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Gravemaidens

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Gravemaidens

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Wow! There were some evil bastards in this book with some graphic violence! But all is well my peeps, you can skim over those little portions! I, myself would like to set fire to those evil beings but that is neither here nor there. I love this freaking book and can we take a moment to love that cover?! I can't wait to have the finished copy in my hands! Anywayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...... At times you do want to smack some people, including the main character, but that happens. Kammani is the MC Wow! There were some evil bastards in this book with some graphic violence! But all is well my peeps, you can skim over those little portions! I, myself would like to set fire to those evil beings but that is neither here nor there. I love this freaking book and can we take a moment to love that cover?! I can't wait to have the finished copy in my hands! Anywayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...... At times you do want to smack some people, including the main character, but that happens. Kammani is the MC in this book and she's a healer. K has studied under her father who is said to be the best healer in the whole place. But things happened and he isn't any more. Kammani's best friend is Iltani and I loved her so much. She's fun, spunky and does whatever she has to help her friends. We also have Dagan, well I fell right in love with him. I wanted to smack Kammani for putting him off so much. He's a big love muffin and I ... well.. anyway, moving away from there. They have this creepy arse ceremony that they put three beautiful girls in with some royal jerk when he dies. Yeah, I know right?! I won't say anything else about that because of spoilers. Kammni's sister is chosen to be one of the maidens. Her sister is thrilled because she is dumb. Kammni on the other hand tries to find a way to get her sister out of this horrible fate. K ends up trying to save the king dude so that she can save her sister. K finds out all kinds of evil things are going on and thus chaos ensues. I thought the book was well written, had a great cast, and I'm looking forward to the second book. Gravemaidens is said to be a duology so it won't have that second book syndrome and will hopefully end well for all of those involved! *Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for a copy of this book for review. Happy Reading! Mel ♥ MY BLOG

