May 30, 2011

GRAVEMINDER by Melissa Marr


Because I am a MORON—also because I don’t keep track even when I should and mean to, and furthermore this time of year my head is full of roses, but chiefly because I’m a moron—I’ve managed to miss that Melissa Marr’s GRAVEMINDER came out . . . um . . . well, I hope it was recently.* My attention was finally caught when I was half-attentively scrabbling through old tweets and saw that Melissa** herself had posted that USA TODAY had liked GRAVEMINDER. Woohoo Melissa!  ***

I read it a while ago, when it was still only in pages. In my slow elderly way I don’t get the business about creating ‘buzz’ by blogging and reviewing and talking about a book long before pub date, so unless I have a publicist nagging me I will probably wait till the book’s available and I can tell you that you should check it out. The problem with that system is the likelihood that I will forget. . . .

You can read a plot summary and cover fluff on line, as well as some very nice reviews, both blog and (gasp!) other media. What’s important to me is that Melissa’s gift for ordinary people shines in this book too. There isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t know her WICKED LOVELY series, is there?† One of the pleasures of it is that ordinary-people-rising-to-extraordinary-circumstances thing that I’m so fond of, both as a reader and a writer. †† GRAVEMINDER is very different from WICKED LOVELY, but its main characters have a not-dissimilar ordinary familiar reality to them†††—including an obstinate determination to remain ordinary when they clearly are nothing of the kind. Part of the way Marr’s books draw you in is that sense that these are people you might know, who might live down the street from you. You might even be one yourself. Eeep.

Big eeep in this case. Byron has long known what is ahead of him; Bek ran away from finding out what was ahead of her. But she comes back to Claysville when her grandmother dies, her grandmother who used to attend all—repeat, all—the funerals in town, and perform an odd little ritual: three sips from a silver flask and the words: Sleep well, and stay where I put you. Another of the pleasures of Marr’s stories is her feel for folklore: I totally believe in something called a graveminder, and who must, as part of her job description, attend all the funerals in her town, take three sips from a flask and say these particular words.

This is a horror novel, of course‡: the dead walk, and do horrible things, the way the walking dead usually do. But it’s an old-fashioned horror novel—I say that cheering and waving banners—in that the horrors are in the atmosphere, in what isn’t told, in the aftermath of those untold horrors—in the choices that the characters have to make—in the choices the characters have taken away from them. I’ve said often enough that I don’t do graphic horror—it squicks me out—I find it both gross and boring. But GRAVEMINDER is a page-turner—the kind of sneaky, understated creepy that gets you by the ankle and won’t let you go. There are a lot of best frisson bits: the chief ‘villain’ is probably my favourite of these, and one scene involving her is one of the most macabre I’ve read anywhere—while not really telling you a thing. Also, her part in the denouement is . . . splendid. Icky and splendid.

I think there are rumours of a sequel?, although with my standard flimsy Google-fu I’m failing to find anything I can provide a link to.‡‡ There is certainly plenty in this story Marr could go on with, if she (or the story) is so, ahem, minded. I think I read GRAVEMINDER before it was final-final-final; there may be more (or fewer) loose ends in the finished book. I plan to reread it and find out.

* * *

*Very slightly in my defense, it’s apparently not available over here yet. The Book Depository is supposed to tell me when I can buy it, and when I checked today they seem to be saying the hardback passed silently and invisibly through availability a week or two ago and may or may not be obtainable again some time in this dimension, and the paperback is coming out in July. I am in this case going to attempt to hold out for the hardback which from what my computer screen is telling me has a killer cover

Although the paperback looks pretty cool too

** Yes, I even follow her on Twitter and I still hadn’t noticed. Twitter is a little . . . overwhelming, you know? I only follow 40-odd people, places and things and I still can’t keep up.^ And the real people tend to get lost among the I-should-be-paying-attention-but-I-don’t-want-to stuff from all the what’s-happening-in-publishing sites.

^ I can’t even begin to imagine what the people who are following 100s or even 1000s of other twitterers are getting out of it. And how they’re getting anything out of it at all, except stress saturation.

*** It’s an unnecessarily weird photo though. Try

† I admit I haven’t finished it, but that’s because it’s fallen into the Saving For Later category. I’m both a slow reader and someone who likes to look forward to something she’s going to enjoy. Also coming to the end of a complex, engrossing series is sad. Then there won’t be anything to do but read it again! —Plus my slight cowardly fear that she may not do absolutely everything the way I want her to^ and I’ll come to the end of DARKEST MERCY going noooooooo! I mean, it’s not the most reassuring title, is it?

^ I do love reading other writers’ calm, gentle, polite rebuffs to importunate readers. I often wonder if it costs them anything, the calm, gentle, polite thing. But it is reassuring that other writers have importunate readers too.

†† We’re all kings, queens, pegasi and dragons really.^

^ If you’re a vampire, don’t tell me about it.

††† It’s being billed as ‘Melissa Marr’s first adult novel’. Yaaaaaawn. Okay, the main characters are out of school and earning a living but—so? Teenagers will read GRAVEMINDER and adults are reading WICKED LOVELY. Let’s all take a deep breath and read what we want to read.

‡ Well, it’s an ‘of course’ to me. Those more learned in genre may disagree.

‡‡ Here we go.

Give up and be looking for something else and then you’ll find it.


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