Two of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.
Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi
I hardly ever breeze through books anymore. That’s not an indictment of the quality of the books I read, but between a full-time job, writing/editing three manuscripts at once, and several other interests, it takes a bit to hold my interest and focus enough to actually tackle something on my TBR list.
But Grave Beginnings sucked me in immediately, and I found myself reading one of the best, most interesting murder mysteries I’ve read in a long, long time. R.R. Virdi has created a fantastic world and — perhaps more impressively — a protagonist that has no solid identity, yet is easy to root for. I’ve read my share of novels written in first-person that don’t quite measure up, but the first-person narrative is perfect for this book; the nature of the protagonist allows for narrative freedom in first-person that likely would not be present if this were a third-person book.
The marriage of murder mystery and supernatural works far better than it might seem in theory, and the result is a fast-paced, irreverent read. The cast of characters is relatively small, as the book focuses more on moving things along and less on making sure we keep track of all the particulars. In the mystery genre, it is far too easy for a case to either be wrapped up too quickly or to drag on too long, but the case in Grave Beginnings doesn’t suffer from that, and the conclusion of the case itself was satisfying like an old-school episode of Buffy.
(Aside: it occurs to me that, technically, every episode of Buffy can be considered old school nowadays. Yeah, I feel old…)
The best part to me, though, was the teeth the end of the novel provided the character. It was a clear direction moving forward for the series, and it has me looking forward to the next installment. I read the Kindle version of this novel, but now that a paperback edition is available, I’ll be adding that to my collection in the near future.
Long and short of it, Grave Beginnings is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for fans of mysteries, supernatural stories, both, or neither. This is simply a fantastic book, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
RATING: * * * * *
Lunen: Triblood by Ahmed Al-Sheikh
Lunen: Triblood is a novel that started as one sort of story and, midway through, shifted to something else entirely. And I will warn readers now: if cliffhangers are not your thing, this book will likely frustrate you, as it becomes clear in the last 10 pages that the story of the moment won’t be wrapped up in one volume.
That said, this is an entertaining romp that is at times quick to read and at others a little bit slow. Much of the slowness occurs in the first half of the book, as it seems the story is as out of sorts as Winnie, but once the book hits its stride at roughly the midpoint, the pages fly by. This book struggles to find itself a few times, but once it does, this is one of the more entertaining reads I’ve found.
There are minor quibbles throughout: the occasional confusion as to whether Winnie or Lunen is the protagonist, occasional word usage (dived instead of dove, and one instance of a character saying something dangerously), but the way the story picks up in the second half of the book, and the depths of both Lunen and Winnie that are revealed in the process, make up for those.
Triblood is an enjoyable read, and I look forward to the second volume.
RATING: * * * *