  2. 5 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    **4.5-stars** In the walled-city of Alu, three maidens get chosen when the ruler dies to accompany him into the underworld. This tradition is deeply engrained and accepted within the society. Essentially a death sentence, being chosen is nonetheless viewed as a great honor. When our story begins, the ruler is currently on the brink of death. Kammani's father is a great healer, although disgraced after a former royal patient's death, he gets summoned to the kingdom to attend to the ruler. **4.5-stars** In the walled-city of Alu, three maidens get chosen when the ruler dies to accompany him into the underworld. This tradition is deeply engrained and accepted within the society. Essentially a death sentence, being chosen is nonetheless viewed as a great honor. When our story begins, the ruler is currently on the brink of death. Kammani's father is a great healer, although disgraced after a former royal patient's death, he gets summoned to the kingdom to attend to the ruler. Unfortunately, somewhere along th way he mysteriously disappears, never getting to tend to the sick man. Kammani has been training under her father's tutelage for many years. She dreams of one day being the best healer in all the land. When her sister gets chosen to be one of the ruler's maidens, and her father cannot be found, Kammani takes it upon herself to get into the kingdom and prevent the ruler's death. If she doesn't, she could lose her sister as well; the only family she has left. Once in the kingdom, Kammani feels like something sinister is going on. After a botched attempt on her life, she knows she must be close to the truth. I truly enjoyed this world. I felt it was rich and well built. In my head I was picturing Astapor, 'the red city', from Game of Thrones. A world sharply divided between haves and have-nots. It was brutal and dangerous with a healthy dose of palace intrigue. I really loved these characters and how the story unfolded. There is a lot of beautiful writing in here on grief and sacrifice. The love of family is a strong theme throughout and some of the dialogue between Kammani and her slightly pouty younger sister, Nanaea, had me in tears. I did get frustrated with Kammani now and again over some of her choices but overall, I understood her motivations and felt attached to her character. I think we left it at a perfect spot for the continuation and I look forward to the battle that I know will be taking place. It's bound to be epic! Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press and Random House Children's, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This is such an impressive debut with a lush, dangerous world, one I cannot wait to return to! Well done, Kelly Coon. Well done!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest So, at first I was like , but then I was like , and then I was like , but then I was like , with a little bit of , and when I went to write my review I was like . Basically, the evolution of my disappointment with GRAVEMAIDENS. It promised me something dark and dangerous, and ended up being just another book in the long litany of the Basic Girl Fantasy canon. **contains very mild spoilers** GRAVEMAIDENS is set in a world that seems to draw Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest So, at first I was like 😍, but then I was like 😏, and then I was like 😐, but then I was like 😶, with a little bit of 🙄, and when I went to write my review I was like 🙃. Basically, the evolution of my disappointment with GRAVEMAIDENS. It promised me something dark and dangerous, and ended up being just another book in the long litany of the Basic Girl Fantasy™ canon. **contains very mild spoilers** GRAVEMAIDENS is set in a world that seems to draw inspiration from Ancient Egypt/Ancient Sumerian society. Kammani, the main character, is a healer. Her parents are both dead and her family is in disgrace after her father failed to heal the royal son. Now the king (called a lugal) is dying and Kammani is called in to save him virtually as the same time as her younger sister Nanaea is given the "honor" of becoming a Sacred Maiden, basically part of the king's death harem that will join him in the afterlife when he dies-- and yes, that means murder. Kammani has to save the king from dying and save her dumb younger sister from being ritualistically killed, but when she gets closer to the royal court she discovers all kinds of sneaky goings-on that suggest that nothing is really as it seems. Which sounds like it should be really good, right? Nothing gets me hook, line, and sinker like a hot court intrigue novel, and if it's got scheming and murder and danger, so much the better. The problem is, well, several things. I don't think the world was adequately developed, for one. All the terms were very confusing and I didn't really get much context for what Kammani's world was like. Except for some bursts of startling violence that seemed to be there to show some "stakes," everything was very bland. Second, the way the characters all talked was very modern and didn't really fit in with the Ancient Society vibe this book had going on. Third, Kammani was a totally repulsive little twit. So much whining. She's one of those characters who's beautiful but doesn't know it and claims to be so smart but makes all the dumb mistakes. Minor spoiler, but for a character who is supposed to know ALL the plants and remedies, she doesn't know poison when she sees it? As the French say, Quel dumbage. None of the other characters were that much better. Nanaea was also annoying, and since Kammani is supposed to be involved in this to save her, it felt extra unbelievable because there was literally no lost love between them. None. Every time the two of them were together, they were fighting. Somebody didn't get the character/world-building memo. I think GRAVEMAIDENS had a good initial concept but it just ended up feeling too derivative, reminiscent of books that had similar concepts but did it better. I pushed myself to the end because I was hoping for a twist that might end up saving the book, but it ended up being a convoluted mess that felt like a stretch and really tested some of the character development we'd seen so far (especially what she did with two in particular, and their conveniently deteriorated mental states-- it didn't make ANY sense). I'm trying to keep this vague, because I don't want to spoil anything major for those who are still excited about reading the book, but if you get to the end I think you'll know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. This was a disappointment-- and from the sequel-baiting at the end, there isn't a whole lot of closure here, either. Yikes. I'm sorry to say it, but this was a huge disappointment. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 2 to 2.5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    3.5 rounded definitely up to four, are you all set to teleport yourself into a fairy tale meets fantasy meets historical romantic journey, if you nod passionately, stop staring with your mouth open and join this amazing j voyage because you feel hooked from the first pages and you don’t want to put it down stars! Raise your hands to clap because there is a new author in the literature town and we should welcome Kelly Coon with open arms. Because we need good minds, creative genius brains and we 3.5 rounded definitely up to four, are you all set to teleport yourself into a fairy tale meets fantasy meets historical romantic journey, if you nod passionately, stop staring with your mouth open and join this amazing j voyage because you feel hooked from the first pages and you don’t want to put it down stars! Raise your hands to clap because there is a new author in the literature town and we should welcome Kelly Coon with open arms. Because we need good minds, creative genius brains and we really need good books to read! Because our time is precious, our mind needs more vivid journeys and our hearts needs warming feelings that only a heart-embracing book can give. The book is centered on Kammani’s story who is a healer, lost both of her parents. Her brother was given to another family with the ruler’s order and now she is about to lose her only family member, her sister Nanaea who was chosen to be one of the sacred maidens will join the ruler in the afterlife. THE THINGS I LOVED: Story pacing that captures your full concentration and attention, take your mind off from your daily stress and bring you to this fantasy land. It was entertaining page-turner make you want to know what’s going to happen next. As a hero (He actually seemed like a supporting character because there were too many women characters on this book which also made me happy) DAGAN is honest, devoted, strong, carrying all the great attributes of best book boyfriend but sometimes I thought he acted like doormat of heroine (DON’T BLAME HIM! BLAME THE HEROINE WHO DOESN’T SHOW HIM THE RESPECT HE DESERVED.) And best of the best friend forever, amazing supporting character ILTANI; unpredictable, bat-shit crazy, amazingly loyal and supporting friend, sarcastic, witty and funny is completely my favorite character. (As you can see I wrote DAGAN and ILTANI’s names in big letters, you can imagine how I loved them.) THE THINGS I HATE: I want to yell at Kammani: “Why are you so stubborn and choosing unhappiness? You’re not carrying all the word’s weight on your shoulders. Cheer up! Stop being serious and kiss Dagan!” And Nanaea, did you leave your brain cells at the coat room before entering this fantasy world? She’s so happy to be chosen as maiden. She’s going to be trapped in a tomb with dead body and die but she thinks this is honor! ( Yeap, maybe before being a character of this book she watched too much episodes of Bachelor and lost the rest of her grey cells). She just made some moves to Dagan even she knows her sister has feelings for him.( You broke the sister code, you bitch :)))) So I fantasized to punch on her spoiled brat face thousand times which made me smile.( Okay, not smile, evil laugh like Cardi B’s) Those two sisters really annoyed me but I mostly liked the writing, story development and pacing. It’s a good start for debut novel. I didn’t know it was duology before I started. So I little disappointed because I have to wait for my second book to read the end of the characters’ story. QUICK NOTE TO THE WRITER: I loved Iltica too much and as a kind request I wish she has her own book after the ending of the duology. This is such a passionate and vivid character. I liked to read more about her adventures. PS: I hope in second book, Kammani gets her head out her ass and pay more attention to Dagan’s charms. Sincerely Your new fan who supports you to write new novels sooner than ever. Nilufer Special thanks to Delacorte Press and NetGalley to provide me this beautiful ARC COPY in exchange my honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    3.5 stars. This is the kind of commercial fantasy that you read, enjoy and then completely forget about. But I guess in this particular case I’m not allowed to forget about it because there will be a second and final book that will wrap up the story and decide Kammani’s fate once and for all. To be honest, this book made me hate the concept of duologies. In some cases—rare cases—they work well and actually help deliver a good story without making the reader feel as though the entire book was cut 3.5 stars. This is the kind of commercial fantasy that you read, enjoy and then completely forget about. But I guess in this particular case I’m not allowed to forget about it because there will be a second and final book that will wrap up the story and decide Kammani’s fate once and for all. To be honest, this book made me hate the concept of duologies. In some cases—rare cases—they work well and actually help deliver a good story without making the reader feel as though the entire book was cut in two with a sharp money-maker knife. Unfortunately, I felt the knife at work in this one. But I was pretty entertained as well. It’s a fast-paced fantasy that contains a mystery case, cute predictable romance and lots of tense but fun sisterly interactions. Family is very important to Kammani; although I did feel at times that her wish to have her sister close to her was selfish. That she didn’t want to be left alone more than she didn’t want Nanaea to go to the Netherworld (die). She was also very dramatic and always stressed out. Her stress was justified but really I wanted to scream at her, ‘‘CALM DOWN!’’ so many times. Regardless, despite that (or maybe because of it), I kept on reading, really interested to learn more about the Netherworld and cheering Kammani on as she basically tried to bring a very important person down in order to save herself and her sister. I don’t like that this is a duology but I do like the writing, fast pacing, stressed out heroine and mystery component. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    All US and International pre-orders can submit proof of purchase HERE to receive a special package including enamel pin, bookmark, laptop sticker, signed bookplate, and exclusive deleted scene. I think my 3 stars are more a case of "it's not the book, it's me". I've read SO many YA fantasies touting unique ideas that promise a different sort of heroine, and unfortunately I've just read too many of these stories with the same basic girl dropped into a new setting. I think there are so many readers All US and International pre-orders can submit proof of purchase HERE to receive a special package including enamel pin, bookmark, laptop sticker, signed bookplate, and exclusive deleted scene. I think my 3 stars are more a case of "it's not the book, it's me". I've read SO many YA fantasies touting unique ideas that promise a different sort of heroine, and unfortunately I've just read too many of these stories with the same basic girl dropped into a new setting. I think there are so many readers who will love this one, and while there are a few scenes that may seem dark and disturbing, if you're a regular consumer of dark fiction this likely won't feel oppressive to you. The author is one of the kindest, most sincere individuals I've had the pleasure of chatting with, and I wish her all the success in this duology! *ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley.

