Book review: Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi

I received Grave Beginnings as a gift in exchange for an honest review, and what a wonderful gift it was. I was wholly unfamiliar with the urban fantasy genre prior to reading it, and I had only discovered the subgenre after I heard about Virdi’s book. I typically run in realistic fiction circles, so fantasy was a breath of fresh air.

4.5 stars

Characterization: 1 point
Vincent Graves, for not knowing who he really is, is fleshed out in significant detail. I think it’s that deep yearning of discovering who he is – don’t we all have the same desire? – that makes his character so appealing. We also see that there’s a chain of command in this supernatural world, and Vincent is only a small player. People like Church and creatures like Gnosis are higher up, give Graves important information, but still bound within that chain of command as well. It looked like Virdi put in some significant time to work out who everyone was and what role they played in the story, and it paid off big time. Everybody that appeared was essential, down to the various monsters that chased Vincent.

Plot: 1 point
Quite frankly, I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did, given that I normally shy away from science fiction and fantasy stories. I was quickly swept into the action. There wasn’t time to figure out anything because conflict after conflict (rather monster after monster) was dealt. The inclusion of the time limit helped pace the story, and while most novels feel like marathons, this was like a 100 yard sprint. Vincent had thirteen hours to solve the mystery of who the deceased was, who killed him, and how to kill that monster. Fortunately, he literally became the deceased during the investigation, so that gave him a good starting point.

Word choice/Grammar: 0.5 points
The only point I docked off was for grammar. Even then, the errors weren’t so distracting to have altered the meaning of the text, and they weren’t anything that a copyeditor couldn’t polish in a quick reading since it was limited to improper punctuation. My one compliment is that they’re all consistent errors, though. Word choice, on the other hand, was exemplary. Virdi used strong verbs to show what was happening, and the level of description made it easy for even me – with little familiarity with supernatural creatures – to envision the horror of what was playing out on the page. The narrative had an easy way about it, and it was almost conversational, as if we were in Vincent’s mind and he was talking to us in real time about what was happening.

Setting/World building: 1 point
The setting is simple – New York City, the capital of what seems to be all superhero stories – but there is more world building on top of that, most of which is implied. There’s a whole other world out there – the supernatural world – that we see only glimmers of. I hope in future stories more of this world is shown to us as readers.

Story concept: 1 point
A caveat here is that I freely admitted I tend to pass on sci-fi/fantasy stories, so the argument could be made that I simply don’t know what’s out there. Even still, I’ve never heard of a story quite like this. The concept is original and captivating. Vincent Graves wakes up in a new body, a body of a person killed by a supernatural being, and he has a time limit to solve their death and right what’s wrong. It’s simple, and everything revolves around that, which makes it so great. Subplots were limited in favor for the main action; all the resources are devoted to Vincent solving this. Grave Beginnings – the story itself – was a great way to start the series since Vincent tells Church, his supernatural boss, if you will, that there are several things that are different in this mission from all the other previous assignments. It’s new, even for Vincent, and that helps propel the story. (Sorry, I’m not giving away any spoilers here!)
I read some writing advice recently that said to make up the biggest lie you can think and make it plausible. Virdi not only did this, but he made it entertaining as well. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes getting swept up by a good adventure to solve a mystery. A proclivity toward fantasy isn’t needed.