The Grave Keepers is one of those books I loved until the last fifteen pages, when I realized things were going to end exactly as I feared. Elizabeth Byrne’s debut, though compelling, fast paced, and enjoyable, reads as though half the story is simply missing. Poof. Gone. Lost in the abyss of poor editing choices. Which is unfortunate, because Byrne is a good writer. Her sentences conjure up beautiful imagery, while never straying into purple prose territory. Her three perspectives each remain unique, and easily identifiable. She starts to nail the essence of being human, but just doesn’t have enough space here to really spread her wings. Really, this book really could be cut into three parts: the first, where readers are trying to familiarize themselves with the mildly confusing world, the second, which has tons of potential to be a great story, and the last, which reads like the book ran out of gas halfway down the tracks. And it just makes me so angry, because there are a ton of questions I’ll never have answers too. Byrne crafted a truly unique story, but had no clue what to do with it when all the loose threads needed to be tied togther. Not to mention the chacters, many of whom I loved, who now exist in character devlopment purgatory- not quite flat, but leaving so much more growth to be desired. I would love to give this one a higher rating, but I ultimately want a refund of my time.
As I mentioned above, there were many aspects I enjoyed about The Grave Keepers. For starters, the world is an interesting one at its core. Everything about it is kept in the image of our modern day, with one addition- grave keeping. A centuries long tradition of reflecting on death while in life, complete with its own set of tenents to guide discourse. Confusing at first, it sets up a nice jumping off point for where I think Byrne was going with the themes. You know, the ones I never actually saw come full circle. It’s also what leads to the inclusion of narrator Tamsen, a four hundred year old ghost haunting the property of the Windham family. Though short, her chapters provide an interesting window into a perspective I’ve never read from before. The other two main characters, Athena and Laurel, are easily relatable and have distinct personalities. The real problem with all this though is how abruptly the book just ends. There is no resolution, there’s approximately fifty million loose threads hanging, and I’m left feeling like I none of this mattered at all. This is hard to do without giving away spoilers, but the major conflict is solved without any heartache or further exploration, and characters behave in ways that make no sense given everything we know about them. Everyone gets a happy ending, though it comes from learning nothing of their lessons. A past event that shapes the family, and is hinted at throughout the entire book, is never discussed beyond the reader’s conclusions. Athena and Laurel have a 75% complete character arc, which is about 25% from being good enough for me.
I would likely read a sophomore effort from Byrne, as there was so much potential here. There’s no way I would ever recommend it to anyone though, unless you’re in the business of reading half novels.
-Keep Calm and Read On