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Book Review: “Graves’ End” by Sean Patrick Traver

Graves’ End by Sean Patrick Traver is what I would consider a brand of high fantasy, minus the usual fairies and elves sort, but plus spirits, animated skeletons, bug people and an Aztec God of the Dead. Based in Los Angeles, the City of Angels itself becomes a character in this book, giving you an interesting look at how much the landscape has changed in the last sixty years. (Well, I guess it’s much longer than that, technically, but historically speaking it’s the last sixty.)

But let’s start with the actual characters. There’s Lia, a modern day witch, and Black Tom, a spirit on the run who inhabits cat bodies as a way of achieving a sort of immortality, who teaches Lia everything he knows (but not in words, only in mental images) and is generally pretty neat. They’re a duo for whom you root with a fatherly-daughterly sort of vibe, a wonderful bond and all around great story. They’ll suck you into this book immediately, if you’re anything like me, but Dexter Graves will be the one who keeps you going.

Dexter’s a PI from the 1940s (complete with fedora and sharp sense of humor) who meets an unfortunate and untimely death at the hands of a mysterious woman. He lends this novel a sort of gritty, old timey LA Noir feel that never goes away. You can almost hear the voice you should be reading in as you go… I bet you can even conjure it now, eh, dollface? Unfortunately for Dexter (and all of our characters, actually), he gets mixed up with an ancient Aztec god named Miguel Caradura (Mickey Hardface), who’s kind of a dick. Fortunately for us, however, this leads to Graves experiencing life as a reanimated skeleton and his encounters are especially hilarious as a dead guy.

Humor is kind of the theme with this book, I thought, but beyond humor it’s got a touch of horror, a good sense of mystery, definite thriller vibes, just a twinge of romance (but don’t get me wrong — it’s NOT a thinly veiled romance novel with magic slathered lazily on top) and a ton of action. It keeps the plot moving, pages turning, and your curiosity piqued.

Masterfully bending the constraints of time and reality, Traver twists everything into a plot that feels both brand-new and old-fashioned in a nearly perfect blend. While I can see people feeling that perhaps the ending is a little over-the-top, I loved it; You have a book full of the supernatural and horrific, so why not get weird?

This whole story was a ton of fun, really spooky, and certainly well crafted. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the horror and fantasy genres. I hope they make it into a movie, kind of Roger Rabbit style, and completely awesome.

As always, you can hear me babble about books and comedy and philosophy and history and a lot of other crap on No Math Allowed! and you can follow me on twitter @jessicasayswhat or email me at booknerdist@gmail.com. Happy reading!

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