  7. 4 out of 5

    C.G. Drews

    It's really nice to see epic fantasies featuring STEM girls don't get me wrong, I love warriors. But this is a different sort of strength and war, so it was great to read about Kammani who is a talented teenage healer and has to stop the king from dying so her sister isn't buried alive with him as part of a sacred ritual. The world was very Middle-Easter inspired, but all names and customs were fictional, and it's family focused over romance focused, which was also refreshing. (Although totally It's really nice to see epic fantasies featuring STEM girls 😌🙌🏻don't get me wrong, I love warriors. But this is a different sort of strength and war, so it was great to read about Kammani who is a talented teenage healer and has to stop the king from dying so her sister isn't buried alive with him as part of a sacred ritual. The world was very Middle-Easter inspired, but all names and customs were fictional, and it's family focused over romance focused, which was also refreshing. (Although totally loved the "we're suppose to be betrothed but I don't want to marry right now" vibe because it was softly angsty and nice.) Definitely one for epic fantasy lovers who want to read about healing with a little murder mystery thrown in.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Glenn Marsh

    Official comments: A dark and utterly enthralling journey to an ancient land, Gravemaidens grabs you by your beating heart and refuses to let go until the bitter, breathtaking end. Unofficial comments: FREAKING AMAZING!!!!! I loved the cast of Gravemaidens so much, I'm not even sure who I ship! PLEASE JUST READ IT SO YOU CAN FANGIRL WITH ME!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    You can also read my review here: https://devouringbooks2017.wordpress.... Gravemaidens went on my wish list the second that I saw its cover. I had my fingers crossed hoping that I could get an advanced review copy. When I did I had the hardest time waiting until closer to publication to actually read it. After many of my most anticipated releases of the second half of 2019 wound up disappointing me I was so pleased when Gravemaidens turned out to be an incredible read. I am so grateful to be on You can also read my review here: https://devouringbooks2017.wordpress.... Gravemaidens went on my wish list the second that I saw its cover. I had my fingers crossed hoping that I could get an advanced review copy. When I did I had the hardest time waiting until closer to publication to actually read it. After many of my most anticipated releases of the second half of 2019 wound up disappointing me I was so pleased when Gravemaidens turned out to be an incredible read. I am so grateful to be on Kelly's street team and to be a part of this book's release because It was amazing and I would love to be the person to introduce this book to someone. Hope was a wonderful, terrible thing. It made you long for things you had no possibility of gaining. The world building was incredibly well done. The vivid descriptions brought this rich world to life, making it easy to visualize every scene of the story without bogging down the pace of the plot. I also loved how throughout the story the reader saw how many of the people viewed the Sacred Maiden ritual as such a great honor. It truly showed just how much faith they had in their religion. I was truly amazed at how much research must have gone into this novel. In this book the citizens worshiped Enlil, who was a god worshiped by ancient Sumerians and much of the culture in this book seemed to be influenced by Sumerian culture as well. The main character Kammani was a healer and the herbal healing practices seemed well researched and were vividly described as well. These vivid descriptions of culture and healing practices really helped make the book feel realistic. "I have plans to be as great of an A-zu as Abum was. And a woman cannot do everything she wants." The characters had me incredibly invested in this story and its plot. Gravemaidens was an emotional roller coaster and I was rooting for Kammani every step of the way, even when I wanted to shake her for her choices. Kammani had to grow up fast and take responsibility for her family at a young age. She could be quite cynical, but she was also incredibly determined and she would do absolutely anything to save her sister Nanaea. In comparison Nanaea seemed so young and naive. Nanaea had a taste for the finer things and she clearly had no clue just how much Kammani sacrificed for her on a daily basis. The story of these two sisters got me by the heart strings as Kammani's loyalty and love for Nanaea had no bounds. If I could picture my future exactly as I wished, I'd be a healer, living alone or with a man who understood I didn't want a brood of children to take care of. Or, worse, babies who died or girls who were put to death on a whim. Not I. I'd take care of all the people of Alu instead. I'd work throughout the city setting broken legs, healing breathing ailments, and tearing the sick right out of the Boatman's arms. I had the hardest time setting this book down. I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading and got up at 6 a.m. so that I could fit in a bit more of the book before work. The plot was so intense at times and the world building was so rich, but it was the characters that truly got my heart and made this story so incredible. I am so happy that this is going to be a series, even though it felt like it was a stand alone story. I can't wait to return to this world and these sisters again. The ache to melt into him was overpowering. To give in to the strength of his arms and to be a girl again for one second, not someone who had to bear the weight of her family on her shoulders. The need for it was so strong, I could feel my resolve giving way.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Candace Robinson

    This one was a bit of a slow read and sometimes that works but it made it hard for me to connect to the plot. I think my main frustration was how the MC was to the love interest. Like not sure if there just should have been no romance? Anyway, the cover is seriously beautiful and so is that title!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Who Reads

    I'M GOING TO START THIS SOON AND I AM SO READY AHH pretty covers are my weakness so are powerful women anD MOTHS exciement levels: through the roof Thank you so much to Random House and Netgalley for the digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gita Trelease

    Like your historical fantasy thrilling and fast-paced? Set in a time period you’ve been dying to immerse yourself in? Full of compelling characters, including sinister villains and a strong heroine? If so, read on! GRAVEMAIDENS tells the story of Kammani, a healer’s apprentice, who must use what skills and medicines she has to stop the king from dying—and taking her little sister into the grave with him. But when intrigue at the palace turns deadly, it will take all Kammani’s strength, smarts, Like your historical fantasy thrilling and fast-paced? Set in a time period you’ve been dying to immerse yourself in? Full of compelling characters, including sinister villains and a strong heroine? If so, read on! GRAVEMAIDENS tells the story of Kammani, a healer’s apprentice, who must use what skills and medicines she has to stop the king from dying—and taking her little sister into the grave with him. But when intrigue at the palace turns deadly, it will take all Kammani’s strength, smarts, and ingenuity to save herself and her family. Kelly Coon’s atmospheric writing and lively dialogue will draw you into the story while the plot’s exciting twists and turns will keep you turning pages until the very end.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (The Reader & The Chef)

    This book was not for me. It took me so long to reach page 200 and I never got around to sympathizing with the main character’s goal to save her sister (I did not like the sister to begin with) and she’s supposed to be great at healing but she ends up not being that great... this confused me. Sigh, was so excited for this one but it disappointed me. :(

