Title: The Caged Graves
Author: Dianne Salerni
Publisher: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Released: 14th May 2013
Rating: 2 of 5 stars
It is 1867, and Verity Boone is excited to return to her hometown of Catawissa, Pennsylvania. Finally, after years of separation, she will be with her father again and, not only that, she will also meet her fiancé, the man she has thus far only known through letters. Yet her welcome is not as warm as she expected. Her father is as good as a stranger, and Nate, her fiancé, comes across as very different to how he did in his letters - more aloof and with apparently nothing in common with Verity. But even worse is the discovery that her mother and aunt's graves are within cages, and not even in the cemetery itself - they're buried just outside. Determined to find out why, Verity gets no answers, only rumours of witchcraft and buried treasure...and suddenly a situation in which her own life is at risk.
After such a promising premise, the plot for this unfortunately fell flat for me. Where I was hoping for mystery and intrigue, I instead got a storyline that was overly simplistic, so much so that I wondered how Verity could possibly be so blind to facts that were right in front of her. This was not a problem at first, Salerni's writing keeping me slightly curious and, if not completely eager to read on, still far from impatient. This soon wore off, however, and I reached the point where I was reading simply for the sake of finishing the book. The villains, such as they were, were not believable in the least. Truly, they were quite ridiculous, and I didn't understand how I was supposed to view them as a real threat. Partly because of this, what was meant to be the climax came across as messy. Its structure - or lack thereof - had me reading incredulously and with no particular attachment to anybody.
The characters were as much of a letdown. Verity was likeable enough, and I felt some sympathy towards her purely because of her situation, yet she was unremarkable. Nate was somewhat frustrating, although the romance between them did allow for some lighter, sweeter moments which made for a pleasant change and an easier read than it might otherwise have been. This was not significant enough to be a wholly redeeming factor, though, and to make matters worse, Nate was not the only love interest. Yes, another one. I confess, I sighed inwardly as soon as the love triangle made itself apparent. These things are becoming even more tiresome to me than I thought. The secondary characters, too, were as unexceptional as the protagonist.
I honestly did expect more of this, especially as the element of the caged graves is based on real ones that are still in Catawissa today. Witchcraft and buried treasure seemed like a basis for excitement and some action, but sadly this was not so. While this was not completely terrible - indeed, there are parts more well-written than others - this was ultimately a disappointment.