Cover Image: The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal

The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal

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Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me access to this arc.

4 stars / 5

Things I love:
Well written characters.
Beautiful world building.
Absolutely loved the plot.
Things I didn’t love:
Would have been better as a dual pov.

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TW: murder, death, torture

<b>Poets’ words have power, you see, and the words they utter within sight of the far side of the veil may as well be divine. Words have power, and if no one is around to receive a poet’s last, they may not go gently into that good night.</b>

For a debut novel, I enjoy the plot and intrigue, I liked the murder-mystery aspect and the location it was set in. The story itself was interesting and wasn’t like anything I have come across before. The opposing mix of the arts, sciences an religion is very interesting and well thought out. But something in the story was lacking for me making it feel slow in the beginning.

<b>Maeve found herself struck by the expression—struck like she’d find herself before a cathedral or a monument or the expanse of the sea. A moment of loveliness in what was otherwise sharp and inhospitable.</b>

The characters were good but not great, I feel like some of them should have stuck out more and others had some unnecessary spotlight. I did enjoy Maeve’s growth but a lot of the other characters felt jumbled and I had a difficult time connecting with them.

<b>”That’s all wonder is, isn’t it? Taking pause to notice your blessings.”</b>

I would have liked this book so much more if it was easier to read. The formatting of this book completely threw me off and made me had to backtrack and reread paragraphs to find out who was speaking or what was happening. And this didn't only happen a handful of times, it happens throughout the entire book. At first I thought it was an issue with my e-reader settings, it was not. If you have a character writing messages in response to other characters speaking to them it should be clear. It wasn’t, it was all thrown in to the same paragraph without any direction or identifying markers that it was written text vs narration or who was responding to whom. If this had been edited and formatted in a clearer way, this book could have been great. But this formatting issue really brought down my ability to enjoy this book fully, so I ended up feeling a bit disappointed. I feel a little generous giving it 3 stars but I did enjoy more than I had issues with it.

<b>A good life is made up of good moments.</b>

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I enjoyed the mix of genres, from paranormal to murder mystery with a sprinkle of romance. The story was interesting, the world building as well. The characters were quite particular, but the middle fell a bit flat for me. I had to push through for the story to pick back up again and the ending was more engaging. The murderer reveal was a bit underwhelming, maybe because it wasn't really hard to guess. I liked the concept of having nuns being exorcists though!

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It's a wonderful thing to fall into a world where some things are familiar--tea, books--and others are not--poets having enormous power, the nuns of the Sisters of the Good Death, and more. Daly creates a fabulous and original world and characters for this novel, which, despite dealing with the half-undead, is charming and cozy and delightful. It's got Victorian plot devices used in excellent ways, including land-grabbers, lost siblings, and unexpected romance. Make your own cup of tea so no one can poison you, and settle in for a good read.

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This was a book I knew very little about before going in, but I think it was one of the most enjoyable reads of the year for me.

We follow young nun Maeve in the Sisterhood of the Good Death in a fantasy world that has elements of early 20th century obsessions with seances, ouija boards and spirits. In this world, Maeve's convent aim to peacefully help spirits pass on here possible, but they are in a constant fight with the Poets of this world who are seemingly agitating spirits through their seance's, leaving them with a higher chance of remaining and turning violent.

The convent live by the code that living a good life means a good death, so some of the younger sisters regularly leave convent grounds to visit tea houses and bars at night. They only aim to not become like the 'hedonistic' Poets and Artists.

(Un)fortunately for Maeve, she soon becomes entangled in not only Poets, Artists, but also Scientists, the social elite and a maybe not-quite-alive but not-quite-dead Imogen Madrigal, a beautiful semi-famous Poet who is trying to solve her own sort-of murder. There's questionable morals, scientific ethics, guns, and harpoons; which is a lot for a woman in her early 20s to take on after living in a convent for over a decade.

This is ultimately sapphic, and it shows the heart but often messy first time crushes between sisters and other acquaintances. The mystery was lacking somewhat for me, but the characters and relationships between the characters really made this book something I utterly devoured.

(For any critical role fans who want a sapphic Laudna-adjacent character, check out Imogen Madrigal and you'll be in love)

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Thank you NetGalley and BooksGoSocial!
Amazing concept and amazing execution. Imogen is such a complex and intricate character and fits so well together with Maeve. The plot was what made me want to read it, but the queer rep was but ultimately sold it to me. I saw the words queer ghostbusting nuns and just had to read it!
Not only are the characters fantastic queer characters, but the plot is very well written and explained fantastically. This is a book that could get confusing really quickly or drag on, but I'm glad that it flows extremely well.

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Gorgeous writing!

Thank you to NetGalley for access to this story.