  14. 4 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice The book that I’m getting ready to talk about explores the bond of sisterhood, and how one young woman will do everything in her power to save her beloved sister from a tradition that is drenched in beauty and death. Readers will also be treated to the power struggle between genders, and the strength that women have to overcome their struggles in a heavily misogynistic society. There’s so much to love about this story, the Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice The book that I’m getting ready to talk about explores the bond of sisterhood, and how one young woman will do everything in her power to save her beloved sister from a tradition that is drenched in beauty and death. Readers will also be treated to the power struggle between genders, and the strength that women have to overcome their struggles in a heavily misogynistic society. There’s so much to love about this story, the ferocity of family struggles, the pain of loss, and the gentle hand of romance to temper all of these fierce emotions. It’s part of a duology, and I can’t wait until I can get my hands on the next book! In Gravemaidens, Kammani is the daughter of the former greatest healer in the city-state of Alu. She’s working hard to be the healer her father used to be, after their family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, three Gravemaidens are chosen: beautiful maidens that will accompany him in the afterlife…and Kammani’s sister, Nanaea, is one of the maidens chosen to receive the honour. Kammani is the only one to see past the honour and cherished tradition for what it is: a death sentence. In her desperation she schemes her way into the castle to heal the ruler. However, she soon realises that there’s more danger in the palace in those corridors than she could have ever imagined, and her life and heart are at stake. Her only hope is to work quickly, otherwise, she might also become a sacrifice. From the moment you start this story, Kammani’s desperate conditions are palpable. You can tell she’s a young woman who’s had to grow up very quickly because of her circumstances, and this makes her very strong-willed and stubborn. She’s a fascinating character because I’ll admit, I didn’t really like her or Nanaea at the beginning. However, Kammani is very multifaceted, and with each passing chapter, you get to see more of her: anguish, pain, regret, anger, and love. While those are a lot of negative emotions, they bring out a tenderness and fearlessness within her that you didn’t see at the beginning. She’s a woman of very few friends, but an increasing number of enemies. Nanaea on the other hand, embodies a young woman resentful of her situation and just doing her best to survive rather than make a good life for herself. She’s definitely a little spoiled, and when she’s selected as a Gravemaiden, that personality trait seems to grow ten-fold. Although, if you read really closely, you’ll see a sprinkling of things throughout the book that hint that Nanaea’s personality is much deeper than you might think. She reminded me of a glacier, a seemingly shallow chunk of ice that’s hiding quite a few layers underneath. I think readers will love seeing that aspect of her personality when they get there. Dagan and Iltani were also treasures, they made perfect contrasts to Kammani and Nanaea’s personalities very well. The dialogue between Iltani and Kammani is hilarious, and Dagan is such a sweet man. There is a love story in this book, but it doesn’t take the center stage here. I could highlight quite a few themes that are touched on in this book, but the relationship between sisters is definitely number one. The discussion of beauty and death are also heavily discussed, as well as misogyny and cultural “traditions”. One of my favourite themes was the idea that beauty is transcendent, which is why the maidens are chosen as “tradition”. The women in this story are the key players, attempting to break down the walls that the men have built up. Gravemaidens moves at a faster pace than I would have liked, but only because I wanted a little more background on some of the things that are happening in the story. I would say it leans more toward a character-driven story, as it is told in the first person point of view (Kammani). The first person perspective does make it harder to world-build, so there were moments where it felt a little disjointed because we were getting backstory. I’m also hoping that readers might get to revisit Alu, because I felt like there were some loose ends that weren’t addressed in this book. Overall, I would rate this book an 8/10. It’s a great read with great discussions on some heavier but important themes. If you’re easily triggered, there is death and assault in this book, so if these things bother you, please read with caution.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Coon

    Gravemaidens is beautifully written with compelling characters and an ending that leaves you wanting to read more and more. Kelly Coon has artfully crafted one of the most exciting novels to hit the young adult market and you won’t regret the choice to join Kammani and her fight against injustice.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    **A free copy was given to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ** This is the kind of book that would have been amazing, if not for a few reasons. 1. The female lead was veeeery frustrating. Kammani is one stressed character. She’s the kind that will try to lift the world on her shoulders... ALONE. Sometimes, that’s a good thing but in this case, it was not. All it did was lead her into stupid decisions. It’s one thing to be brave but it’s **A free copy was given to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ** This is the kind of book that would have been amazing, if not for a few reasons. 1. The female lead was veeeery frustrating. Kammani is one stressed character. She’s the kind that will try to lift the world on her shoulders... ALONE. Sometimes, that’s a good thing but in this case, it was not. All it did was lead her into stupid decisions. It’s one thing to be brave but it’s another thing to be brave and stupid. 2. The plot was predictable. A story based on the real history of human sacrifice is very promising. I went into this thinking of an elaborate plot full of twists and turns. Unfortunately, it was far from what I expected. The bad guys were obvious from the start and only Kammani was stupid enough to believe otherwise. Honestly, it frustrates me how easily she was led into believing something that wasn’t true. It is like watching an impending crash from miles away: wanting but powerless to stop it. 3. This could have been a stand-alone instead of a duology. There are duologies that made sense because a lot of things can still happen (read Strange the Dreamer). And there are duologies like this which got split into two for the sake of it, thereby dragging the conclusion in the process. 4. Some parts of the plot didn’t make sense to me. It’s hard to describe this without spoiling too much so I’ll be vague. Suppose you were to pretend to be someone. Would people really believe it just because you were at the right place and covered by a veil, even if you had crutches while the person you were pretending to be clearly did not? Also, when someone accuses you of murder, do you immediately be a bit nice to them, even comforting them in their grief? Even a good person needs time after something like that. "Inaction can be just as bad as the wrong action." Although there were things I didn’t like in this book, I also have to give credit where it is due. This book also had its good points. 1. It was easy to read and quite entertaining. I cannot deny that I did sit through several hours reading this. It is proof that I did like reading it, although I was stressed and frustrated most of the time. 2. The male lead was adorable. I really liked Dagan because he is loyal and reliable. Honestly, he is too good for Kammani. He doesn’t deserve the way she treated him! So, the most important question is, will I read the second book? Probably. I just hope it will be better than this. "Hope was a wonderful, terrible thing. It could make you long for things you had no possibility of gaining." Review can also be found on my blog. Find me: Blog | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | Spotify

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Housman Confessions of a YA Reader

