Wednesday, 9 May 2012

REVIEW: Graveminder

Graveminder is a standalone adult paranormal novel written by Melissa Marr.
This review may contain a couple of spoilers, which have been blacked out for your protection. Just highlight them to read!

Rebekkah Barrow and Byron Montgomery have both left their childhood town of Claysville behind them, but never quite stopped feeling it pulling them back. The suspicious death of Rebekkah's grandmother - Maylene - becomes the catalyst for a chain reaction of otherworldly events and secrets protected past the grave and Rebekkah and Byron find themselves thrown headfirst into the dark traditions of Claysville.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was a pleasant reading experience, despite some obvious flaws. The world was an intriguing, albeit unsatisfactorily explored one. The characters, however, were a real let down, save for a select few.

The whole 'small town turned creepy and also there are dead people' is a setting we've seen time and time again - heck, several times in Supernatural alone - but fortunately, Claysville didn't seem like a boring iteration of a tired trope. Hints are thrown about relating to its local mystery right from the very start. The reader begins asking questions immediately. What's Maylene doing? Who's that girl in there with her? (It's Daisha. I like her.) Coupled with Byron's constant affirmation that Claysville just pulls people back, a sense of intrigue is nicely set up from the start. Having said that, however, it might've benefited from a little easing-up on the repetition of that point. I started feeling like there was a bit of an echo in the book with the amount of times characters and the narrator mused about how Claysville always brings its children home.

Once the aforementioned intrigue is established, however, it sort of hangs there in the air, on hold as the characters mull over their past and their present love lives. While this was intended to further characterisation, it felt rather pointless. Personally, I don't feel it strengthened by bond to Rebekkah or Byron. And it just goes on. They don't stop angsting and angsting over one another for the entire book. I have to admit that I skimmed over a fair few paragraphs because their endless recycling of 'I can't, I can, I musn't, I must' feelings grew grating. I started feeling like there was a bit of an echo in the book.

I did mention that there were a couple of characters that piqued my interest. Those characters were Daisha and Charles. I'm hesitant to count Maylene and William, because although I took a liking to them, they only feature in a few pages each before being killed to death. Shame, really. The last two seemed like they would've had a more interesting story to tell than the actual protagonists. I'm also not sure if I should count Amity as a character that I liked, seeing as she did absolutely nothing to further anything, other than give Rebekkah a friend and yet another reason to angst about Byron.

The chapters that focussed on Daisha were the most interesting in the book, bar possibly the first times that Byron and Rebekkah each see the world of the dead. I wanted to follow her story, to find out what was going on with the little dead girl (though considering I'm barely a year older than she was supposed to be, maybe I shouldn't call her 'little'). She was wonderfully ambiguous and I thought the way she grew and changed throughout the book was well handled and well written.

Likewise, I was a fan of nearly every moment Charles was involved in. His charisma leaked off the pages of the book and though he was every bit as creepy as you'd expect a personification of death to be, it worked in his favour and was wholly appropriate to the context of what was going on. I would have liked to know more about him.

Having said that, I was not a fan of the information dump at the end. Giving Rebekkah a Q&A session with Charles just as the book was about to close felt like an intolerably lazy way of closing up loose plot threads that could have very easily been more smoothly woven into dialogue at any previous time. Reading this section, while informative, if you look at it that way, was infuriating and I felt that as a reader, my intelligence had been insulted. It was that badly executed.

More time should have been spent on building up the fantastical elements of this book. Pages allocated to Byron and Rebekkah's nonexistant chemistry and uninteresting merry-go-round of guilt and attraction would have been better spent on the utterly fascinating world and concepts that this book contains. I'll repeat at this point that I did enjoy this book, but the unwisely large amount of time spent on the main characters jumping through hoops of emotional baggage was a disservice to the wonderful magical world of Claysville and its afterlife.

One more complaint before I rocket off. This complaint is entirely spoilers, so if you haven't read the book, don't read this section.

I felt that the choice of villain was poor and that the foreshadowing was nonexistant. This was very, very irritating. Cissy had only showed up at the start of the plot (not the start of the book - those can be two wildly different page numbers) and while she was pointedly written as cruel, melodramatic and vindictive, there was no indication that she would be willing to murder many people in order to kill Rebekkah. But even past that, her plan was stupid. If she was content to have one murder on her hands, why didn't she try to directly kill Rebekkah? Honestly, villains, get your shit together.

Okay, you can start reading again. Spoiler time is over.

All in all, Graveminder was a decent book. Despite its glaring issues - nearly all of them to do with terrible characterisation - I did really like it.  Marr built a great world, but I feel that it was never properly explored. The protagonists were far too explored and I started feeling like there was a bit of an echo going on in the book as they went through the same few emotions over and over again.

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