Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Graveminder by Melissa Marr — 352 pgs

Rebekkah Barrow is coming home. After several unsuccessful attempts to escape and stay away from her home in Claysville, the news that brings her back is not good. Rebekkah has just discovered that her grandmother Maylene is dead, and it’s up to her, as the last of her family, to come and bury her dead. But Maylene had a secret that will come to harness Rebekkah in some very unusual ways, for she was the Graveminder, responsible for keeping the dead peacefully in their graves or dragging them back to the Underworld when they escape their earthy confines. Alongside the Graveminder works the Undertaker, the man who loves, protects and tethers these strange women to the living world. Now that Maylene is gone, it’s up to Rebekkah to assume the role of town protectoress and become the  touchstone and savior to the dead. When Rebekkah learns who her Undertaker is to be, she protests violently, for the man has a very long history of heartache with Rebekkah, and she’s so unsure of the role he will play in her life that she considers breaking free. But Rebekkah can’t worry about that now, for there are several Hungry Dead roaming the town and it’s only a matter of time before they come looking for the Graveminder and the Undertaker. Before all hell breaks loose on the world above, Rebekkah and her new partner must come to some sort of agreement with the otherworldly man who controls the other side. In doing so they learn that the only things that will keep them alive and tethered to this world are love, loyalty and a trust unlike any other that readers have seen before. Both richly provocative and intensely imaginative, Graveminder is the story of two worlds that can’t live together and the people who must keep them apart.

When this book came out in hardcover, I initially heard some good buzz about it and had been curious to read it. I had never read any of the books in Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, but I know that she has an intense fan base, and that those books, targeted towards the YA audience, are loved by a lot of people. When the opportunity came to review this book, I was elated and eager to get started. I knew so little about the premise, and everything I discovered between these pages was so colorful and brightly rendered that I had a hard time tearing myself away. Though there were some elements that I grew a little less enamored of, I really enjoyed Marr’s skill at worldbuilding and all the special touches and flourishes that she so expertly placed within the narrative.

The basic premise of this novel lies in an agreement that the town made several generations ago with Death himself. The dead need to be minded and kept where they are. If they get unruly and return to this world, they need to be escorted back to the Underworld. This is where Marr’s skills delight and enthrall. Her version of the Underworld is full of exquisite promise, full of inhabitants from every period in history, complete with habits and dress. There are gangsters and cowboys and high society ladies in rich and elegant costumes, and the city where they all reside is lush with various architecture styles that vary in complexity and are faithful even in their tiniest detail. There is Death himself, also known as Charlie, the gentlemanly trickster that holds all the cards and keeps most of them up his sleeve. Into this world comes Rebekkah, a wayward young woman who is one part drifter and two parts skeptical and heartbroken girl, who must claim the legacy left to her by her treasured grandmother. Just as the new Undertaker is commissioned, so is Rebekkah, and despite her disbelief, one trip into the land that houses the dead is enough to show her that her duties are real and very, very important. I loved the backstory that was given to cushion this world and the wide variety of characters that populated Charlie's domain. They were all very deftly created and fleshed out this world for eager readers like myself.

I wasn’t as crazy about all the vacillating on Rebekkah’s part regarding the nonnegotiable choice of protector. There was a push/pull with these two characters that was at first very romantic and true, but later became frustrating and at times even pointless. Rebekkah didn’t want him but she didn’t really want anyone else to have him, and in her secret heart, he was her only love. What was frustrating about this was the lengths she went to repeatedly deny this, and even when it was clear that she was lying to herself and everyone around her, it continued on in this vein up until the end of the book. All this felt like emotional filler and left me more than a little disenchanted when it came to the nuts and bolts of the story. I would have loved to see more progression when it came to this element of the narrative, but sadly, this was not to be. I guess I just don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to characters deceiving themselves in matters of the heart.

Rebekkah begins her stint as Graveminder already at a disadvantage, because some of the dead are already on the loose, causing a ruckus, and it’s a steep learning curve to get them contained. Here the book takes on the atmosphere of a supernatural thriller, and it was a welcome distraction from the relationship woes that Rebekkah is suffering from. I found this plotline to be both exciting and rather curious, because a lot of the backstory surrounding this possibly nefarious Underworld was revealed through the Hungry Dead who were making the town less than hospitable. This section was also rather unpredictable, which I also liked, and though I knew where Marr was going in relation to Rebekkah’s personal conundrums, this side of the story seemed fresh and groundbreaking in terms of the implications it made. Though everything was tied up at the end (not too neatly, I might add!) I suspect that this might be the first book in a series, because a lot of room was left in the narrative for further enhancement.

I really enjoyed this book, and if it wasn’t for the slight niggle I felt about all the back and forth whinging relationship woes, this would have been a stellar read. I’m certainly more than eager now to try out Marr’s Wicked Lovely series and will be rather excited to see which direction that series takes as well. Fans of worldbuilding and supernatural books will not want to miss this one, despite its slightly off kilter interpersonal and repetitious meanderings. A fun book to get lost in and savor. Recommended.


