Book Review: Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Author: Kelly Coon
Series: Gravemaidens #1
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 29th 2019
My Rating: 5 Cups
Source: Publisher
Blurb (from Goodreads):

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.

*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating or the content of my review in any way.

Wow. Gravemaidens just blew my mind people! This was a buddy read with two very dear friends, Haley and Kal, and let me tell you something. If you could see our group DMs while reading this book, you would all know that we were insanely in love with this story. Although I haven’t read that many YA books this year, I can tell you right now that Gravemaidens is probably one of my favorites this year.


I’ll be honest and say that I went into reading this book with very little knowledge. I briefly glanced at the blurb because with a title like that and with the cover art it has, it really didn’t take me too long to decide I wanted to read this book. I am happy that I knew so little about it, because I discovered the story as I went along, which made the reading an even bigger journey.

I really liked Kammani. I felt close to her, both with the pressure she put on herself, as well as the insanely high expectations she put on everyone around her, especially her younger sister. I loved reading about her life as a healer, and how she was very proud of being able to help the people in her town. I was impressed by how her first thought when she had to leave for the palace was for her patients, for the people she knew depended on her, because it showed that she didn’t just do this job to copy her father, but because she truly loved being a healer.

I’ll be honest, for the longest time Nanaea was a character that I didn’t like. I saw her as immature, selfish, and mean at times. It wasn’t until towards the end that I understood her motivation, what made her want to be one of the sacred maiden, and my heart broke for her. Since the reader sees everything from Kammani’s perspective, there’s nothing in Nanaea’s behavior that suggests a deeper meaning to her actions, so I was honestly took by surprise when she finally breaks down and tells her sister what makes her be happy for being chosen as one of the sacred maidens.

Out of all the characters, Iltani is definitely my favorite. She said and did the things I wish Kammani did at times, and her personality in general brought some “oompf” to the story, a sort of fierceness that I felt was needed. She basically said what I thought and I loved her for it. I need her to be safe in book 2.

The pacing wasn’t as fast as I generally read, but the writing style more than made up for it for me. I enjoyed trying to discover who the villain was, and I was eventually very happy to see that the character I hated the most got what they deserved. I’m sorry, but I’ve never been happier to have my “Ah-HAH I knew IT!” moment.

What stayed with me the longest after reading this book, however, may be surprising. I make it a point to read the “word from the author” whenever I’m reading a book that I love, and reading what Kelly Coon wrote about her research and how she was inspired by history, I was left with the desire to read more books like this one. Not just because they are a joy to read, but because they tell important stories in some of the scenes, stories that unfortunately are true and they did happen. There was one scene in particular that involved a punishment and a brick that’s still with me weeks after I finished reading this book.

All in all, I truly enjoyed reading this book and I cannot wait for the sequel!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

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