Grave Beginnings is an interesting book for several reasons, the primary one of which is that it's kind of tearing up the indie world and receiving rave reviews. It's a paranormal mystery starring Vincent Graves, a soul who can't remember who he really is because he's inhabited so many different bodies in attempting to figure out what supernatural force killed the person, and how to kill it in return. I've seen people liken it to the Dresden Files, of which I have only read the first one and didn't really care for it, but apparently if you like those, you'll like this. On Grave Beginnings, I am divided.
I did not like the first half of this book. Graves grated on my every nerve with his pop-culture references and snark. I don't have anything against snarky characters in general, but Graves just seemed so insufferably smug about his smart-alec ways that I kept putting the book down and walking away just to master my patience with him. Considering I had a self-imposed deadline on reading this book, that wasn't exactly good. But the concept of Graves is pretty cool; I mean, he picks up skills and memories from all of the bodies he's inhabited, and they've obscured his own identity to the point that he can't remember anything about himself, not even his real name--Vincent Graves is a psuedonym he's adopted to suit his position. But his "boss," a mysterious supernatural guy who goes by Church (or maybe is just called Church by Graves?) encourages him to try to reclaim his "life," as it is, by starting a journal. Presumably the book is what Graves eventually records in that journal. This whole setup appealed to me even when Graves himself didn't, so I kept reading.
And then I hit 50% in the book, and something strange happened. While Graves retrained his snark and some of his smugness, much of that aforementioned smugness diminished, and the pop-culture references that had so annoyed me pretty much disappeared; there were only one or two in the entire second half of the book, whereas in the first half they were everywhere. This greatly improved my reading experience. What also probably helped was that, in the second half of the book, he starts working with another character who I think helped to rein him in to tolerable levels. Once Graves became tolerable, the whole book became a heck of a lot better, and I read the second half in one sitting.
Other highlights of this book: Virdi can write a darn good action scene. Whether it's burning down a building or fighting a supernatural being, I think the fight scenes were one of the best parts here. Graves doesn't exactly specialize in combat but he's adept at using the environment to his favor, and his "partner" Ortiz ends up being pretty handy on her own. She befuddled me somewhat as a character--she's a federal agent but jumps straight into solving supernatural mysteries without really questioning it. Sure, she wants information, and I can understand some of her logic, but I would think there would be a bit more denial involved. Then again, a lack of denial seems to be a staple of paranormal mystery books, so maybe that's only to be expected.
One more thing--this book needs another round of edits with an eye to homophones, comma splices, and grammatical structure, particularly regarding dialogue. Comma splices abound here, and there are a bunch of instances of homophones being used incorrectly including its/it's, their/there, and beared/bared, though in fact the proper word in the "bared" case would have been "bore." In regards to dialogue, there are a lot of instances of doing the whole "Blah blah blah." He said. thing. There's also an abundance of ellipses; those could be labeled stylistic, far more than other issues, but reducing them and replacing some with simple periods instead could have made the impact of a lot of those sentences greater. Overall, another round of edits could have lent this a bit of polish that I found lacking.
In the end? I think it's a mixed bag. There are some really cool elements here that I think Virdi does a good job of playing up, but Graves on his own annoyed me and there was a certain degree of polish missing from the book. I know the second book is out now, so it'll be interesting to see how this proceeds--whether Graves resumes being a smug jerk who I can't stand or if he remains tolerable, and if the editorial issues are resolved.
3 stars out of 5.