“No matter what, you take care of what’s yours.”
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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED OCTOBER 29, 2019
CW: loss of a loved one, child death, alcoholism, graphic injury, violence, medical neglect, sexual harassment and assault, pedophilia, graphic childbirth
I’ve been waiting SO LONG to share this review (since I got onto Kelly’s Skeleton Crew, tbh), and it’s finally time! We’re just a hair over three weeks from pub day, and Gravemaidens is COMING. I’ve been trying to hype this book about sisters and dying royalty and soft LIs, but now I get to be completely up front about it, and it’s A DELIGHT.
I will start, though, by saying it’s not a full five stars because I was granted an eARC back in July, and some of the pacing and plot elements can be a little unbalanced and predictable. That said, there’s been time since then for even more updated ARCs to get out, not to mention the FINAL COPY, so I’m not terribly worried about the things I felt needed some adjustment. Chances are they’ve been fiddled with, and it’s a good book all the same even if they haven’t!
The main draw of Gravemaidens for me, though, is that this is the story of an eldest sister embroiled in a high stakes murder mystery set in a fantasy city. We all know I’m a huge fan of puzzling out murder mysteries before the main character gets there, but to have the main character be the oldest sister doing her all to protect her younger siblings while also chasing a career despite all the odds stacking up against her. And love and marriage and kids? No time for that, Kammani’s got a career as Alu’s best healer to chase!
Essentially, I see so much of myself in Kammani, and being able to relate on that level had me incredibly attached. It also had me wishing she was aro-spec, given her conflict about her relationship with Dagan, but even though that ship has sailed, at least Dagan is a good egg. A little oblivious and makes some mistakes, but ultimately a good egg, and far better than the broody bad boy LIs I’ve had to suffer through in the past.
Anyways, circling back to Kammani, she’s incredible. The best healer in Alu besides her incredibly talented father, she loves the work she does, and she wants more than anything to pursue that career. It’s not an easy path, but it obviously brings her so much pride. Which perhaps she has too much of, given that she clearly HATES asking for help, but I understand that completely.
I can also just see the reviews coming in that Kammani is “unlikable” and “a bitch” and what have you, and that she’s a horrible MC for not asking for help, and let me tell you: I will gladly square up with anyone who’s got that opinion. Kammani is only SIXTEEN, and is essentially the head of her family after losing her mother, her brother, and her father in various ways. She has so much to shoulder, and when Nanaea is slated for death so long as the lugal also dies, Kammani becomes responsible for saving the life of the man who rules her city, the same man who cast her family into shame. I don’t think there’s a human being alive well adjusted enough to handle all of that in stride, let alone a sixteen year old girl. Hell, all that she does accomplish is INCREDIBLE given how much is stacked on her plate and all the forces against her.
Of course, it helps that she has friends like Dagan and Iltani in her corner. While Dagan doesn’t quite always grasp exactly what’s most helpful, he sure as hell tries, especially after a mistake, and I can appreciate him. Meanwhile, Iltani is the troublemaker to Kammani’s responsible daughter/sister deal, and I love her sly matchmaking (even when it’s not so sly) and her commitment to doing right by her friend, whatever the dangers. Hell, I’d read a whole book with Iltani as the MC, but that’s because I always end up fond of the snarky, resourceful ones.
Really, there’s so much to love about Gravemaidens. There’s great characters, political powers, murder and more murder, and an ending that promises the sequel is going to swing even harder. Better yet, it suggests that the gross old men in the court lusting after the teenage Sacred Maidens and engineering the city-state of Alu to leave women in no position to stand up for themselves are going to get hell rained down on them, and GOD, do I hope they get what’s coming for them (preferably a stack of bricks dropped on them, crushing them to itty bitty bloody pieces, thanks).
If you’re looking for a political murder mystery with all kinds of sibling emotions and the looming threat of death, be sure to preorder Gravemaidens by October 29th, or request it through your local library! It’s a fantastic book, and as a local member of Kelly’s Skeleton Crew, I have to encourage you to give it a shot. Plus, we’re cruising headlong into spooky season! What’s a better time for a murder mystery, huh?