Warmaidens by Kelly Coon – Review

Warmaidens is the dark, action-packed conclusion to the heartwrenching Gravemaidens fantasy duology. Kammani and the maidens are now going to war against the ruler who tried to entomb them.

Just a few moons after escaping the tomb in Alu, Kammani and the other runaway maidens have found refuge in the city-state of Manzazu. There, Kammani has become a respected healer, especially among the warriors she’s brought back from the brink of death. Now that the nightmares of Alu are fading, she can finally decide whether or not to take Dagan’s hand in marriage.

But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill the displaced queen of Alu, the maidens realize they’ve been found.

Hungry for revenge, Manzazu’s queen wants to strike back at Alu with her fiercest weapons—her scorpion warrior maidens—but Kammani knows that war harms more than it heals. To save the innocents and any chance of a future with Dagan, Kammani must take down Alu’s ruler before their lives burn up in the flames of war.

Click cover to buy

Thank you so much to NetGalley for the advanced copy of my most awaited sequel in 2020! I stumbled upon Gravemaidens and Kelly herself through Instagram– and I instantly fell in love with her vibrant and diverse characters and the unique world that she had crafted. I had been overjoyed to learn it was to be a duology, because I couldn’t get enough of the rich lore of the afterlife that was explored, and the first novel ended in such a cliffhanger that I was basically foaming at the mouth to get to this one. Then, as things do, life happened, and it took me a bit to get to it, but I was SO happy when I did. Kelly delivered a punch of an ending and it was one that satiated my hungry soul. There hasn’t been much happy in the past year– but these books have been a bright spot for me.

As to not spoil anything for readers new and old– we meet our brave cast of characters once again in the midst of grave (see what I did there?) danger. This novel builds on itself so beautifully, and is filled to the brim with action and tension. The reader can feel the uncertainty building within the kingdom of Alu, and with it, the fear from our protagonist as she attempts to right the wrongs of this backwards community. It is, as the first one was, a stunning love letter to feminism and sisterhood, and just enough romance to satiate those of us who long for that sort of connection. There are also new, developed characters, such as the boatsman, who bring new life to this sequel. It is an exciting conclusion that you cannot miss.

Honestly, Kelly Coon has become one of my favorite writers. She is not only talented at her craft but also incredibly kind and driven– and so I am overjoyed to follow her to her next endeavor. If you have never read her before, I do recommend this series as it is one that will hook you instantly and introduce you to a world you never thought you would see. In times like these, I take what little travel I can get, and it turns out that reading is the perfect source of this as you can be spirited away to fantastical lands where adventure is just waiting to be had. Come join Kammani and the rest of our heroes today!

5/5 stars

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon – Review

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.

Click cover to buy

Thanks so much to NetGalley for this eARC! I was first caught by this gorgeous cover, and then pushed over the edge by the premise. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The world that Kelly created was so rich and intricate, and the power system that was used was so effective. Our protagonist is Kammani, a girl ahead of her time. Her father is a healer who, because of a failure to save the life of a prominent person, was cast out of the privileged life he and his family had led into the life of a pauper. In spite of this, he continued to use his gifts for the greater good until his wife was taken from him.

This one act set things into motion for many of these characters. Kammani’s father fell into despair; soothing his grief with drink. Kammani, who had studied for years under her father, devoted her life to saving others. Kammani’s sister, Nanaea, was the closest one to their mother, and as such began to harbor a secret wish to find her again. Their brother, Kasha, was taken from his mother’s arms to replace the life that their father had failed to save, and so he was bound to be a servant in the palace for the rest of his days. Life went on, the way it inevitably will, until it was announced that the country’s leader (called a Lugal) was dying.

The Lugal must have three Sacred Maidens to follow him into the afterlife, and being chosen is supposed to be the ultimate honor. When Nanaea is chosen, Kammani is horrified. She knows what this really means. Her sister’s life will be ended far sooner than it should be, and she knows that she has to do something to stop it. What follows is an inspiring tale of the bonds of family and the absolute power of women. A mystery unfolds itself before Kammani, and even at the risk of a budding love with her childhood friend Dagan in addition to the threat that her sister might never forgive her, Kammani defies all the odds to get to the bottom of it.

Kammani is a character far beyond her time and her years. She is educated in a way that no other girl we meet in this world is; and even better than some of the men as well, as is demonstrated by a pair of the palace’s guards. She has incredible inner strength. She stares death in the face and demands it to bend to her will. She is a hero with the most tortured soul, and it prevents her from seeing how amazing she truly is. I loved her, and I loved experiencing her tale. I am so excited that this is going to be a series, because I can’t wait to see what she will do now that her potential has been realized.

All in all, this was a captivating novel that I could not put down. I’m head over heels for the lore; the Sacred Maidens, the Boatman, all of it. The cast of characters were so well rounded and fleshed out, and I fell in love with all of them, including the villains. I think Kelly Coon is going to do amazing things in the book community! She has made one hell of a debut!

5/5 stars