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Book: “The Grimoire of Grave Fates” by Hanna Alkaf and Margaret Owen
Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, June 2023
Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!
Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat
Book Description: Professor of Magical History Septimius Dropwort has just been murdered, and now everyone at the Galileo Academy for the Extraordinary is a suspect.
A prestigious school for young magicians, the Galileo Academy has recently undergone a comprehensive overhaul, reinventing itself as a roaming academy in which students of all cultures and identities are celebrated. In this new Galileo, every pupil is welcome–but there are some who aren’t so happy with the recent changes. That includes everyone’s least favorite professor, Septimius Dropwort, a stodgy old man known for his harsh rules and harsher punishments. But when the professor’s body is discovered on school grounds with a mysterious note clenched in his lifeless hand, the Academy’s students must solve the murder themselves, because everyone’s a suspect.
Told from more than a dozen alternating and diverse perspectives, The Grimoire of Grave Fates follows Galileo’s best and brightest young magicians as they race to discover the truth behind Dropwort’s mysterious death. Each one of them is confident that only they have the skills needed to unravel the web of secrets hidden within Galileo’s halls. But they’re about to discover that even for straight-A students, magic doesn’t always play by the rules. . . .
Review: I was definitely intrigued when I heard about this upcoming fantasy anthology. Not only was it a collaboration between a huge number of famous authors, but the idea of a murder mystery taking place in a school of magic as the foundation upon which the anthology is built upon is compelling as heck. Add an eye-popping cover, and you’ve got me! This is definitely a change of pace from the types of fantasy stories that I typically read, so I was very excited and curious to see what it had to offer.
I’m going to skip over my usual summary paragraph here, as I think the description given by the publisher is more than enough, and it’s hard to add more with anthologies that are, by their nature, built upon many layers of different characters, themes, and stories. So let’s get right to the review! First of all, I’d like to state how impressive of a project I think this book is. Collaborations are always tricky, but I have to imagine the more authors you include, the harder it is to ensure that the finished product feels complete and even. This is all the more difficult when you’re writing a murder mystery, a specific genre that requires careful plotting, close regulation of what information is made known and when, and a neat balance of pace to keep the reader engaged while not also losing them as the book builds to its final conclusion. But I think, overall, this aspect of the book came together very well, and none of the individual stories stood out as ill-fitting with the larger story as a whole.
That said, I didn’t wholly love this read. On one hand, this is purely a subjective opinion as I’m not a huge fan of anthology stories, in general. I have a long record here on the blog of my struggles with a book rising at the exact rate at which an author adds POV characters. The more you have, the more I’m going to have a difficult time connecting to the story. Obviously, that is unavoidable here. I did like several of the individual chapters, but this then lead me to become increasingly frustrated as, again and again, I lost these characters just when I was beginning to become invested in them. And even in multi-POV stories, there’s always the anticipation of returning to a beloved character, which isn’t the case here. I also liked the level of diversity that is included, but there were also moments where it began to feel a bit like “diversity Bingo” and less like a natural and organic collection of individuals.
I did like the magical elements we had in the story as well. There were a few particular characters who had very unique ways of practicing their magic that I was especially interested in. But, again, I was always left wanting just a bit more. And, while every chapter did move the murder mystery along, bit by bit, the overall experience did begin to feel a bit tedious. However, as I said, I struggle with this approach to story-telling in general, so this could definitely be more of “me” problem than an actual problem with the book itself. On top of that, the writing style did err towards the younger side of YA; again something that is really subjective to the preferences of the reader. If you’re a fan of anthologies or love any of the authors involved in this project, this is likely a book you’ll enjoy. If you tend to enjoy adult fantasy more, this might not work quite as well.
Rating 7: A cool concept and an impressive feat of collaboration, but the large cast of characters and the slow pace of the larger mystery itself left me struggling to fully connect to the book.
“The Grimoire of Grave Fates” can be found on this Goodreads lists: YA Releases June 2023