Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1) by Kelly Coon
Publication Date: October 29th 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Fantasy / High Fantasy
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.
*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***
Gravemaidens was unique and fascinating fantasy that take place in ancient land where sacred maidens were chosen to bury along with dead king i.e. Gravemaidens. It revolved around this concept, a healer and her journey trying to save her sister who was chosen to be one of the gravemaiden. It was about injustice and ill-treatment towards low class people and women, ancient dogmatic tradition and cruel practices, family, friendship, sisterhood, grief and loss and how people react to it differently.
Kammani was brave and strong willed young healer. She dreamed to be best healer in the city like her father and followed his footstep ever since she was a child. I adored her love for family. She kept her promise to her dead mother and became breadwinner, a mother to her young siblings and a daughter who supported her father who was lost in grief and alcohol. But she was also very flawed character. I didn’t appreciate Kammani’s stubborn nature towards Dagan and his love. It was clear she loved him but never admitted it and kept pushing his love away and also any help and support from her best friend Iltani. The reasons she gave felt empty. I could see why near the end but still it was a bit annoying. I adored her for not leaving her family behind and risking her life to save them.
Iltani and Dagan were the best in the book. They kept the tension and my annoyance at bay. Iltani was character I would love to be friends with. You never get bore with her. She had a way to every problem. Her impromptu plans, bold nature, and smart mouth made me smile whenever she appeared in the story. Dagan was sweet. He was gentle, generous and humble handsome farmer’s son. I instantly liked him and I was ready to swap places with Kammani telling her ‘girl you can have your dream and let me have this charming man’. 😉
All secondary characters fit in their role perfectly. Most of them were naïve and stupid specially Nanaea. Villain was evil, chilling and full of deceit.
What I liked-
That cover is perfect for the story. Writing was great. It gave life to interesting characters and brilliant setting. Book was first person narrative that started with Kammani introducing her world, traditions of Alu and her family. How they were cast out, what happened to her mother and father since then, how unfair Lural (king) was to her family and how she hated the concept of sacred maidens. Her world turned upside down when her sister was announced as one of the maidens. And so her journey started towards saving Lural and so her sister from being buried with him.
I was curious to know how she was going to save the king. As soon as she entered the palace and started healing king I knew who was behind such cunning plan, where the story will head and if she will succeed in saving king and her sister. I must say author did great job at misleading my guesses and I almost believed them. I enjoyed finding answers and culprit, reading the twist and turns, and learning more about the world along with Kammani’s journey.
What I loved most was the world. The city – Alu, kingdom, palace and its structure, market, people and their orthodox nature, their discriminating mentality, blind belief in their religion and tradition was brilliantly displayed. It made sense as the story was set in the ancient world where they still used tablets not paper. I also liked the some Mesopotamian mythical aspects, the God Enlil they worshiped and story of boatman they believed in so religiously. All descriptions were vivid. Ancient treatments methods, childbirth, tonics and tinctures were well researched. As a pharmacist I loved reading this part of the book. Author’s note at the end was enlightening. Few things in the book like burial rituals of royalty and treatment to lower class and women were actually facts and was inspired from the Sumerian history.
Another thing that I loved was Kammani’s family, their history and what happened to them. It was emotional and it pained me to see Kammani grow so fast without letting herself grieve, and pushing away all the help she needed. Her relationship with her sister was strained and frustrating but it developed near climax and I loved how it grew by the end of the book.
Message behind the story was nice. It was about giving yourself time to grieve, not push others away who meant well for you specially your loved ones. How loss and grief affects differently and how one can turn evil if they let their grief fester in them.
Pace was bumpy, first 30% was steady, middle part was bit slow, but after 60% story pick up the speed. Twist and turns were simply amazing. Climax was surprising, shocking, and tense. I absolutely loved the end and I’m curious to see where Kammani’s journey will take her and what they will decide to do in next book.
Why 4 Stars-
Half of the story was predictable. I guessed most of the turns. As I said I was bit annoyed with main character.
Overall, it enjoyable, enthralling, and fascinating fantasy with interesting ancient world and characters.
What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book already? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is your favorite high fantasy?
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