feel like some of the beginning could’ve been tightened a little to make the pace a little bit faster. But once we reach a certain plot point about halfway through, then things get interesting. There were some moments that came out of nowhere that kept me invested. I will say that there is a very detailed scene around childbirth, so be aware in case you’re sensitive to that or anything. While I was surprised at how detailed it was, it was also an emotional scene that added more depth to a couple characters and you understood them more during that moment. Also with the plot, I wanted more of the Boatman! He’s such a creepy, grim reaper like figure and I liked the mystery of him in this world’s culture. I have high hopes that he’ll be in the next one.
With the characters, I liked them overall but I don’t know how memorable they will be for me. Kammani has good intentions with trying to heal the lugal (the ruler of her kingdom) so her sister doesn’t go to the afterlife. Her family has gone through a lot and you can see with how she really had to grow up earlier than expected. Her relationship with Dagan was a little iffy for me, since she acts so standoffish to him that I really didn’t think the romance didn’t need to be a subplot of the story. He was a great guy, but he did distract the main plot line enough that I did get a little frustrated at times.
When it came to Kammani’s sister Nanaea, she was your typical teenage girl who wants the pampered life with being a Sacred Maiden. She sees it as a real honor and wants to keep this glory, since their family had lowered in status. She really doesn’t have a lot of time to grow or be more fleshed out, but that’s okay since the novel focuses on Kammani. They did have a good moment towards the end that was satisfying, but I can see some people not liking her as much. But then, there was Kammani’s best friend Ilthani and she was hilarious! Some of her antics remind me of a few friends I have; she brought more life to the story. I can see her being a favorite character among readers.
Since this is going to be a duology, I will say that I was surprised with how the book ends. Things got dark and intense and I thought it was going to end on a cliffhanger, but it didn’t. The book offers enough closure that while I do have an overall idea of what the sequel will entail, I wish we did end on the darker moments of the story. That would’ve given it more of a punch, but that’s a personal preference.
Overall: This a very easy read to get immersed in, especially with the gorgeously detailed world building. Some aspects of the book didn’t happen as much as I had hoped and parts felt like they needed some tightening, since I did struggle picking the book up in the first half. But luckily, the last half was an improvement and I’m anticipating the sequel. I’m thankful for the chance to help promote this book and if this sounds interesting to you, please pick it up 🙂
Rating: .75 stars
Have you read Gravemaidens? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!