Imogen and Maeve are two loveable characters that the story follows. The overall themes are intertwined between dark and light and the author made both feel balanced as you follow the sequence of events.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Grayson Daly for allowing me an early access copy.
Now to begin with I really struggled to get in to this book. I read a few chapters and had to put it down for a while.
But I am so glad I went back to it!
I loved Imogen, her character development was so unexpected to me, I was t an huge fan at first but by the end I think I loved her the most. The relationship between her and Mauve was just beautiful.
The book definitely became a lot more exciting as it went on, there were some truly fun scenes to read.
It ended well but I could happily read more about these characters.

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Part ghost story, part mystery, all heart! I loved the magical realist world Daly created for us and the endearing characters who filled it. Thank you for taking Unbury Your Gays to the next level and for looking at death through a lens not of loss...but of transformation.

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The first chapter immediately shot me into the story. It was a great start and I loved the character introduction of Meave and Imogen immensely. Initially, the dialogue was a bit clunky and Meave and Imogen very quickly started their investigation together. I thought that went a bit fast and I was a little scared that it would be lots of interviews with various people and not much actual story but that was not the case at all. Although I had a little bit of a hard time getting through it in the beginning, later when more things happened it made it very exciting and fast to read.

I enjoyed the various relationships between the characters and the institutions greatly as well. Meave and Imogen, Meave and Shivani, Orion with basically everyone. I love Orion the most but really all the characters were very fun and all had their own great aspects that made me love them. The way the different institutions interacted with each other was very well done and I loved how it was emphasised how little both knew of each other's theories and practises. Although I had wished for more explanation on how it all works I think it fits well in the story with how much everyone knows the world.

The conflicts between characters and in general in the story were also really good. I wanted to throw away my tablet sometimes and other times I cried through the chapter. I always love books that make you feel something and this was no exception. Especially Meave's speech near the end made me weep. I am very glad I got to read this book and although it is a stand-alone I would read many more stories with these characters and this world.

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What a deliciously tempestuous read. Ups and downs abound within the story and the readers experience matches this.

Great world building. Extremely descriptive and imaginative. LGBTQIAP+ rep was exquisite.

Thank you to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for providing an eARC for an honest review.

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This dragged. Its plot and conceit were perfectly serviceable, and I think the characters were well developed, with believable personalities. The structural tensions were all there. Thinking back on the shape of the plot, I can see it's actually perfectly well developed: Maeve, a nun responsible for dispelling ghosts and ensuring the dead rest in peace, runs across a mysterious stranger who makes a deal with her: she helps the stranger--the titular Imogen Madrigal, who is actually a reanimated corpse--discover who killed her, and the Imogen will use her influence to help Maeve support her nunnery's weakening finances. This is all nicely set up: Maeve has the expertise in hauntings and ghosts and death to work effectively with a reanimated corpse. Imogen, however, is affiliated with a network of louche and hedonous poets, whom the nunnery really doesn't care for (for reasons that are never fully clear to me; it's not moral tut-tutting; it's more that they like to do things like seances, which the nunnery thinks are cruel to the dead), and also had ties to the university, which the nunnery also doesn't get on with, because the spiritual vs. scientific approaches to ghost are incompatible. The society built for this world was nicely designed, and I enjoyed the various visits Maeve makes on her nunnish errands to dispel spirits in various places that lay out the various factions and philosophies. Also, someone keeps trying to kill Imogen again and finish the job properly, so Maeve's under some pressure to clear things up fast. Really, all the pieces are there for a rollicking romp.

But the rollicking never actually romped. Everything just dragged. The repeated murder attempts are never quite frequent enough to convey a sense of genuine threat, so they appear kind of randomly and desultorily rather than actually reinforcing the fact that there are dangerous people operating in opposition to Imogen and Maeve. Instead, most of the plot focuses its attention on the growing tensions between Maeve and Imogen (nudge nudge wink wink), and related but different tensions brewing between Maeve and her best friend--a plot point also takes far too long to come to a head. Everything needed to be tightened up substantially. I felt like I wanted to be halfway through the book at 30%, and by the time I was at 60% I wanted to be hitting the climax. Literally, this book was too long by half.

