The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden
By Emma Trevayne
Hardcover, 247 pages
2015, Simon & Schuster
“Thomas Marsden was eleven years old when he dug up his own grave.”
I mean, let’s just leave the blurb at that, shall we? If a middle grade book about a grave robbing kid who finds himself buried isn’t intriguing enough, then you don’t need to know more about this book.
I love dark middle grade, and the cover of this book probably would have sold me by itself, but I have to say, I expected a little more than what I got from this book.
Thomas is a good kid – yes, his father has him assist with grave robbing, but they’re basically living hand to mouth and it’s not like Thomas can really do anything about it. He’s well-meaning, curious, brave and intelligent…but I have to say he was a little boring. He felt underdeveloped and I think part of that was due to the short page count of the book. It’s a slim 250 pages, with fairly large print, and overall, I wish that Trevayne had dug deeper (haha omg, pun intended) into Thomas and the faerie world she created. The ending was wrapped up in a neat bow and felt a bit rushed, though I do think she left the door open for future works in this world.
That being said, I didn’t dislike this book by any means. I think after being so impressed by Beastkeeper (despite a somewhat semi-confusing curse which I’m totally willing to overlook because I just adore that book), I might have self-hyped this book a bit. But it’s a fun read and I still love the premise. I don’t recall ever reading about a character whose profession is a grave robber, and especially not in a middle grade book.
Then you throw in some faeries, who aren’t your traditional, winged, sparkly, flitting things – in fact, in my mind, some were quite creepy based on the descriptions Trevayne gave me – and Victorian London and I’m happy. I liked the atmosphere and I could believe the situation in which the faeries were forced to live in London. The villain (Mordecai…a suitably, though predictable, evil name for a villain in a children’s book) was also a little shallow, which was disappointing because I think his character could have been fascinating.
I also really enjoyed how Trevayne handled why the faeries needed Thomas’ help in the first place – I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think she posed an interesting moral question and while I’m not one to explore the themes of a book, I tend to find it easier (and even enjoyable) to do with middle grade works.
I’m not going to rave about this, but if you’re looking for something a little different from your usual middle grade fantasy, I’d check this out. And it’s actually not as grim as you’d think, considering the hero is a grave robber, if you’re concerned about younger readers.