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I Belong

Review: Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Title: Graveminder

Author: Melissa Marr

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy/Horror

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 17, 2011

Format: Paperback, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062115162 (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062115164 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Kristie


Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn’t a funeral that Maylene didn’t attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”

Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place–and the man–she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D–a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk.

Quick & Dirty:  A darkly imaginative world and excellent storytelling but too many points of view make the story a little confusing at times.

Opening Sentence: Maylene put one hand atop the stone for support; pulling herself up from the soil got harder every year.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The town of Claysville holds a dangerous secret over their dead. For many generations Graveminders and Undertakers have taken care of the dead, either by minding their graves or returning them back to the land of the dead if they don’t rest properly. The town is under a strange spell/pact with Charles or Mr. D. as he likes to be called. The town is happily ignorant over the contract but the townsfolk have some nice protections. If you were born there you never want to leave or you always feel the pull to bring you back. If you do manage to leave town, you must consent to have your body brought back to be buried if you die. You are also protected from diseases until eighty years of age.

Rebekkah’s grandmother Maylene is murdered before she tells her of the heritage that has been thrust upon her. Rebekkah spent a few years following Maylene and her strange habits not realizing that she was being taught to be a Graveminder. Bek must return to town quickly to attend her grandmother’s funeral but as soon as the funeral is over she wants to leave town, her grandmother was the only reason she would come back to Claysville. Bek would never come back for Byron, her teenage crush and sometimes lover.

Byron is an Undertaker, in name and in trade. His father was Maylene’s Undertaker and just like Rebekkah, Byron doesn’t know about his heritage until after Maylene dies. They have a tragic history that Bek just can’t get over. She blames herself and Byron for her step-sisters suicide so she will not allow herself any happiness with him.

The world Melissa Marr creates is darkly imaginative. The dead don’t always stay dead in the town of Claysville. In order for the dead to stay in the ground a Graveminder must follow a ritual with drink, food and words. If someone rises from the dead, the Undertaker helps the Graveminder lure them into the land of the dead for only he can lead the way. The land of the dead is another unique place that has its own rules. Byron sees it as a drab, colorless world while for Rebekkah it is vibrant and beautiful, the food she eats there is better than in the live world.

Marr’s writing is easy to follow and the short chapters make Graveminder flow effortlessly. There were a few concerns that I had. Graveminders and Undertakers are naturally attracted to each other. Bek and Byron don’t know this, Bek is always trying to fight off her attraction to Byron even when it seems like she gives in to it. When Byron finds out that their attraction isn’t exactly fate, he is pissed at first but then he quickly gets over it and it is never an issue again. Graveminder has many points of view, many townspeople just had one chapter, some added to the story, others didn’t, it was a little hard to follow all the characters introduced and what part they played in the story. I felt like the bulk of the book followed Byron which was fine because I thought he was the most level headed of the people in the book. I liked Byron way better than Bek, I felt she was a little too whiney at times, especially as she kept trying to push Byron away but would then send him mixed signals.

Overall, Graveminder is an intriguing new look at death, the dead and those who take care of them. If there is ever a sequel planned, I would like to see more of Mr. D., the land where the dead live and more about the history of exactly what happened to make a Gravefinder necessary.

Notable Scene:

Charlie held out the pen, and the musicians stopped all at once as if they’d been cut off. They, much like everything else since Byron had arrived in the land of the dead, seemed to be under the control of the man currently watching him expectantly. Byron wasn’t eager to be under anyone’s control. “What’s my part? You talked about the Graveminder, but what is it that I’m supposed to be promising to do?”

Charlie smiled magnanimously. “The very thing you want, Byron, the thing you’ve wanted since Ella died: you protect our Rebekkah. You love her. You keep her from wanted death.”

Bryon fixed his gaze on Charlie. “Can you come to our side?”

“If the Undertaker and the Graveminder do their job, none of the dead will come to your town. Your children will stay in the town, be safe from . . . well, quite a few things. Your town will stay strong, safe, flourish, all that rot.” Charlie tapped the scroll. “It’s all there in the fine print, spelled out in black and white.”

“It’s simply the order of things, Byron.” William’s voice was weary. “Go ahead.”

“Why? You expect me just to . . .” Byron backed from the table. “No. You’re not thinking clearly, but I am. Let’s go.”

He turned and made it as far as the door before he heard his father’s voice: “You drank with the dead, son. You sign, or you stay.”

Byron put his hand on the door, but he didn’t open it. His father had knowingly brought him here and put him in this predicament.

“I’m sorry,” William added softly. “There are traditions. This is one of them.”

“You’re old man is right.” Charlie’s voice echoed in the quiet room. “Make your choice.”

FTC Advisory: The author provided me with a copy of Graveminder. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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