“He now knew what that ache was: empathy. And it wasn’t just any kind of empathy, but one involving loneliness.” – Hayden Thorne
Title: Grave’s End
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Queerteen Press
Pages/Word Count: 66 Pages
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: It isn’t business as usual for Maelwine when a new family moves into Grave’s End House. With the old, great house standing untenanted for quite some time, being a house shade attached to it has turned the hours dull for Maelwine. He has no family to entertain him, no variations in his daily duty, which involves the rousing of shadows in every room when the sun goes down.
Things change when the Villar family arrive, however, and Maelwine is finally happily caught up in the comings and goings at Grave’s End. That is, until he notices Royden Villar, a young boy with a secret that depresses his spirits and touches Maelwine in surprising and alarming ways. The more Maelwine studies Royden’s behavior, the more he glimpses the other boy’s heart, and, suddenly, new paths reveal themselves to Maelwine — paths that are as muddy as they are dangerous.
As a house shade, Maelwine is immortal and enjoys certain benefits that can only come with immortality. Not once has he questioned his situation. It is, after all, as Nature has always intended. But with Royden’s arrival, Maelwine’s forced to face difficult answers to unsettling questions about the nature of his existence.
He’s only a house shade, after all, and nothing more. He doesn’t have a heart, doesn’t feel loneliness in the shadows of his world. Things should be easy, but Royden Villar has set certain wheels in motion, and there’s simply no turning back.
Review: There is always a moment in Hayden Thorne’s Historical fantasies, that moment when the reader unravels the allegory woven into the tale, and I have to confess it took me a bit longer than usual to piece it together in Grave’s End, a short and lovely fairy tale of a story that introduces Maelwine, the teenage immortal who lives in the mirrors in Grave’s End house.
Maelwine is a house shade, he is the essence of nightfall who moves from room to room at Grave’s End and brings shadows to the once day-lit spaces. This is the entirety of his existence, to signal the crossover from day to night for the home’s current inhabitants, the Villars. It’s a lonely way of life for the boy who’s never been seen by anyone but his mother, the Queen of Shades—or, it is now, at least. It didn’t seem as such before the Villars moved in. Before then, Maelwine didn’t pay much attention to or try to fathom such things as the passage of time, or take much interest in Grave’s End’s residents outside of peripherally absorbing the habits and histories of mortals. Until, that is, he took an interest in Royden, the teenage boy who’s become a mere shadow of himself as he suffers through a bout of unrequited love.
As Maelwine contemplates and studies Royden, watches the boy as he withdraws further into himself, Maelwine develops not only an interest in but an emotional connection to Royden, something that’s never happened in all the years of his existence, or with any other resident of Grave’s End over the course of its long history. And this is where Hayden Thorne weaves the beauty into this tale—as Maelwine’s empathy for Royden increases, he begins to mirror the mortal’s moods even as he yearns for something he’s sure he cannot have. As his focus on Royden evolves from casual to the craving for something he’s never had before, Maelwine’s duty as a house shade falls into state of neglect, which gives the story its haunting quality and also lends a bit of human humor to this tale.
The beauty of Grave’s End exists not only in the growing feelings Maelwine develops for Royden, but in the immortal’s mystical existence as he longs to discover a means to ease his loneliness. He is a child of moonlight; that is, he can only be seen by mortals in the light of the moon, and as his yearning grows he becomes less cautious, which is the catalyst for the lovely promise of a young romance growing from the seed of a desire for something more.
I loved this small gem of a story, loved the imagery weaving its way through the true magic that is first love and the miracles it inspires. If you love a sweet and gentle Young Adult romance with just a touch of the ethereal, Grave’s End encompasses all that and more.
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