Book Review: Gravepyres School for the Recently Deceased by Anita Roy


Book Title: Gravepyres School for the Recently Deceased
Author: Anita Roy

Book Title:
The title of the book ‘Gravepyres School for the Recently Deceased‘ is spooky and mysterious.

Book Cover:
The cover image of the book is a collection of giant vultures rested on tree branches in dark. The black and white image creates an interesting feeling to read the book.

About the author
Anita Roy is a writer, editor, and publisher. She grew up in the UK and has lived for 20 years in New Delhi.

About the book: As the latest transitioner at Gravepyres, Joseph Srinivas has a lot on his plate . . . practicing Cloudforming, studying Mathamythics, understanding Decomposition, and learning how to ‘See’. But the only thing he really wants to learn is how to get home. Back to his parents and little sister.

When he stumbles upon the secret of the Eternal Spring and the majestic vultures who are the custodians of ancient knowledge, Jose thinks he might have found a way out. Hand in hand with his loyal, if a rather scatty friend, Mishi he sets off for the mysterious mountains of Kozitsthereistan. Will they find the source of the River of Time? Will they be able to save the notes? Will Jose ever make it back to the Land of Living?

As Jose and Mishi embark on the adventure of a lifetime, the very fate of the worlds hangs in balance.

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My review:
It’s been quite long maybe decades since I last read a fantasy book and that too written for children. I was not skeptical about my wish in reading the book but the title and the cover image really attracted me. I wasn’t wrong in my assumptions as the very first few pages made me get hooked to the book. I sat straightaway for 2 hours and finished reading.  Gravepyres  School is a saga of emotions, responsibility, and lessons to be learned, not the academic but life lessons with many varied characters and places.

The story starts with Jose discovering himself in the Gravepyre School for deceased which hints the readers that he is not alive. He meets Mishi there and she helps him go through the school and attend classes. The weird teachers, the weird subjects, the weird ways of teaching and learning makes Jose suffocated. He deliberately thinks he is dreaming and talks to himself. After some days he realizes that it is not a dream and he is a student rather transitioner there.

But he always wishes to go back and return to his family. He then checks there is no way out there beyond the school. He learns to cross over the River of Time it is impossible. He then talks to El Condor and Perveen the mighty vultures who hint him. The lines mentioned below, an excerpt from the book show how strong his will to go back is.

From then on, Jose spent every break time in the library, searching and searching – he wasn’t sure what for – a clue, or an idea, or inspiration. He consulted books on philosophy, philology, anthropology, and zoology; astrophysics and biochemistry; geometry and trigonometry. He skimmed through books of stories: myths and legends; folklore and fairy tales. He scanned pictures and pored over maps. He even spent some time in the gardening and cookery section. He went most often to the section marked ‘Self- help’ because he reasoned, help was what his self needed most, but apart from learning that there were (apparently) seven steps to becoming an effective leader, he came away empty-handed. Then along with Mishi he persuades El Condor and flies to search the missing river. Perveen helps them to an extent and flies back. From here the story takes a new turn. They meet Ranjubaba and they discover ‘ Plasticorp ‘ which uses the river water and does a lot of harm to the habitat. The story is a perfect mixture of adventure, fantasy, and mystery.

Below are some of my favorite lines from the book:

** Vultures feed only on dead bodies
** Little chicks dying before they’re born. Nowhere to nest, nowhere to fly, and the sickness
** ‘Ay, Chiquita.’ El Condor drew her under one enormous wing
**  You Cannae believe everything you read in books, Jose, you know that. I mean, maybe it is real, but not real, d’you see? The ending chapters are really emotional and it is a nice way to end the story is what I felt. Lastly, the plot is very novel and stands out with its unique storyline, very innovative settings, and heartfelt characters. The book is recommended to readers of any age group just for few things children can take help of elders.

Points I like:
1. A very unique plotline
2. The new vocabulary used is an interesting aspect
3. The nomenclature of the living beings at Gravepyre school is very fascinating
4. The chapters numbered in Roman Numerals gave a nice authentic feeling
5. The theme of Yeti is one of its kind that I have ever read in Indian books
6. The mention of spiritual concepts is quite interesting
7. The surprising mention of Sushruta Samhita was really surprising
8. The character Ranjubaba felt mystic and it was really entertaining to travel with him
9. The emotions are balanced in a mitigate manner that won’t anywhere cause trouble to the reader
10. The fantasy and adventurous part is definitely attractive

Points that made me think:1. I have never read the Harry Potter series or such children’s fantasy books much. I cannot really comment about what I didn’t like but it takes quite an amount of imagination skills to get into the skin of the story.

2. There are some concepts mentioned like Moksha, Kundalini energy, etc. which may need elders help but this is not certain that something I disliked

A new character is introduced almost on every page of the chapters. Though there are many characters each character has its own identity, strength, and space in the story. Be it El Condor or Dr.Chiplunker or Ranjubaba or Perveen or Madame Morte. The central characters are Jose and Mishi. Jose has another name, Joseph Eapen Srinivas. It is hard to settle with the fact that Jose if the hero of the story because there are many other heroes in the story.  The characters are the best part of the story. They all manage in creating a lasting impact on the readers.

The story oscillates between the  Gravepyre school and the outside world which Jose and Mishi travel to. The whole narrative in which the story is written is emotional, thrilling, unexpected, informative, and concerning. It is emotional because the school is for the deceased kids. It is thrilling because well it has a great story. It is unexpected because the characters and conversations are out of the box. It is concerning because the quest the children carry out is for the society. And the whole scenario of narration is perfectly aligned with a reader’s mind.

Language & Grammar:
This is the most difficult and amusing part of this book. Grammar Nazis have to be very liberal here. The reason? Author Anita Roy has created a new language that spells different but is pronounced as it is in the normal English language. For example, Mathematics is Mathemythics. As we read the book we find much such new spelling that will really make us smile for mistaking it. Haha!! Great writing skills by the author.

My Final Verdict:
A definite page-turner!

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Reviewed by Swapna Peri

This book review was published in Storizen Magazine April 2020 issue!