Grave War – Kalayna Price

The end. Also known as my letter to Kalayna.

Disclaimer: Here I review Grave War, the seventh book of the Alex Craft series. This review contains spoilers about current or previous events in the series. Some are safely hidden behind a white font, others can be extrapolated. Read at your own peril.

It’s not everyday that a fantasy series ends after a reasonable number of books. Kudos to you for sticking to your vision and letting your hero have the story you thought she deserved instead of dragging her for longer than necessary.

This series was the bomb and Alex, grave witch turned badass fae, a compelling and relatable main character. This book has been one of the highlights of my 2020, which, now that I think about it, is actually great. If I have to be honest though — and what’s the point of writing a review if one can’t be brutally honest? — , this finale felt a little bit rushed to me, and I can’t help but think I would have been happier with more information.

Let me explain why.

In Grave War Alex has more responsibilities than ever. She needs to step up and become the leader of the FIB (Fae Investigation Bureau) now that Falin has gotten the position of Winter King in Faerie and can’t work there anymore. Sadly, all of a sudden the doors to Faerie are destroyed. All the fae in the USA are stuck in the mortal world and begin to fade. With Falin far away and her castle (and its inhabitants) gone, Alex is alone in trying to find a way to take the fae to Faerie before they all die. Well, alone if we don’t count a ghost sidekick, a hostile employee and a self-appointed bodyguard.

This story is packed with tension, lost hopes and sheer survival instinct, and it works so well. For the most part.

Dear Kalayna, did I ever mention that I love your ability to craft (no pun intended, just lacking a better word) a world so incredibly vivid and tangible for your characters? Both Nekros and Faerie have always been easy to picture, even though a fervid imagination is not my strong suit. Every time I read one of your novels, the setting feels as real to me as Chicago, Reykjavík or another city I’ve never been before. Your writing style is magic.

Many beloved characters make an appearance in Grave War. Despite being hopelessly crushed by the fact that he and Alex are never going to be together again, I’m glad that we could say goodbye to Death, albeit the reunion was (as it always is) too unidirectional for me: he’s always stricken me as very lonely and I really wish Alex would care about him the way he cares about her, and not necessarily in a romantic way. That is not the case, but that’s life.

As I’ve always had a little crush on him, I’m also glad we could see Kyran again, although I have a lot of questions about him that will be left unanswered. I’ve always liked how he was an enigma, but I would have been happier if you’d let us know something more about him. Perhaps a short story? I just love his personality.

The same can be said about Dugan, though he’s had his own closure in the end: he is a king now, and he finally has friends. I love how he picks up the habit of joining the gang for dinner. He’s always been very human for a fae.

Another topic I would have liked closure on is what happened to Jenny Greenteeth and Tem. I wish I knew whether they’d got the punishment they deserve or not. I also wish I could know more of the reasons why Ryese had so many followers. I’m not buying the Amaranthine tree excuse, to be honest. I feel there has to be more, at least for the simple reason that I don’t buy him going around and telling all those lesser fae “Hey, look, I have this brand new tree. I’m gonna blow up all the others and we’re going to change Faerie forever.” He doesn’t strike me as someone who would reveal his plan to everyone and his mother. And speaking of relatives, was it really necessary for him to be Alex’s half-brother? I mean, I understand that the only reason he was able to get inside the High Court was his blood, but the whole finale left me with more doubts and questions than answers.

Still speaking of relatives, the plot twist about Alex’s father was at the same time unexpected and something I’d begun to suspect lately. I liked it, and I also appreciate that they’ve been forced to fix their relationship. He can’t avoid acknowledging her anymore, and boy, do I wish we could see more of it. What came out as a complete surprise though was the reappearance of Brad, but if I have to be honest I didn’t care much for it because he wasn’t a character I was invested in in the first place. With all these characters ending up related though it almost felt I was reading a crossover with some soap opera.

Since we’re talking about soap operas, was I OK with how the romance ended? I really wish I was. Sure, I’ve been #teemDeath since day one and a lot of my disappointment comes from the fact that I wish Alex hadn’t used that poor soul collector so badly throughout the whole series, but I’m adult enough to know how to deal with things not going my way (Rachel Morgan+Trent Kalamack is the first example that comes to my mind, and yet The Hollows is my favorite series all the same). My main issue is how the decision to marry Falin was pushed on Alex by Faerie and yet, after reading for seven books how she is afraid of serious relationships and how she has commitment issues — it was mentioned at least five times in this book alone–, she’s perfectly fine with it. So fine actually that I ended up almost expecting her to announce a pregnancy in the epilogue when she told the gang she’d held Tamara’s baby.

While all good things must come to an end, I wish you’d given Alex more offstage time to be able to explore her relationship with Falin and take it to the next level at her own pace.

They’re almost immortal after all.

In conclusion I’d have appreciated it if you had allowed the last portion of the main plot line more pages to develop at the expense of the romantic subplot. As I said, I believe Alex’s character needed more time to accept such a massive change, and at the same time I think her conflict with Ryese would have benefitted of more attention.

And now, the ratings. You’re a solid, consistent author. Your style is fresh and interesting, and I can’t wait to read more stories written by you. Whichever flaw I have found in your story is obviously minor to the point of nitpicking, and obviously doesn’t make the book a bad read. Anyway, for all the reasons I discussed above, this book is a 8/10: would definitely reread, will buy a non-digital copy to keep on my bookshelves.

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