Author: William Frank
Genre: Literary Fiction
Year Published: 2023
“Nerdection Worth to read”
Spoiler Free Plot
The Grave Listeners is centered around Volushka, a descendant from a long line of grave listeners, while he tries to earn the respect of his village by casting out an imposter who potentially brought a plague into town.
Volushka is despised by the village. He is seen as an abomination and verbally and physically abused by nearly everyone in town. One of the few people who will speak to him is a five-year-old child named Benzi.
Grave listening is an old profession and not one that just anyone can pick up. Volushka’s job is to wait in the cemetery for any signs of the dead stirring in their coffins. In this world, there is a chance that they might either still be alive or they might turn undead. The grave listeners are well-versed in different forms of magic and sorcery and know plenty of the monsters and witches residing in the forest nearby.
Marcabrusa is a charming and ambitious new stranger in town. He stumbles upon Volushka while he is listening at the grave of the village’s priest and decides he is going to take over the position.
The rest of the book is dedicated to Volushka trying to get his job back in the village and prove to the residents that Marcabrusa is a fraud who escaped from his plague-ridden town only to cast it upon them.
My thoughts on The Grave Listeners
The Grave Listeners is William Frank’s first novel, though he has published eight books of poetry in the past. You can tell from a lot of the writing that he has the ability to write beautiful prose, which made me curious to read some of his poems. (Sidenote, there is a poem at the beginning of the book that I assume he wrote, which I enjoyed)
The story starts out strong with an interesting premise, one that I haven’t seen used before, and a clear voice for the story. However, as it progressed I felt the voice diminish as a majority of the narrative switched from prose to dialogue. Some of the interactions between the characters were redundant and I found myself eager to move past them.
Aside from that, the story itself was intriguing. We didn’t see much of Marcabrusa throughout the middle of the story so we are left wondering what his true intentions are and why he was so adamant about taking over Volushka’s job.
The exact setting and time period are somewhat ambiguous so there is room for the reader to use their own imagination with that, which I don’t mind.
Some of the lore for the area is explored throughout the story and those were some of the most enjoyable parts. I wish that there was more of that in the story, though. One of the most interesting aspects was the possibility of encountering vampires, werewolves, and witches so sprinkling in a few tidbits expanding on those creatures might have been nice.
We do encounter one witch during the story: The Witch of Gore Mal Gore. She’s described as the strange amalgamation of beauty and horror and there are legends of men going to see her and never returning. Volushka visits her and she gives him a powder that will mimic death, which he then decides to use to help prove that Marcabrusa is a fraud.
The part where he encountered the witch was bizarre. It was interesting to an extent, but at the same time, it felt rushed and forced. Before he got the powder, the witch wanted to sleep with him. It was unclear to me if that was the beginning of some pact or bargain, but I honestly didn’t feel like it was necessary.
Overall, The Grave Listeners is a short novella with some good writing and a unique premise. It’s definitely worth the read!
this book would be suited for an 18+ due to adult content.
murder, death, death of a child, physical assault/abuse, verbal assault/abuse, swearing, sex, bullying/harassment
About The Author Of The Grave Listeners
William Frank, an author of eight books of poetry and one charming little novel, is a man with an amiable façade, a witless disregard for reasonable care and a personal nimbus almost nine feet high. His work has previously appeared in The Dillydoun Review, the 2022 Bards Annual and he was a runner-up for the 2008 Discovery/The Boston Review prize offered by the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
When not writing, he enjoys long hours of losing at chess, bingeing on 1950’s Japanese Cinema, summering with the Devil, punching cryptids in the face and Kulning. Visit him at http://www.TuckfordBunnyPress.com