    Gravemaidens was such a pleasant surprise for me. I loved the cover and knew it sounded good, but I still worried a bit. I think what thrilled me the most about this book is that there was a big mystery. The world building was easy to follow and I had no problems remembering the characters. I'm going to start with the warnings because there are some heavy topics in this book. I'm sorry if I miss any. Death, murder, torture/abuse/beatings/whippings, mention of suicide, young girls being sacrificed Gravemaidens was such a pleasant surprise for me.  I loved the cover and knew it sounded good, but I still worried a bit.   I think what thrilled me the most about this book is that there was a big mystery.  The world building was easy to follow and I had no problems remembering the characters.   I'm going to start with the warnings because there are some heavy topics in this book.  I'm sorry if I miss any.  Death, murder, torture/abuse/beatings/whippings, mention of suicide, young girls being sacrificed to go with a much older man to the afterlife, stillbirth, verbal sexual assault, stripping of clothes and groping, child/baby death, taking of a child, alcoholism, poverty and horrible treatment by status, mention of mental illness, girls expected to marry (16-17 years old) and just have children. Kammani wants nothing more than to be the healer her father is (was).  She started following and helping him at a young age and she's good.  But he's the best.  Unfortunately, he couldn't save the ruler's son.  In return, they were stripped of their status and the ruler took him son, Kasha, to live and serve at his palace.   Kammani's father tried to heal when he could to keep food on their table.  He was gone one night when her mother went into labor for the fourth time.  Kammani was young and did everything she could.  Her mother and child passed.  Kammani's father had so much grief that he started drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Kammani became the mother, healer when he couldn't go it, and the money maker.  They were still hungry and barely getting by.  Her best male friend wants to marry her and he is above them in status.  Kammani has feelings for him, but she wants to be a healer, not a stay at home mother.   Whenever the Lugal is ill, three maidens were chosen to live in the palace.  They have festivals and spoil them.  But if the Lugal dies, then all three girls are sacrificed to go with him to the afterlife where they will basically be his wives.  These girls are 15-16.  Most chosen are high status and beautiful.  Kammani is one of the few who think this is not something to celebrate.  It's death, not an honor as it's portrayed.  She's never really worried about her sister, Nanea.  Even though she's gorgeous, their family was shamed.   Three young women were going to die.  They'd step onto the Boatman's skiff and shove off toward the Netherworld. When the new girls were chosen, things seem different.  Simti was chosen first and she was poor.  The second was Huna, a wealthy girl.  And the third was Nanea.  While Nanea was thrilled, Kammani decided she must do anything she could to save her sister.  Using Kasha and Dagan, the healer was to be sent to the palace to try to save the Lugal.  Shortly after, they summoned Kammani.  When she gets there, she finds out that her father never made it.  She was told he died and assumed he was killed for not healing the Lugal. While trying to figure out what was wrong with the Lugal, Kammani finds out secrets about her father and the Lugal's family.  The Lugal's daughter, Nin Arwia, is the last heir.  She wants to be friends with Kammani, but she has the most to gain if her father dies. Because I can't talk about the plot much without spoilers, I want to mention a couple other characters that I ended up loving.  There is one palace guard, Nasu, that was honorable.  He was healed by Kammani's father years before and felt he owed a debt.  The other is Iltani.  She is Kammani's best friend and she might be my favorite character in the book.  She is so snarky and funny.  The kind of person who will do anything for the people she loves and isn't worried if it's dangerous. She smiled devilishly.  "I was hoping I'd have something illegal to do."  I snickered.  Of course she did.  The ending was interesting and I'm very curious to see where the story goes in book two.  I stayed up to read the last three hours of the book last night because I had to know what would happen. I gave this book 4  1/2 stars, rounded up to 5 stars.  All quotes taken from arc and may change with the finished copy.  Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for my review copy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kal ★ Reader Voracious

    Thank you, Delacorte Press, for sending my an ARC of Gravemaidens for review!Holy hell, this book. THIS BOOK. What a beautiful story about love and sacrifice. I laughed, I cried. Sometimes at the same time. This was the best book to buddy read because it features such an iconic ride or die friendship, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this with Haley & Ruby. You can read some of our thoughts in this twitter thread as we read the book. "It was a tradition almost everyone considered an Thank you, Delacorte Press, for sending my an ARC of Gravemaidens for review!🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋Holy hell, this book. THIS BOOK. What a beautiful story about love and sacrifice. I laughed, I cried. Sometimes at the same time. This was the best book to buddy read because it features such an iconic ride or die friendship, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this with Haley & Ruby. You can read some of our thoughts in this twitter thread as we read the book. "It was a tradition almost everyone considered an honor. Everyone but me." All that you really need to know about the plot is provided in the synopsis: the Lugal (king) is dying, and that means that three gravemaidens have been chosen to usher his soul into the afterlife. But when Kammani's sister is chosen as one of the sacrifices, she vows to use her knowledge of healing to save the lives of not on the Lugal, but Nanaea as well. "We can never know for certain what lies beyond the grave. It could be an honor. But it could be emptiness. Or horror. We won't know until we cross the river ourselves." The worldbuilding is fantastic. I love the way that Coon unfurled the belief system and traditions of the world through a scared child and oral storytelling. I found the book to be fast-paced and engaging, the stars of the show are definitely the characters and their complex relationships with one another. Their desires are all in conflict with one another, but the driving force for each of them is love. Since this is a single-POV narrative, I really enjoyed watching Kammani try to reconcile her beliefs and desires with that of her own. I think there was good growth on her part depicted and I am looking forward to seeing a bit more from Nanaea in the second part of this duology. The characters act blissfully their age, and I think Coon did a good job depicting the thought process of teenagers and their impulsivity. You know how it is when you think you don't want a thing, but then your actions tell a different story and you don't understand why. (No, I do not want to go back to high school, never ever.) Not only that, but they are allowed to make their decisions and mistakes - which is an important part of growing up. "It's your life, child. But I hope you realize you may regret the decision not to speak up and accept love when it's right under your nose. Trust me on that." One part of the story that really speaks to me personally is Kammani's uncertainty surrounding the societal expectations of marriage and bearing children. I liked Kamani's rational questions to the irrational and overwhelming emotions of being a teenager and having warring thoughts and emotions. The fact that she has a choice most girls in this world don't have in terms of marriage adds a layer of complexity to not only her worldview but how everyone else sees her. I'm going to say this right now: I hated Nanaea. I thought she was selfish and prideful, her level of flirtatiousness and egotism bringing to mind Lydia from Pride and Prejudice, and she drove me bonkers. But then I made the connection that this story is told from Kammani's perspective, and as the older sister she naturally would exaggerate how her younger sibling (who she thinks is naive and making a huge mistake) is acting. And that is freaking brilliant. I connected with Kammani so well that I was seeing the characters through her own emotions. This may be in large part because I have similar views to what happens when we die and am an older sister, but that doesn't diminish how masterfully Coon wrote these characters! Dagan and Iltani (and to some degree Nasu) round out Kammani's squad, and honestly? I am here for it. Iltani is the ultimate wing-woman and the kind of friend I aspire to be: hopelessly there for your bestie and down for whatever their shenanigans are. Dagan deserves an award for being an incredibly understanding dude in a pretty patriarchal society, plus he was shirtless when we first met him at the market and probably deserves to be on the cover of a romance novel. I stan men who respect women. "Logic doesn't matter when you're in misery." The truth is that I am writing this review almost two months after finishing Gravemaidens, and the character relationships have left a lasting impression on me. I often think about the complicated sisterly relationship between Kammani and Nanaea (it doesn't hurt that I am also the older sister and can relate), about the ultimate wing-woman Iltani always by Kammani's side for rather dubious plans, and the soft will-they-won't-they childhood friendship and possibly unrequited love from Dagan. "Letting go of anguish meant forgiving those who'd given it to you in the first place." This is a beautiful story of love and sacrifice, but also of grief and acceptance. Gravemaidens is an excellently plotted and captivating YA fantasy debut, and while the world depicted is harsh and (please make note of the content warnings at the bottom of my review and take care fo yourselves), it's also intensely feminist with a whole lot of hope. If you like rich fantasy worlds that center on character relationships, this is a book you will not want to miss! Pre-Review updates: (view spoiler)[10/30/19: Holy hell, this book. THIS BOOK. What a beautiful story about love and sacrifice. I laughed, I cried. Sometimes at the same time. Review to come. 12/21/18: Excuse me, was this book written with my interests in mind?! This sounds like an interesting tale of love and sacrifice inspired by practices of Ancient Sumer, which I am here for! (hide spoiler)] ✨ I am so excited that Gravemaidens is one of the Reader Voracious Novel19 Books! To read my interview with Kelly Coon about her debut and path to publishing, check out my blog post! Content warnings: abuse, alcoholism, attempted sexual assault, classism (and poverty), death, grief, human sacrifice, loss of a parent, rape (inferred), ritual sacrifice, torture ARC provided by Delacorte Press in exchange for my honest review. Quotations have been checked against a finished copy of the book. Blog | Twitter | Pinterest

