SPFBO 2017: Naomi Grim by V. B. Marlowe

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This was part of Kitty G’s grouping and she had pretty high praise for it – video review here:

 


Plot:

Naomi is part of a race of Grims that live in an alternate dimension known as Neverwhere. When Grims turn 13, they start their life long career of collecting life-stones from the Fated when they pass over. They are not in charge of their souls, it’s vaguely referenced that the souls of human beings are up to god to decide what to do with.

Fated are humans that are destined to die, and it’s how the Grims identify the right people to reap.

Naomi and her family are Grims, you’re born a Grim, it’s not something that you choose. Her family is bordering on being very successful, and her father bows down to whatever his boss wants him to do. The boss comes to the family with a big job, there’s going to be a mass murder and he wants the family to be in charge of collecting all of the lifestones. Lifestones in this world are currency in a way, the more you have the longer you live as a Grim. Anyone who has less than “100 years” left is susceptible to dying themselves, it’s basically impossible to kill a Grim who has more than 100 years supply of lives. This would be a big boon for the family, great publicity, and an opportunity to rub shoulders with the elites. The family takes the job – but is it a setup? Their family is known for disobedience and earning marks against their name and if things go wrong – it could be disastrous for the family.

Final Score: 7/10

 


Character:

Naomi is sort of an outcast in her family and her society, her parents care about her and it’s not a terrible relationship, but she stands out as different. Even her name is an oddity in their society, most people have some kind of ‘dark’ name evoking a sense of night or forboding – while Naomi means “pleasant”, and other Grims tend to scoff at it. Like her namesake, she’s a much more relatable character than the other Grims, her brother loves the bloody deaths, but Naomi is horrified by them, feeling bad for people dying in pain. I liked Naomi, she was easy to root for and was much more personable than the supporting cast – she makes some wild decisions but she was under considerable duress. Grims are forbidden from any affection outside of their betrothed and of a certain age, so her falling for someone in this book made things very difficult for her as well.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


World Building:

I would qualify this as a “portal fantasy” as part of the plot and world are set in ‘real life’, and part is set in an alternate dimension that’s not Earth. A transporting chamber appears after a job is done, and takes the Grim back to their world.

Lifestones and the way they are collected was kind of neat, it’s just a black stone that looks sort of like coal, but the superiors always get a percentage of their underlings’ earnings, creating a dual class system. People’s ages and how they died effect how potent or how valuable their lifestone is – people who commit suicide don’t give much life force. The reasoning being “it’s not their time to go” and so they don’t provide any force. Now, the philosophy behind that is debatable, but it was an interesting thought to add to the world building around lifestones.

Fated glow only to the reaper there to take their soul, and the Grims can remain invisible to humans and are only seen as a person dies. These are among some of the “Grimbilities” that reapers get on their 13th birthday, as well as their personal Sycthe which is precious to all Grims.

There are a lot of similarities between the Grims and humankind, they live in neighbourhoods and had normal houses, ate and drank and talked with each other at the end of the day, but there were some differences. Betrothals were the norm, basically, no one married for love, and their betrothed is picked on their 18th birthday. Strict punishments are enforced if those rules are broken – they take years off your lifeforce and it’s a painful process to lose 25 years of lifestone.

Foragers are rejected Grims, they’ve become outcasts from society and no longer receive assignments for reaping – instead, they lurk around and hope to steal lifestones before the ‘genuine’ reapers can do their jobs.

Final Score: 8/10 


Pacing, Plot, Tone:

This book is meant to be light and fun, unfortunately, given the plot of what the mass murder was, the entire first half of the book I was clenching. The plot was there was going to be a mass shooting at a school, and 148 kids were going to die. This really ruined the book for me given what’s gone on here in America these past couple weeks, and in general. We have so many school shootings over here I can’t read about it and still find it a fun light book. I don’t want to mislead people, but I also don’t want to give away spoilers…..so I’ll leave a spoiler at the bottom of this post after many SPOILER warnings.

The pacing was hard for me to judge since I felt like I was bracing myself through a lot of the book. Overall it had a lot going on through most of the book, with a few lulls at points – but nothing that major.

The writing was pretty solid, it was written clean and clear with a strong sense of the character’s voice.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10 

Writing Final Score: 8/10 


Originality:

I keep looking for another series to grab me the way Dead Like Me did, it was a show a while back on Showtime or HBO that I absolutely adored. Same concept with a rather mundane and methodical look into what grim reaping could look like, with paperwork and bosses and the lot. This book did sort of deliver that for me, the world building did have unique elements to it, and I’ve for certain never gotten a plot like that in any other book.

Final Score: 8/10 


Audience:

  • For people who like single pov
  • For people who like grim reapers/death
  • For people who like faster paced stories
  • For people who like portal fantasy
  • For people who like urban fantasy
  • For people who want something a bit different

Final Score: 46/60 or 7.6/10 or 3.8/5

 

SPOILER BELOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILER

 

 

Ok, so there was no shooting. It was a lot of build up only for Naomi not to go through with it because she fell in love with one of the students. That happens about 40% into the book, and the rest of it deals with the consequences of her actions. I didn’t want to mislead people, but I didn’t want to go too far into the plot, so here we are.  I was relieved, but honestly, I really wish it had been anything other than a school shooting that was on the line. On one hand, it’s a topic that comes up a lot, and maybe we should take a look at using fiction – on the other hand, it seems an odd thing to use in a “light” urban fantasy that tries to be more fun than dark.

 

 

 

 

 

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