Thank you to Delacorte Press for giving me a free digital copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Y’all, I am so disappointed. I feel like I’ve been duped. Awesome synopsis? Check! Gorgeous cover? Check! The actual content… YIKES.
Content warning: attempted sexual assault
Title: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1)
Author: Kelly Coon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: October 29, 2019
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 416 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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. “
So… I think this might be my first one star read of the year, which is really saying a lot since we’ve only got 1.5 months until the end of the year. (If I keep saying that, will it actually sink in? I’m not sure yet.) But y’all, I struggled through so much of this book. The idea sounds so cool, though, but I think the execution failed miserably. I was bored for most of the book and wanted to DNF it multiple times. At the time I was too serious about it, I was basically 75% of the way through the book so I pushed through; however, that doesn’t mean I didn’t skim some of the later chapters.
Everything here felt mediocre. I hate saying that when it comes to debut authors because I know they pour their heart and soul into this book, but I simply could not force myself to be generous enough to give it even two stars. I’m fairly certain I questioned something in almost every chapter. And it sort of took a murder mystery side plot that made me confused.
Here’s the thing though, I liked Kammani to an extent. I liked that she had healing knowledge and how fierce and loyal she is to her family. I struggled, however, with how she and her sister, Nanaea, fought constantly. Kammani is incredibly blind to her version of the truth surrounding the Sacred Maidens and the dying lugal that it simply takes forever to gain real insight and understanding. She won’t even listen to her sister and really pushes aside Nanaea’s insistence that being a Sacred Maiden is what she wants despite how silly it may seem in her older sister’s eyes.
Also, I grew uncomfortable every time Kammani mentioned how men would gawk at Nanaea it what was obviously a sexual way due to how beautiful she is. (At least that’s how I interpreted it.) She’s only fifteen, and it’s mentioned repeatedly how pretty she is, which there’s nothing wrong in that, of course, but it’s the way Nanaea was sexualized even though she’s only a child.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Nin Arwia and to be honest, I completely missed the part where she’s only sixteen, just about the same age as Kammani. From the way the author wrote about her, I thought she was older, at least in her 20s. I will say, though, Nin seemed to get the short stick when it comes to everything and I almost empathized with her toward the end. I’m curious to know about her, especially since as a woman she isn’t able to inherit the throne and the people look down on her, thinking she needs to get married quickly before anyone will take her seriously.
I wasn’t convinced of Kammani and Dagan’s romantic feelings. Kammani had this running thought that her life would end if she accepted Dagan. However, I did like that Dagan always Kammani aware that she would be her own, whole person if they ever decided to be together.
As for Iltani, Kammani’s best friend, I’m not sure what to make of her. It was like the author was trying too hard to make her this cool, aloof friend but it fell flat.
Again, here I wanted more. A lackluster writing style on top of all of my previous problems made the book a complete bore. Is it historical fiction, too? Another struggle was trying to find the setting. We get general clues, but I’m the type of reader who needs concrete evidence of a time period because I feel like I can settle into a book better.
Unfortunately, this was not the most spectacular read for me. It’s hard for me to say if I’d even want to read the sequel.
Check out these other reviews:
- Spines That Shine shared some similar problems I had with the book.
- Chloe at The Elven Warrior enjoyed the book despite a few issues.
- UnabridgedBren gave this book 5 stars!