Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon
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 a debut novel by Kelly Coon — and again, you guys — I am blown away by the talent these debut novelists have this year! I’ll be honest, I mainly wanted to read this book because of that cover! Y’all, I’m a sucker for beautiful covers, and I’m happy to report that the story inside matched all its beauty and more.
Gravemaidens is a story is full of loss, but also familial love. Our main character, Kammani, has studied the art of healing from her father who was once the greatest healer in all of Alu. After the death of his wife, and being stripped of his status for being unable to save the young prince’s life, Kammani’s father is so absorbed in his grief that he can no longer administer healing to the people of the kingdom, and instead, he uses his days to drink his sorrows away. Kammani has lost most of her family in one way or another, so when her sister, Nanaea, is chosen for the great honor of accompanying the dying king into the afterlife as a maiden, Kammani sets out to do everything she can to restore the ruler’s health in order to save her sister’s life. Kammani hopes that her father is up to the task, but when misfortune strikes again, it is up to Kammani to find a way to heal the dying king.
This book, while it reads like so many other YA fantasy novels, it is absolutely unique. The author took inspiration from actual historical events where human sacrifices were made so that royalty would have company in the afterlife. The story line was well planned out and paced perfectly, so there was never a dull moment. I also really enjoyed the characters and their relationships with each other. The parallels and the bond between friends and family is strong in this story.
Although this is said to be the first in a duology, it almost has a happy ending and could easily be read as a stand-alone novel. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what happens next for Kammani and her friends.