Many of us have wondered what comes after we die, and that is precisely what Chartier attempts to imagine with “Afterdeath”. This is the story of twin sisters Chloe and Olivia who—outside of having a ridiculously sad backstory—decide to go on a road trip to reconnect with one another after being separated for awhile in the foster care system. Along the way, tragedy strikes again, and the sisters find themselves, well, dead. From there, you’d think they’d immediately either freak out and try to figure out what happened and what to do—and they do for maybe a page before deciding to just wander aimlessly for a bit—or they’d try to return to the land of the living—which they don’t even figure out is a thing until about 200 pages into this 324-page book. It took awhile to get into the story, and there are certain sections and characters where the authors creativity and voice truly shine, but, personally, this was a hard book for me to get through.
Like I mentioned, the sisters don’t do much after they find themselves recently deceased, they wander around and half-heartedly try to figure out where to go. It’s a way for the author to introduce the reader to the afterlife world he’s created. But I found the execution a bit frustrating as it takes until about page 140 for the sisters to gain a sense of purpose—in that they hook up with a couple of people whose jobs are to ferry the dead or collect bounties on the dead. I thought how Chartier wove in widespread belief and old myth into his world was really interesting, however. I loved the idea of Charon having a thriving city whose sole function was to bring in more souls. I really liked the twists on the lore and various religious beliefs that Chartier ties in and addresses throughout the book, I just wish it had been organized in a way to help the story flow better.
While Chartier’s writing truly shines around the 200-page mark—where you finally are immersed in the central conflict with the reasons why everyone is after this pair being better teased out—and the sister’s trying to get out of the mess they’re in, I never fell in love with the main cast of characters. This was especially true for Angelina who confused and frustrated me for almost the entirety of the book as she waffles between being exceedingly selfish and supposedly trying to help Olivia and Chloe. She’s a terrible person and generally unlikable for so much of the book, that when that starts to change, it felt disingenuous to me, and made no sense as to why Olivia (Chloe?) would want to help her out. On that note, I also never got a deep sense of the sisters, either. They have their own chapters to help keep the reader straight on which twin is speaking, but they never felt all that different from one another, so I was often confused on who was who and, therefore, couldn’t see them as individuals, which became a huge problem for the end—I won’t say how or why to avoid spoilers—so I was left a bit lost as to how things ended the way they did. It was very much a “Wait, what?” moment that I didn’t particularly enjoy…
However, Chartier has a marvelous imagination when it comes to filling his book with detailed creatures and a fragile social balance between the various lands of the dead. Again, if the book had been organized differently, we would have seen more of those power balances and gotten to know the big players in “Afterdeath” better, which may have helped the flow of the book and made this more of a page-turner. Some of the rulers you just get these fleeting glimpses of and that was too bad, because they were so interesting! But the structure of this land is all there and fairly well fleshed out, so it would be easy for the author to return to it at a later point and introduce new characters and their individual stories, and I hope he does! There is so much in his book begging to be explored in greater detail and he’s a very talented writer, so I would definitely check out more of his work in the future.
Ultimately, while the premise sounded fascinating, I don’t think this book was for me. Chartier is a talented writer with an imagination that knows no bounds, clearly, but the characters, organization, and the pacing in this particular book didn’t mesh well with me. If you can devote the time to immersing yourself in this story, I still recommend you do as some of the concepts and discussions about the afterlife are very imaginative and interesting, and who knows, you may be able to keep the twins separated in your mind more than I could—which will definitely help with the ending. There’s also very little in mature content outside of a few instances of swearing and some semi-violent scenes, so if you are concerned about such things, don’t be. But for me, even though I loved the creativity and uniqueness of the story, this is a 2.5 star for me, but I am impressed with the author and will check out his other work. And thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review!
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