Book Review: Graveminder, by Melissa Marr

A couple of months ago, I was casting about for a new audiobook to listen to and it happened to be right as Goodreads was releasing its Readers Choice Awards for 2011. Melissa Marr’s novel Graveminder won Best Horror, so I decided to give it a shot.

In the story, a young woman, Rebekkah Barrow (also, 2011 Egregious Name-Spelling Award Winner), is called back to her hometown of Claysville (vaguely Ozark-y/Appalachia-y) after her grandmother is mysteriously murdered. Rebekkah has fond memories of her grandmother, following her through graveyards as she tended the graves of the dead (I mean, who doesn’t?). Because apparently, the dead in Claysville don’t always stay dead…

What transpires is a tale the restless dead, family secrets, star-crossed love, trips to the Underworld, and deals with the devil, or sort of devil, or something, I’m not really sure, because it’s never made very clear, but it’s very clear that he’s The Bad Guy.

One thing that is very clear, however, is that Graveminder is a patchwork of supernatural cliches that never rises above formula and seems to be trying very very hard to capture the same audience as Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse. Sadly, this book sinks below what I would expect for even something mediocre — mostly because I feel that Marr was lazy.

At the beginning of the story, Rebekkah contemplates her youth back in Claysville from her apartment in the Gaslight district of San Diego. That’s a hard task, because there IS no Gaslight district in San Diego. It’s Gaslamp. Do you know how long it took me to find the correct use of Gaslamp versus Gaslight? About 40 seconds on Wikipedia. To me, that’s a lazy author (and editor). Now that may seem picky, but horror authors require readers’ suspension of disbelief to be effective, so being credible in other parts of the story is critically important. So she began to lose me almost from the outset. Still, I had hope.

Graveminder, by Melissa Marr

Later, we learn that the “normal” citizens of Claysville get headaches and forgetful when confronted with anything supernatural. Seriously? That’s the way you’re going to handle the fact that someone sees a kid that died last week walking down the street? They just get a headache and forget it? How convenient. Then, when someone manages to man-up and ask a question, you get statements like, “Things are just different here” and “That’s the way things are here.” Oy. Again, I can’t suspend that much disbelief and for a storyteller, that’s just lazy.

Later, we find out that there’s a secret contract between the powers that be in the town and the Bad Guy. Rebekkah’s love interest goes to the Underworld and signs it (for a new generation) in blood without reading it. Without. Reading. It. I’m just going to stop here.

Clearly, by winning the Goodreads Readers Choice Award, there are a lot of people that liked Graveminder. Obviously, I’m not one of them.

One star out of five


14 thoughts on “Book Review: Graveminder, by Melissa Marr

  1. Thank you for saving me from reading it. She writes a popular YA series but I could never get past the first 10 pages of the first one. You should get an award for finishing, though – the reason I don’t have any one- or two-star reviews on GR is because I don’t finish anything I don’t like!

    • Jen — that’s funny to hear. Fortunately, the audiobook wasn’t very long and after about halfway through I realized it was pretty bad — and then it became a “how bad is it going to be?” sort of question.

  2. I’m so happy to see you’ve been keeping up with your blogging. Sadly, I neglected my blog for a year. Happily, I think I may be back! I have a lot of catching up to do! :)

  3. It sounds like your one-star review is pretty valid, especially the Gaslight/Gaslamp schism.

    As bad as the book sounds, I award Stevil House 25 points each for “Ozark-y” and “Appalachia-y.” So there’s an Ag lining.

  4. Blar. I hate lazy! (Unless it’s naptime for me, then lazy is golden). I won’t bother to read this one!

    Heehee at Tom and his Ag lining.

  5. I’m “Like”-ing this so I’ll remember the title of this book. I enjoy horror, but there is so much badly-written stuff out there, I avoid most titles published under the genre. It’s too bad, as this one sounded promising on Goodreads. I didn’t know it was that silly. People should post more negative reviews, but I think they’re afraid of being attacked by fans of the book they dissed. I once left a negative review of a book that had five stars from its fans, and the comments left by them were nasty. I’m guessing most of them were left by young 20-somethings and teens, but still, it put me off writing anything for Goodreads. The least they can do is allow you to delete the more trollish comments. Instead, I deleted the review. :(

    • It’s a funny thing about negative reviews. I think you’re right that most people don’t want to get into some sort of flame-war with a book’s or author’s devotees, but also I think people don’t want to be negative, as if it’s rude. I had a conversation with a friend that said she doesn’t give anything less than three stars because she wants to be “nice”. Of course, she’s a product of scholastic grade-inflation, so maybe this seems perfectly normal.

      I’ve been lucky that with all the recommendations that I get from Goodreads friends and others that I haven’t read that many bad books recently, but I think they deserve a review just like any other. They’re actually easier to write than books that are so-so.

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