Author Photo About the Author

Melissa Marr grew up believing in faeries, ghosts, and various other creatures. After teaching college literature for a decade, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing. Wicked Lovely was her first novel. Currently, Marr lives in the Washington, D.C., area, writes full-time, and still believes in faeries and ghosts.

[website]
[blog]
[Twitter]
[Melissa Marr on Facebook]
[Graveminder Facebook Fan Page]
[Wicked Lovely Facebook Fan Page]

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, January 17th:Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, January 17th:The Road to Here
Wednesday, January 18th:Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, January 19th:Wordsmithonia
Friday, January 20th:Lesa’s Book Critiques
Monday, January 23rd:Books Like Breathing
Tuesday, January 24th:Jenny Loves to Read
Wednesday, January 25th:Life in Review
Thursday, January 26th:Reviews by Lola
Tuesday, January 31st:Elle Lit.
Wednesday, February 1st:The Scarlet Letter
Thursday, February 2nd:Savvy Verse & Wit


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

25 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I've been back and forth about this one, so it's good to hear your thoughts on it! Very nicely reviewed, as always!

Darlene said...

I've thought about starting this series so many times. This one sounds great too but I still think I'd want to start at the beginning. I'm glad to have read your thoughts though as it kind of steers me more in the direction of maybe starting the series. Great review!

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

wonderful review! And my what an interesting & unusual story-line! How refreshing that is in a genre steeped with werewolves and vampires. This sounds like one I will be giving a try!

Aths said...

I'm not sure I would have picked this book by myself, but after reading your review, I'm intrigued. The world created in this book sounds very fascinating! I should now definitely look up this book!

Jenny said...

Not my typical genre, but sounds intriguing. I wonder if the drawn out relationship woes have anything to do with the author being used to writing YA where that angst is so often the center of the plot, LOL. ;)

Andi said...

I have this one waiting on my shelves, and I'll likely tackle it after I finish up Madame Bovary early next week. I'm curious to see where I'll fall on the love/hate continuum because I've certainly seen some colorful reviews of this one!

bermudaonion said...

Your enthusiasm makes me curious about the book, but I'm leery since it's paranormal. I'll have to think about it.

Kaye said...

You lost me at "worldbuilding" and "supernatural" but your comprehensive review is wonderful as always. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Heather.

Kaye said...

I just had to leave another comment - my word verification word was "pingu" - that's a penguin! How appropriate.

Audra said...

Great review -- you hit what was great about the story. I was describing it to my wife yesterday and got all excited about it again -- maybe I'll give it a reread -- and be less bit bitter about Rebekkah since I know she's there.

Ti said...

..."dead on the loose causing a ruckus." Sounds very entertaining! I sort of like the premise even though it's not usually a genre I seek out.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I have it patiently waiting form me, but I haven't picked it up yet. Great review!

Jenners said...

Oh this does sound kind of fun. But I know what you mean about being annoyed by a love that is completely obvious to everyone but the girl!!!

Amy said...

Nice to hear your thoughts on this one. Sounds good despite the few issues. I'm not 100% convinced on it but you do have me interested!

Beth F said...

Wicked Lovely was one the best audiobooks I ever listened to -- ever. If you're so inclined, go that route. I have this on my list, and I know I'll get to it eventually.

Harvee said...

Greatreview, as always! Enjoyed your points of view and candor.

Nymeth said...

I want to read more from the Wicked Lovely series first, but it's good to know I have this to look forward to at the end :)

Trisha said...

I've had this one on the shelves for quite some time - a gift from the publishers - but I've been a bad reviewer and left in languishing.

TheBookGirl said...

No this isn't a series for me (you know I'm pretty much a wuss when it comes to the scary stuff) but I did enjoy reading your review. I really admire your eclectic taste in books -- you seem to be open to most things, making me wonder if their is a genre that you simply won't try?

Iris on Books said...

Like you, I had some difficulty feeling sympathetic towards the relatinship issues in the book. I, too, suspect this would make a really good series. Despite not loving this book, I am curious to hear more about the world of the dead in particular.

trish said...

I've heard such good things about Wicked Lovely and have been wanting to read it for a long time. I see Beth Fish said it was great on audio! Anyway, great to read your thoughts on this book. I loved that you liked it except for the one aspect. I can always get past one annoying thing in a book, but it's when they start to pile on that I can't.

Thanks for being on the tour!

Stepping Out of the Page said...

I'm a bit weary of this because I wasn't keen on Wicked Lovely, but you seem to have enjoyed this and I think I might give it a go too. Fantastic, insightful review!

Kailana said...

ew, what a horrid cover. It gives a totally different feeling than the hard cover edition. I have had this out from the library a couple times, but haven't had a chance to actually read it yet.

Geosi said...

I seem to like the title of the book. Great review Zibilee.

Serena said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one...

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