  19. 5 out of 5

    Celia McMahon

    Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to review this title. Well, this was a big fat NOPE. Ok so, the story was unique. Three girls are chosen as maidens for their ruler. In this case, the ruler is dying. Therefore, the three girls will die with him, which is a huge honor apparently. Healer Kammani's sister is chosen, and Nanaea is all gung ho about it. But sister is like, nah, you aren't dying today, sis, and takes her father's place as a healer to keep the ruler from dying, thus saving her sister. Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to review this title. Well, this was a big fat NOPE. Ok so, the story was unique. Three girls are chosen as maidens for their ruler. In this case, the ruler is dying. Therefore, the three girls will die with him, which is a huge honor apparently. Healer Kammani's sister is chosen, and Nanaea is all gung ho about it. But sister is like, nah, you aren't dying today, sis, and takes her father's place as a healer to keep the ruler from dying, thus saving her sister. I think what frustrated me the most was that the story started really promising. The premise is unique, and I think I was expecting something creepier than what it was. By the second quarter, it began to turn into your cookie-cutter YA fantasy with an unlikeable protagonist who makes questionable decisions. Kammani did not have a distinct personality. She's just a typical YA heroine who wants you to think she's smart but instead makes you roll your eyes at the things she does for plot's sake. I wasn't feeling it. The love interest was another negative aspect for me. As in, there WAS NO LOVE INTEREST. Though the plot set us up for one, maybe two, nothing comes out of it. There is no payoff. Maybe if I felt some tingles, I would have enjoyed this part a bit more. Instead, I felt numb to it every time he came "on screen." The writing was fine. Some dialogue was hard to follow, and some phrases seemed out of place. The twist was no so much a twist. I was truly hoping for someone I did not suspect, but alas. GRAVEMAIDENS could have been the twisted and dark tale I thought it was. Instead, I won't remember it come tomorrow.

  20. 5 out of 5

    ♡ Dakota ♡ (Sarcasm is my middle name)

    This sounds like something I have never read before. *Adds to to-read shelf*

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angela Staudt

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The first half of GraveMaidens is quite slow, so slow in fact that my hopes started to dwindle that this would be a good book. Not to mention the main character made me want to pull my hair out, and her sister made me want to scream with how selfish she was. So, not a good start. The second half completely blew me away. I learned more about Kammani’s family and their past, and the story really started to pick up. I really enjoyed I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The first half of GraveMaidens is quite slow, so slow in fact that my hopes started to dwindle that this would be a good book. Not to mention the main character made me want to pull my hair out, and her sister made me want to scream with how selfish she was. So, not a good start. The second half completely blew me away. I learned more about Kammani’s family and their past, and the story really started to pick up. I really enjoyed how everything was coming together towards the end, and I started to have emotions towards the characters. I would give this a solid 3.5 stars, which I will round up to 4 stars. Kammani the main character is a healer and is chosen to heal Alu’s ruler, while her sister is chosen to be a grave maiden if Alu’s ruler passes away. I really disliked Kammani and her sister for most of this book and it made me not interested in any of the story. I have to have a connection to characters to really get immersed in the story. Kammani is basically the protector of her family even though she is just a teenager herself, she bears a lot on her shoulders. What made me mad is she would not accept a helping hand from anyone, but continued with the poor me act. Especially when Dagan who is swoon worthy, would do anything for her. Also, her sister Nanaea is super annoying and selfish. I honestly, didn’t care one bit about her or that she was going to die. She only wanted to have the fame and fortune, she didn’t care how much her sister did for the family. Not to mention, it sickened me when she would flirt with Dagan in front of her sister!!! Uh hello, Dagan likes Kammani not you so back off. Once I got about halfway through and the books pace picked up, I was intrigued as to what would happen. Not to mention all the evil people involved and the horrible violence they unleash just because they can. I began to really love Kammani and even her sister, once I realized why she acted the way she did. I was pulled right into the magical world and absolutely loved it! I really appreciated the way everything concluded at the ending and was pleasantly surprised with how much I cherished the characters in the world. If the next book is as action packed, then sign me up!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Gravemaidens definitely started off with a bang..but like small one. It sucked me in and kind of reminded me of Hunger Games a bit. Mostly because of the whole saving her younger sister from being sacrificed. Again, this was definitely a page turner in my opinion because HG was a bit boring to me (the first 500 times I tried to read the first book). In it, you will meet Kammani, Dagan, and Iltani. There are a bunch of other I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Gravemaidens definitely started off with a bang..but like small one. It sucked me in and kind of reminded me of Hunger Games a bit. Mostly because of the whole saving her younger sister from being sacrificed. Again, this was definitely a page turner in my opinion because HG was a bit boring to me (the first 500 times I tried to read the first book). In it, you will meet Kammani, Dagan, and Iltani. There are a bunch of other characters that I could name off but those are kind of the main three in my eyes. I loved everything about Dagan and Iltani. They gave this book life and I probably would've DNF'd this bad boy if they weren't in it. Speaking of DNFing, ugh - Kammani. It's not like I plotting her death or anything the entire book but she was beyond stubborn and frustrating. If I could reach into any book and bitch slap a character - it would be her hands down. Her little sister was no angel either - kind of a twat really. A dumb twat, which is probably worse. Together they were annoying as hell.. and if I was Kammani I would've said good riddance to Nanaea (little sister) the day she was chosen. Enjoy hell brat. Other than that, I loved loved LOVED Dagan and Iltani. Those two deserve a better best friend. Also Dagan deserves to be treated a lot better than he was. Here's hoping that the next book will bring these two justice!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen

