Sunday, 10 July 2011

Review: Graveminder by Melissa Marr

When Rebekkah returns to her small-town home for her beloved Grandmother’s funeral, little does she suspect that she is about to inherit a darkly dangerous family duty on behalf of Claysville’s most demanding residents – the dead.
Everyone in Claysville knows that the Barrows are no ordinary family, but no one can really explain why. When respected matriarch Maylene Barrow dies suddenly her granddaughter Rebekkah returns to the small town she grew up in, where she must face the demons of her past – the suicide of her half-sister Ella, the person she was closest to in the world, and the subsequent break-up of her parents’ marriage. And she also re-encounters Byron, Ella’s old boyfriend, someone to whom she has always felt a deep and mysterious connection.
But the demons of the past are nothing compared with what the future has in store for Rebekkah. Her grandmother has left her an inheritance both wonderful and terrible. An onerous responsibility now rests on her shoulders – one for which she is ill-prepared to say the least.
For behind Claysville’s community-spirited, small-town facade lies a dark secret. One that ties Rebekkah and Byron together in an inextricable bond, and that will require them both to sacrifice everything to keep their friends and neighbours from harm.

Oh my gosh this book was amazing. I love Melissa Marr’s ‘Wicked Lovely’ series, and it was based on that alone that this book was on my wishlist – but after finishing it at some ungodly hour this morning I am oh so glad it was.

The novel walks a brilliantly fine edge between small town American life and horror movie, and strikes just the right balance. There is an underlying tension throughout, and a few nerve wracking moments where I jumped at any noise whilst I was reading, but it’s offset by this cosy small town life where nothing bad could ever happen. It’s equal parts disturbing and comforting.

And the further into the story you get the more the unnerving the contract gets. Never able to leave? You have to apply for permission to have a baby? These things seemed even more weird than the dead rising thing…
And I loved how the dead were dealt with. This isn’t your average ‘hey there are zombies!’ book. It takes the idea of the dead coming back and develops a whole new myth and set of rules for them, and this is where some of Marr’s genius shines through. As with the ‘Wicked Lovely’ series, the world and rule building is her strongest point, and I love watching to see how she tackles something new with this book.

And back to the small town life – I love things like this where small towns have founding families and the same roles are passed down generation to generation. I don’t know why I love it, but I do, so it was great to see that used to very great effect here.

The first half of the novel took its time to set up and get going but it in no way dragged – it was nice to take the time to set the scene and get to know the characters before everyone was plunged into the meat of the story. And once it got going – oh good lord it was fabulous. I loved everything about the ‘land of the dead’ and I wanted more of it. It was fascinating to see how Marr had imagined it, the different characters, the rivalries and bids for power and one up man ship between Charles and Alicia. As I said though, I wanted more! One of my favourite scenes had to be when Alicia and Byron first meet each other – fab!

The novel utilises lots of different narrators to take the story on further, which was a neat way to introduce us to more of the townsfolk and get to know some of them a little bit, and also kept the story moving at a good pace. It kept the tension high when one character is off doing something exciting and we skipped off to find out what someone else was doing, but because I was intrigued by every plot line and every character I didn’t find that annoying, which was a bonus because sometimes skipping off in the middle of big things can be a sure fire way to get me irritated with a book.

I also loved how Marr used a character who was dead by the start of the first chapter to propel the story along. Maylene may not have physically been there for most of the book, but she was a vital part through memories, diaries, letters and simply her absence. I love it when an author uses a character who isn’t present just as effectively as a character who is – and Maylene is definitely one of my favourites. She was just such a perfect grandmotherly type, and such a good contrast against the other characters. Actually all the characters were brilliantly written and used, and I loved noting the differences between Marr’s young adult work and this her first adult novel.

And in an age where every book seems to be part of a series it was nice to have a standalone book. If there ever is a sequel I’d love to read it, but the way everything finishes left me satisfied – enough questions left unanswered that I didn’t feel it had all been solved too neatly, but enough tied that I wasn’t frustrated.

So all in all I loved it. It was great writing, a fabulous plot and really well drawn characters. And enough action and sparkling wit to keep it light and moving along briskly. ‘Graveminder’ quickly established itself as a favourite before I was even half way through, and I can guarantee that this is a book I will come back to time and time again. If you’re looking for something a bit different and haven’t got time to deal with a whole big saga of story, ‘Graveminder’ is a brilliant read with a mix of everything to keep you interested. 

1 comment:

  1. This book contains some ideas I have not seen before. There is a place dead people can go, but it is not heaven or hell. Some stay, some leave. This place is run by 'Mr D' an enigmatic character who is both appealing and repulsive. We are introduced to a concept of someone, the graveminder, tending to those who have died and are buried, as well as the undertaker, who takes care of those who recently died. Their dependence on one another in romance and within their roles, both scares and excites these two characters, as they do not know what to do with their feelings. Are they real or part of a plan of which they have no control?