Shattered. There’s no other way to describe Chris Buckley’s life. Absolutely shattered by the events that ended Solitary, Chris now has to return to school like everything is a-ok when in reality nothing has ever been more wrong. Last year, when Travis Thrasher released Solitary, the first book in The Solitary Tales, I was absolutely blown away by everything about the book. Theme. Plot. Beginning. Middle. End. Writing style. In fact, I picked it as my favorite book of 2010.
Needless to say, I was highly anticipating Gravestone. I had no idea where Thrasher was taking the story, I just hoped it would be an exciting and fascinating journey. Second installments of series can be difficult. First installments introduce the world—characters, initial plot, overarching theme, and many other things that make for a good stories. They’re like the initial downhill plunge of a roller coaster. Maybe kind of slow at first as the world is built, but then you whoosh down that initial hill. The momentum for the series is set. Second installments can either coast along and take things easy or take the reader on a series of dips, dives, and loops that make for an exhilarating ride. Gravestone is definitely the latter.
The book begins with Chris trying to somehow go back to normal life and ignore the catastrophic events at the end of Solitary that are now being covered up. He’s got to do something, but what can he do? In the journey to find justice and seek out the evil in Solitary, Chris finds a few new friends, a few new enemies, and many more questions. The more Chris looks into the matter, the more he finds that the source of evil in Solitary rests on New Beginnings Church and Pastor Jeremiah Marsh.
Gravestone, is in a way the tale of Chris Buckley v. Jeremiah Marsh. The odd hints on the pastor received in Solitary blossom as the pastor unveils his true colors. But everyone but Chris—and maybe a few others—seem oblivious to it. Thrasher respectfully moves on from the shocking end of Solitary, giving it the emotional weight it deserved without bogging down the pacing of the story. Perhaps my favorite parts were the scenes of Chris speaking with Iris at Crag’s Inn, where he ends up getting a job. So much alluded to, so much left unsaid, such a great storyline.
Like Solitary, Gravestone ends on cliffhanger that’s jaw dropping. It answers as many questions as it raises, for as one layer is revealed a new layer presents itself. Where will Chris go from here? I have no idea…but I can’t wait to find out. Hopefully five years from now, The Solitary Tales will be known as the series that launched Thrasher’s writing into the bestseller’s lists. It’s certainly deserving of being there.
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