    Book – Gravemaidens Author – Kelly Coon Series – Gravemaidens Cliffhanger? - Yes Publication Date – October 29, 2019 Genre – YA Fantasy Rating – 4 out of 5 Stars Complimentary copy generously provided by the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My Thoughts - Story Well, let’s start with the characters – Kammani, Dagan, Nanaea, and Iltani – these are the major characters of the story and my feelings for each one differs GREATLY! Iltani – I loved her – absolutely she is my favorite Book – Gravemaidens Author – Kelly Coon Series – Gravemaidens Cliffhanger? - Yes Publication Date – October 29, 2019 Genre – YA Fantasy Rating – 4 out of 5 Stars Complimentary copy generously provided by the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My Thoughts - Story Well, let’s start with the characters – Kammani, Dagan, Nanaea, and Iltani – these are the major characters of the story and my feelings for each one differs GREATLY! Iltani – I loved her – absolutely she is my favorite character with her personality. Kammani – I liked her and the sacrifices she made for her sister, but she is a bit one-sided Dagan – Perfect as the male counterpart! Nanaea – Now, here is where I have a bunch to say…I couldn’t stand her! She is spoiled, entitled, a complete brat! This is a story where I could wrap myself up in and get lost in this world where Kammani is trying to protect her sister and bring the truth of the whole farce of the sacred maidens and the afterlife. The author’s rendition of this world was fantastic, and her writing transported me seamlessly into her fantasy world. I don’t like re-capping the story in my reviews because I’m always a bit afraid that I will give something away that should have been left to the reader. Reason for Reading – NetGalley Review Story – 5 out of 5 Stars Steam – 3 out of 5 Stars Angst – 4 out of 5 Stars Writing – 4 out of 5 Stars Content Flow –4 out of 5 Stars Would Read More from Author? Yes Recommend To – Lovers of something new in fantasy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read early for an honest review. This is a hard one to rate. The story was unique, but some of the author's word and phrasing choices made it difficult to immerse myself in the world. I'd stop reading and reread the line and think, "That's how you want to say that - seriously?" I was also frequently annoyed with the main character's thoughts and actions. She was continuously facing attacks on her life and wanted to keep relying on herself. I wanted to shake Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read early for an honest review. This is a hard one to rate. The story was unique, but some of the author's word and phrasing choices made it difficult to immerse myself in the world. I'd stop reading and reread the line and think, "That's how you want to say that - seriously?" I was also frequently annoyed with the main character's thoughts and actions. She was continuously facing attacks on her life and wanted to keep relying on herself. I wanted to shake her and yell 'Just let your friends help already!' And I guessed correctly who the real person behind the attacks was long before the main character did. To be fair, there were some parts I liked - the main character's sister (once we learned her motives), her brother, the feisty best friend, the guard who helps her, and her boyfriend/pre-betrothed (he was a pretty standard, but solid romantic interest). And she was annoying in her attempts to keep him away. *Final decision - 2 stars. It might be an #unpopular opinion, since everyone else seems to have loved it, but honestly, I would have DNF'd after the first chapter if I didn't receive it to review. These are my honest thoughts and I know not all books can sit right with everyone, so don't let me discourage you from reading. It comes out in October, and I'm interested in hearing everyone else's thoughts on it as well!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cindy ✩☽ Savage Queen ♔

    This cover is lovely <3 --- I feel like this sounds similar to mangas/manhwas I've read and that has me interested.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonah ❤️LIBROCUBICULARIST❤️

    4 stars The Boatmans' Refrain The river is wide The river is deep I take their souls to earn my keep The end of day Is the start of night I bathe in horror, bask in fright Three queens of beauty Maidens fair I'll hide their souls within my lair For the river is wide The river is deep I take their souls to earn my keep This is a great debut novel by the author! And the C O V E R... It's so enticing, beautiful and an open invitation on my book shelf! After reading the first Chapter, I know I am in good 4 stars The Boatmans' Refrain The river is wide The river is deep I take their souls to earn my keep The end of day Is the start of night I bathe in horror, bask in fright Three queens of beauty Maidens fair I'll hide their souls within my lair For the river is wide The river is deep I take their souls to earn my keep This is a great debut novel by the author! And the C O V E R... It's so enticing, beautiful and an open invitation on my book shelf! After reading the first Chapter, I know I am in good hands and I am instantly hooked! The story is about the tradition of the court for having 3 Maidens or rather, Gravemaidens as they were chosen to accompany the Royal King when he dies. YES, in the T O M B. Kammani is the MC and her sister was chosen as one of the 3 Gravemaidens and she beautifully accepts this as she thought that this is such a "great honor". BUT Kammani does not seems to think so as she thinks that "something wicked this way comes" and she's eager to find out what this is! But honestly, I just love Iltani - Kammani's bestfriend - and she's my girl for life! EARC kindly provided by Netgalley, Delacorte Press and the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ____________________________________________ OMG OMG OMG!! I just got approved for an advanced copy of this book!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    This is a book that is painfully slow and while it speaks to an interesting premise it offers nothing new to a story we’ve read before. “Gravemaidens” follows a family cast out of their wealthy society who have suffered loss after loss when the ceremony for the Sacred Maidens, three young women who will accompany the Lugal in death, threatens to take the only sister Kammani has left. Determined to keep her sister alive, she heads off to the palace ready to heal the Lugal by any means necessary This is a book that is painfully slow and while it speaks to an interesting premise it offers nothing new to a story we’ve read before. “Gravemaidens” follows a family cast out of their wealthy society who have suffered loss after loss when the ceremony for the Sacred Maidens, three young women who will accompany the Lugal in death, threatens to take the only sister Kammani has left. Determined to keep her sister alive, she heads off to the palace ready to heal the Lugal by any means necessary but not before uncovering a murderous plot to steal the thrown and if she’s not careful she will find herself at the wrong end of a blade. We’ve all read some version of this book before and unlike those there is not one aspect of this story that I will remember by this time next week. We have a younger sister who is portrayed as vain and naive as she happily walks to her death, an older sister who has fought to keep her family together regardless of what life throws their way, a flirty gal pal and a cardboard cut out love interest who can bore even the strongest woman to tears. The plot is basic and one you can figure out the second the characters are introduced. The attempt at a twist is so obvious that when the characters go out of their way to prove it I sat there willing myself not to roll my eyes fearful that they would get stuck. It’s hard for me to even say there is romance in this because it is so one sided which I actually enjoyed because I thought maybe we’d be getting a pay off with someone else or better yet nothing at all and having this be centered around family and the bonds they share but instead we get unrequited pining up until the final two chapters when things needed to be tied up. The reaction to death was the only interesting component of this story and it never went there to explain the weight of the sacrifice that is seen by all except our lead as this great honor. If we had gotten any sort of back story or some depth to this practice other than having it serve as a backdrop would have helped when characters were so eager to join the other side and in contrast it would have added weight to the moment when they are confronted with death when the cheering audience and jewels disappeared. I don’t know what I expected from this book but this level of disappointment was not it. **special thanks to the publishers and netgalley for providing an arc in exchange for a fair and honest review**

