Happy Halloween, everyone! For the holiday, The Effervescent Bookworm and I reviewed Shallow Graves together. Go check her out! She has some great thoughts on this book, as well as many others. I hope you all have a great (spooky) holiday!
I looked at him closely. He didn’t look any different. He wasn’t gray or shriveled or pale. The clinging black tangle that had hung around him was gone. What I felt in its place was an electric hum beneath my skin, the steady thump of my heart, a deep, dull ache in the bruises around my neck. I slammed the car door; the light went out. I wanted him to look on the outside as he did on the outside. I wanted to feel guilty or sick or scared about what I had done. I wanted to regret it. I didn’t. He had been a murderer. Now he was a dead murderer.
–Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Shallow Graves is a young adult horror novel about a young woman named Breezy who abruptly wakes up in her own grave after having been murdered the year before. Disoriented and startled by a new ability to detect nearby murderers, Breezy sets out on a trip around the United States, unsure where exactly she is planning on going. A horrifying encounter with a monster-hunting cult, however, sends her on the run, trying to make sense of the danger to her life while still hoping to find some way to return to her old life.
While not quite as light-hearted as iZombie, Shallow Graves has a similar supernatural heroine who mostly just wants to find her way and return to a normal life, but keeps finding problems that can only be solved by her unusual abilities. I absolutely loved the characters in Shallow Graves, and I think they were the biggest appeal for me. Breezy is young and recently disillusioned – as a human, she had high expectations of herself and her future. She took herself and her studies seriously, and did not dwell much on socialization or romance. As an undead, however, Breezy is devastated by her loss of potential and the swift separation from everyone she knew and loved. Perhaps Liv from iZombie did not have quite the same separation, but similarly, upon becoming undead, she finds the biggest problem to be her own loss of a future and the identity she found within her own ambition. Their supernatural powers, while not identical, also seem to echo one another. Liv from iZombie gets visions and certain personality traits after having eaten a victim’s brains, which of course helps her solve the murders she comes across. Breezy, however, seems to have the exact opposite ability. Breezy can see the guilt of the murderers around her, and if she tries, she can see every murder that person has committed. For Breezy, the murders are less personal in that way – while she sympathizes for the victims, she is primarily a force of retribution, pulling the life from the guilty that she sees. In this way, Shallow Graves seems a perfect companion to iZombie: it offers the same gripping mystery of iZombie and many similar elements while still having a lot to contribute.
The world of Breezy and her friends (and not-so-friends) is highly compelling, and I was left wanting more, for better or for worse. Breezy starts out thinking she is one-of-a-kind, some strange accident that somehow came back to life. Before too long, though, she discovers that she is certainly not the only supernatural creature out there, and the dialogue between Breezy and the friends she makes is intriguing. What follows is a monster version of stereotype-busting, in which Breezy asks about all sorts of monsters from myths and urban legends, and she is told what is and isn’t true. I found this part particularly interesting, and would have loved to see more about this underworld structure – how monsters live their daily lives, and keep up jobs, whether there is any sort of organization, and what their history has looked like. I understand why that may not have been feasible for a single novel, but I at least wanted more than what we got. It certainly left me wanting a follow-up novel!
As much as I enjoyed Shallow Graves, it felt distinctly incomplete. Breezy’s story is started, and a small resolution is offered at the end of the novel, but her story is far from over. A dark vision of her future (hundreds of years in the future) is given at one point in the book, and while the novel suggests that she may be able to avoid such a future, it certainly does not eliminate it or guarantee it, leaving Breezy’s future feeling distinctly unresolved. Similarly, one of the key villains of the novel may or may not still be out there, and that lack of resolution definitely takes away some of the satisfaction at the end. I can appreciate loose ends in a novel, but this didn’t feel intentional – instead, it felt like a sequel was planned, but according to Kali Wallace’s website, she is willing to revisit the world but doesn’t specifically plan on writing another.
In all, I would rate Shallow Graves a 7 out of 10. Readers of fantasy will quickly find themselves immersed in a compelling plot and interesting world, but the loose ends in this one left me unsatisfied, and as there is no explicit plan stated by the author to write a sequel, I’m afraid that others might feel similarly.