Thursday, July 4, 2013

No Chains To Oppress Me

Published:  May 14th, 2013
The Caged Graves
By: Dianne K. Salerni
Clarion Books
ISBN-13:  9780547868530

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds  herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.


     Verity Boone has spent the majority of her life living with her Aunt, Uncle and cousins and now that she is 17 years old her Father finally wants to bring her home.  After corresponding with Nathaniel, a young man she has never met but who her Father approves of, Verity becomes engaged and travels back to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the place where she was born.  Her Father is always out in the fields and she never sees him.  Plus Nate, her fiance, seems like a completely different person than the man she got to know through his letters.  Feeling alone and unwanted, Verity latches onto a mystery surrounding her Mother and Aunt - and why their graves are caged in and outside of the cemetery's consecrated ground.  Discovering her Mother's diaries only gives Verity more questions, even when it looks like no one is going to answer her.  With whispers of witchcraft and legends of buried treasure, things quickly escalate into a deadly situation in which Verity may not make it out alive.  Can she solve the mystery, get her Mother and Aunt moved into the cemetery where they belong and figure out where her heart truly lies before it's too late?
     I was expecting some tame historical fiction novel, with an easily solved mystery thrown in.  What I got instead was a truly suspenseful tale of Revolutionary War treasure, murder and intrigue in a small town in Pennsylvania.  I liked Verity a decent amount and thought she was definitely a catalyst for interesting events.  But I got annoyed with her indecision in regards to Nate, who she literally drops everything for at the beginning of the novel and decides to marry sight-unseen.  She chooses to make some snap judgments about his real personality and starts flirting with the Doctor's apprentice Hadley (because he pays her more attention).  I liked Nate and thought that she was way too harsh on him for not being her exact ideal.  Their romance when she starts to realize how wrong she's been though is super cute.  I loved the mystery aspect of this novel.  It's centered around Verity's love for her Mother, and her inability to let the past go - but in a good way.  She's questioning things that everyone else has just accepted, all to honor her Mother's legacy.  The revelation of what really happened was believable, heartbreaking and freaked me out, all at once!  I won't say anymore cause I don't want to ruin the progression of the mystery as it unfolds, but it won't be at all what you're expecting.  
     The sideline story with the 'lost' treasure fit into the plot nicely and gave more action to the story that wouldn't have been there otherwise.   My favorite relationships in this book though weren't the romantic ones.  I loved the interactions between Beulah (the housekeeper) and Verity, they were so entertaining as they battled for kitchen control!  I also liked how easily and happily she interacted with Nate's older sisters, who welcomed her with open arms.  But the sweetest relationship for me was the awkward, but loving one between Verity and her Father, who has no idea how to really connect with his almost grown daughter.  Their connection and it's gentle awkwardness was sweet and convincing.  I liked that Salerni didn't make them get along and be super close automatically.  It's a very true-to-life relationship, which I appreciate as a reader.  I did like the fact that the author got the idea for the caged graves from real life, it made the mystery that much more interesting and her attention to historical detail and accuracy made me super happy.  Overall this was different from any book that I've read recently, especially my other historical fiction reads.  I truly enjoyed it, the book was well written and engaging with only some minor flaws that barely proved a distraction.  I'd highly recommend it.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published on May 14th, 2013.*

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