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mila

    I've seen this scenario quite a lot in recent years - it's a YA novel with an interesting premise and setting but with the most cliche characters and a very predictable plot that is often pretending to be a mystery. Gravemaidens is this book in a nutshell. I have nothing more to say, except that I quite liked the first quarter of it and with some editing, it could've been a solid standalone fantasy. Unfortunately, it isn't.

  29. 5 out of 5

    julia ♥

    A very unique setting mixed with pretty writing equals 5 stars for me. An enthralling combination of YA fantasy, historical romance, and spooky vibes. Love!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review - thank you! This is, I think, the earliest ARC I’ve ever read – it doesn’t come out for almost a whole year! This was a solid debut novel with writing that flowed well (though there were some flies in the ointment.) I’ve been giving out a lot of 4-star ratings lately, which is not like me at all – I’m a fairly harsh reviewer! But I’m lucky to have read so many amazing books over the last month. Sixteen-year-old Kammani is the daughter of the only ARC received in exchange for an honest review - thank you! This is, I think, the earliest ARC I’ve ever read – it doesn’t come out for almost a whole year! This was a solid debut novel with writing that flowed well (though there were some flies in the ointment.) I’ve been giving out a lot of 4-star ratings lately, which is not like me at all – I’m a fairly harsh reviewer! But I’m lucky to have read so many amazing books over the last month. Sixteen-year-old Kammani is the daughter of the only Healer, or A-zu, in the city-state of Alu. But they live a life of poverty: when her father failed to save the life of the ruler Lugal Marus's only son, they were cast out of their privileged life and now must live in a cramped farmer’s hut. Even worse, Kammani’s younger brother Kasha was taken from the family and is now forced to live in the palace – a son-for-a-son exchange. There isn’t even any prospect of their life improving. Ever since the death of their mother, their father has been a worthless drunk. It’s up to Kammani to toil away and earn their bread by healing others, a pursuit highly unusual for a girl. Meanwhile, her beautiful younger sister Nanaea wastes her time dreaming of their old life and flirting with Kammani’s best friend Dagan. Dagan is another complication. She knows he loves her, but she isn’t sure she loves him enough to resign herself to life as a farmer’s wife. Not when she wants to be an A-zu herself. And then things get even worse. Lugal Marus is dying, leaving behind a daughter – Nin Arwia – to rule in his place, in partnership with his cruel lieutenant Ensi Uruku. When rulers of Alu die, they get three sarratum: three of the most beautiful girls in the city are chosen to be his queens and travel with him to the afterlife. Of course, Nanea is picked to be one of them. It’s a great honour – the whole city is desperate to be picked, because it brings great honour and riches to their families. Only Kammani is fearful of death, and the Boatman who takes you away. She’s lost almost her whole family – she won’t lost her sister too. So begin her desperate attempts to heal Lugal Marus. After all, if he doesn’t die, he won’t need Gravemaidens. She’s thwarted at every turn: first, Nanaea wants to die, for the honour it will bring. Second, she quickly suspects that the lugal’s illness is no ordinary one, and the realisation endangers her own life. Okay, so: I’m sorry, but the villain was obvious. It really, really was. I suspected their identity from roughly the 50% mark, if not earlier. Kammani’s failure to even consider them a suspect – as well as the failure of anyone else to do so – just made me doubt their intelligence. It was ridiculous that she didn’t even consider the villain might be anyone other than the person she’d already decided it was. Especially because the villain had both motive and opportunity. A good 60% of the middle narrative (at least) is taken up with trying to catch and solve the identity of this person, and I was in disbelief that nobody suggested it could be anyone else. It isn’t even that Kammani is stupid: she was just insanely narrow-minded. Another gripe: Kammani discovers that people want to assassinate her because she hears the two guards sent to do it loudly discussing their task. How convenient… I really don’t like it when things rest on stupid characters inexplicably shouting their evil plans for all (and a heroine who was luckily hidden just around the corner) to hear. Now for the good: ✴️ Alu is based on the city-states of Ancient Sumer. This was a fascinating premise , and I don’t think I’ve seen it before! There were some really interesting elements of culture incorporated – e.g. a women who speaks out against a man without proof would have her mouth bashed in with a rock. And, of course, the whole human-sacrifice thing too. ✴️ I thought I’d hate the romance at first – I tend to find pre-established romantic connections, especially in YA, weak. But Dagan was something a little different too. Not snarky and elegant, the way I usually like my heroes, but strong, loyal, and honourable. Kammani’s dawning realisation of how much she loved him was a great way of depicting friends-to-lovers. ✴️ Kammani’s best friend Iltani is amazing. Her sisterhood with Nanaea was strong too, even if Nanaea frequently needed a good smack. In fact, the whole book was chiefly about strong female relationships , and it was awesome. ✴️ The pacing was nice and fast , especially in the second half, though it was a bit slow in the first one. The very last few chapters were superb in their intensity. Overall As I said, a solid debut. It would have worked very well as a standalone, but this is a duology, so I’m interested to see what happens in the second book. [Blog] - [Bookstagram]

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