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Casual reader and reviewer of fantasy, science fiction, comics, and graphic novels.

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The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman



Well, this is the first Gaiman book I've read apart from Coraline, and, I liked it. Not loved it, but it was enjoyable.


One thing that bugged me during the first half of the book, and I'm surprised that not many other reviewers picked up on this, was the odd pacing. We follow the day-to-day life of Bod in the graveyard, but until about halfway through the book, nothing really happens. There are no real consequences, it was more episodic than a cohesive narrative, really. Not to say it wasn't enjoyable, I liked learning about all the characters Bod interacted with, I just wish they'd stay for longer than their respective mini arc instead of being thrust into the background with only the occasional reference (cough, Liza Hempstock) and then maybe brought back for the climax. 


One example of the book's meandering nature was the Hounds of God section. Bod (in an annoyingly out-of-character moment) decides he doesn't actually like his family, and joins a trio of night-ghaunts into Ghulheim. He's rescued by Miss Lepescu, learns a lesson, and the ghouls and the Nether world are never brought up again aside from a convenient way to banish three of the five bad guys at the end. 


Silas was a good character, mysterious and distant. Although, in my opinion, the book would've benefited without the reveal near the end that he was a vampire, because, after that, all the intrigue was dropped. When he was simply a strange being inbetween life and death, it kept you asking questions and making up your own story for who and what Silas was. When it was revealed "Oh, he's a vampire, then", the intrigue was lost.


And that's where the book faltered, in its inability to end the story without explaining everything. It had to let you know where Silas and Miss Lepescu were on their adventures, it had to explain exactly who the five Jacks were and why they killed Bod's family (which, frankly, was ridiculous and seemed to be pulled out at the last second with no foreshadowing), it had to neatly wrap up Scarlett's problem by wiping her and her mother's memory and having then sent back to Ireland. Why couldn't Scarlett have remembered Bod, but be made unable to return to the Graveyard? It would've been a bittersweet ending to her arc, but I think it would've had more impact than "it's all good, everything's erased and back to the status quo". 


On the topic of Scarlett, I liked her and Bod's relationship as children before she moved away, but once she was in her teenage years and returned, they never really shared any sentimental moments together. The importance of their friendship seemed forced at that point, and it seemed a little awkward at the end when the book tried to raise moral questions by having Scarlett accuse Bod of being "Just as bad as that are!", even though that argument falls apart instantly. Did Bod kill people for selfish, power-grabbing reasons and not in an act of self-defence to the people who had hunted him for his entire life? No? Okay, moral dilemma solved. 


Even with these issues, there were many parts of the book I did like. I liked the old English folklore, and Gaiman's spin on ghosts, ghouls, witches, and werewolves. I liked the ending. Not the climax, but the very end, where Bod finally ventures into the world, with nothing but a little money in his pocket and some clothes in his suitcase. It was bittersweet, seeing as he couldn't return to see his parents, lifelong friends, or his home, but it was still a happy ending (see, book, this is what you should've done with Scarlett. Imagine how lessened the impact of this ending would've been if Bod had had his memories erased and convinced he'd been a regular boy his whole life). 


All in all, I'd recommend it to someone with an interest in the macabre, who doesn't mind a slow pace and slice-of-life nature. I didn't love it, but it's persuaded me to look into more of Gaiman's bibliography.