Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult / Dark 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.
Gravemaidens is the first installment in author Kelly Coon's Gravemaidens duology. The story is about a girl, Kammani, who uses her smarts as a healer in a world where females of her stature aren’t even supposed to read. Kammani is an apprentice healer whose family was once part of the upper class until her father failed to heal the son of the ruling Lugal. Her families furniture, bedding, clothing, and all their jewels were distributed to others. Kami's father was once considered to be the beat healer in all the lands.
But, that was before he lost his way and started drinking himself to the point of no return. Kami has learned all she can learn but could use a pointer here or there to be just as good as her father. With the Lugal on his death bed, (3) sacred maidens will soon be chosen to accompany him to the afterlife. Kammani is the only one to see past the honor and cherished tradition for what it is: a death sentence. But, nothing could prepare Kami for her own sister, Nanaea, being chosen.
Nanaea still hasn't gotten over her loss of station. She is thrilled to be chosen knowing that she's lost so much potential over something she had nothing to do with. Kami refuses to let her go without a fight. In order to save her sister, she becomes the Lugal's healer in order to save her sister from certain death. She will have to stand and fight against those who want to see her fail which will also send her to the afterlife with her sister and the Lugal.
Kami has been chased after by a boy named Dagan whose family is very successful for awhile now. Kami doesn't want to settle down with anyone and therefore puts him off time and time again. Dagan is a charmer, honest, and completely devoted to Kami even though she doesn't give him the time of day. Even her sister and her best friend know that Dagan is the perfect match for her, and if she doesn't act quickly, she will be alone and end up a spinster.
One of the things that is done well is this story, is the relationship between the sisters. You will definitely understand why Nanaea is so thrilled by becoming a sacred maiden while her sister is sick of losing family members. Nanaea embodies a young woman resentful of her situation and just doing her best to survive rather than make a good life for herself. After all, she is finds herself the center of attention, and given whatever she can ever hope for before she is taken by the Boatman.
I also loved Kami's best friend Iltani who stands by her even when she makes some really dumb mistakes. Other characters to pay attention to are Nin Arwia. Nin is the Lugal's daughter, but she isn't so sure of herself or her legacy when it comes to taking over for her father. She and Kami become friends after a fashion. Kasha is the brother of Kami and Nanaea who was taken away from the family and given to the palace after his father failed to heal the Lugal's son.
Thoughts: The first half of GraveMaidens is quite slow, but if you have patience, you will discover that there is more to this story than first thought. I gave this story a better overall rating by discovering deep breaths and not allowing any character to get under my skin no matter how awful they really were. Kammani she bears a lot of responsibility on her shoulders thanks to her father never being around. Kammani even refuses to accept help from anyone which is just pride getting in the way. The ending leaves some interesting choices for the author to make concerning Kammani, her sister, and others.