Title: The Grave Thief
Author: Dee Hahn
Publisher: Puffin Books
Release Date: May 1st, 2022
Page Length: 344
Age Range: Middle Grade
Rep: physical disability (mc)
A twelve-year-old grave thief gets caught up in a royal heist in this compelling middle-grade fantasy in the vein of Kelley Armstrong’s A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying.
Twelve-year-old Spade is a grave thief. With his father and brother, he digs up the recently deceased to steal jewels, the main form of trade in Wyndhail.
Digging graves works for Spade — alone in the graveyard at night, no one notices his limp or calls him names. He’s headed for a lifetime of theft when his father comes up with the audacious plan to rob a grave in the Wyndhail castle cemetery. Spade and his brother get caught in a royal trap, and Spade must find the master of the Woegon: a deadly creature that is stalking the castle by night.
Along the way, he meets Ember, the queen’s niece, and together they race to solve the mystery of the legendary Deepstones and their connection to the Woegon, the queen, a missing king and the mysterious pebble Spade finds in the Wyndhail cemetery.
This is a fantastic story of friendship, bravery, grief and acceptance.
Content Warning: grief
Thank you to Dee Hahn and Puffin Books for providing me with a copy for this review.
This was such a comforting middle grade fantasy! The world feels very much like a familiar medieval fantasy world, one that you feel right at home in. Spade, a 12-year-old grave digger, was such a sweet character. Always wanting to do what was right and just didn’t want to feel left behind or left out. Dee did such an amazing job at weaving a tale of grief within this fantasy world without making it feel darker or somber. Themes of loneliness, grief, and wanting to feel understood were all present in this story, but at no point did I feel it was heavy handed or talked down to. There were many moments where a character would form an opinion, but then would take a moment and look at it from another perspective – usually allowing the character to come to some clever understanding to move the story forward. I loved how this was done, allowing the reader to take a moment and soak in the information before the adventure was off again.
Spade was our main character, but the side characters were just as delightful. Ember was such a fiery little princess, clearly just wanting to be understood. She is set to prove herself to her aunt, the Queen. Throughout the story, she helps Spade figure out the various puzzles and riddles during their adventures. My favourite side character though was Ash, his pet Raven (my youngest cat is named Ash so I have a soft spot for him). Ash had such a fun personality and was so communicative without ever using words. The relationship between him and Spade made me melt.
Sadly, I found the overall story to be a little bit predictable. However, I do understand that for the target audience this may be less of an issue. However, it was its predictability that made me love it in the first place. I’m so glad I was able to pick this standalone up and will be keeping an eye out for more of Dee’s work!