Creative world but tedious romance
In Melissa Marr's first adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, the quiet, small town of Claysville is not what it seems. When her beloved but quirky grandmother is found dead, Rebekkah returns to the place and the man, Byron, she's been keeping at arm's length for nearly a decade. Very soon, Bek and Byron learn that secrets have been kept from them and that a shadowy world of the dead exists under their feet. Pulled into centuries-old roles as the Graveminder and the Undertaker - those responsible for keeping the dead from walking - the two must combat growing threats to their community while coming to terms with their rocky past.
Having read Marr's WICKED LOVELY series for young adults, I was eager to see how she would do with her adult debut. Similar to her past work, the author's greatest strength lies in her ability to create an imaginative world and mythos in which to immerse her characters. The responsibilities and roles of the Graveminder and Undertaker were original, and her world of the dead was highly creative. The prologue drew me in with the palpable sense of dread and mystery it created. Those of the dead, like Mr. D., Alicia, and Daisha, were fascinating characters about whom I wanted to read more. The novel also finished in a conclusive place, though it could be expanded into a series.
With this strong opening and unique mythos, I was hoping for a great read. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The most interesting part of the book's created world lies in the land of the dead and its characters, but little time is spent there. Instead, much of the story focuses on the relationship struggles and haunted past between Rebekkah and Bryon. While I love a good romance with some challenges, their story felt tedious and slow due to the constant repetition of plot points about why Bek couldn't let herself be with Byron and about all of the information that has been withheld from the two of them. Both characters acted much less mature than expected for well-travelled adults in their mid to late 20s. Due to this, pacing dragged until the later portions of the book. Some of the characterizations used to develop her characters also felt too similar to Marr's other books, and many small plot threads and side characters were introduced but never explored.
GRAVEMINDER will appeal to those looking for an American Gothic tale with a heavy dose of romantic angst and some action from the undead. If Marr continues writing in this universe, I hope she picks up the pacing and focuses more on the world of the dead she's created and the apparently complicated characters that inhabit it.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.