Further, one quite key plot element, which seemed far too central given its awkwardness and unnnecessariness, really irritated me. See, the world was designed to be at a technological level of--oh, say, 1920 or so. Telephones exist but are uncommon, and electricity exists but not everywhere. Imogen was murdered by having her throat cut, so she can't talk very well out of it even after her corpse reanimated. So how does she communicate? With cell phones! Excuse me--not cell phones, 'hand telegraphs'--which work exactly like modern text messaging. But there isn't really any plot-necessary purpose that I can see for shoe-horning in such an obvious modern device. First, I don't fully understand why Imogen can't just talk. There's perhaps a hint that her inability to speak fluently is particularly trying, given how much she used to rely on language during life as a poet, but that doesn't become clear until very, very late in the book, and is not thematically important enough to justify such a weird narrative choice. There's very little use of text messaging that takes advantage of its use for remote communication--certainly nothing that a well-placed messenger child couldn't handle--or even a traditional telegraph boy. It's mostly just how Imogen and Maeve talk to each other during in-person conversations. And yet Imogen's communicative habits don't actually match the medium. There are scenes where Maeve interrupts her at places where a speaking person would interrupt another speaking person, but it doesn't work for text messaging, because the interruption would either appear earlier--if the words appear one at a time on her receiver--or else much later, after the message is complete, if the text messages are sent in whole chunks once the texter hits 'send', the way modern cell phones do. These hand telegraphs were an enormous component of how Maeve and Imogen communicate, and they just didn't work. Every scene with them felt forced and weird, as if the author is incapable of imagining how to function without a cell phone, and so had to force a weird approximation of them into the world she'd created. There is MAGIC and GHOSTS. If you really want Imogen incapable of speaking (which is not really necessary, as far as I can tell), have her use MAGIC. (Also, these 'hand telegraphs', if they truly work by radio waves, the way a scientist explains, seem a WILDLY INSECURE means of communication if you're trying to avoid letting a killer know your plans.)

There were also some irritating editing oversights. Imogen and Maeve are hiding from a killer at one point in a cellar, and so start writing back and forth in Maeve's sketchbook to communicate. For a few sentences Maeve speaks aloud before returning to writing down her thoughts so as not to be heard--apparently a concern she'd forgotten half a page up. And, for that matter, why not use their hand telegraphs rather than writing by hand? For that matter, there are multiple scenes where Imogen writes to Maeve in a sketchbook rather than using a hand telegraph, for no other reason than that--as far as I can tell--a previous draft had Imogen using hand-writing, before the author decided to insert cell phones--excuse me, hand telegraphs--and forgot to change it everywhere.

So, in sum, this book felt very, very first novel: too long, some odd plot decisions, and some weak editing--but the components for a much better story were all in place. I hope the author can wrangle them more successfully next time.

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The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal was comedic, heartfelt, and intriguing, all at the same time. I was captivated by both the characters and the mystery plot line. The idea of a convent dedicated to serving the dead and the grieving was brilliantly unique. I will definitely be purchasing a physical copy to reread and keep on my shelves.

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A little bit of romance, a little bit of politics, a little bit of magic, and some flamboyant queer poets – this book has a whole lot going for it. Despite the title, the book is told primarily from the perspective of Maeve, a death nun who gets caught up in working to solve the mystery of Imogen’s death and subsequent resurrection. Along the way she must confront assassination attempts, decadent parties, and her own doubts about her spirituality. The story features a vibrant array of side characters, many of whom I would have loved to see more of. Speaking of wanting to see more, I would also have liked to see more worldbuilding. What is there certainly isn’t bad, but I want to know more about the sisterhood and religion in this world, the political system on the island, and what the world looks like off the island. I suppose that’s the mark of interesting worldbuilding – I want to see more of the world, instead of feeling overwhelmed by details. My only serious complaint with the book is Imogen’s dialogue. She communicates via writing since she can’t talk, which makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the way her dialogue is translated into something that someone would actually type. For instance, there would be sentences started, paused, and then changed into something else, or ellipses used in a way that didn’t feel natural for what’s essentially texting. Also italics – am I meant to assume the miniature telegraph she uses has italics? So that didn’t always make a ton of sense, though I understand its importance for readability and flow. Otherwise, I found it an engaging, compelling story.

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3.75 stars

This review is very difficult for me since there was so much about The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal that I really liked but there were also some pretty big issues for me as well.

First off, this book is a little bit like if Legends and Lattes, and Lockwood & Co (the tv series, I haven’t read the books) had a baby. But with a sprinkling of Cemetery Boys. And nuns. I maybe wouldn’t call it a cozy fantasy but cozy adjacent?

The Good:
I really enjoyed all of the characters. Sister Maeve is sweet, relatable, and has a really nice arc throughout the novel. I also loved her blossoming romance with Imogen. Orion was one of my favourite characters, always entertaining when he was in a scene. The characters and the setting had some definite cozy vibes. Then the mystery gave us a bit more structure and direction for the story. I was invested in both the romance and the solving of the mystery.

The world is also so interesting! The dynamics between the nobles, the poets, the scientists, and the Sisters of the Good Death was so intriguing (but not touched upon as much as it could have been). It’s ghostbusting nuns! In a queernormative world, with tea, and a mystery. And a sapphic romance! What’s not to like?

The Less Good:
The pacing felt very slow. It felt like there wasn’t very much happening for chunks of the book which gave the sense that it was a much longer book than it was. There definitely could have been some trims made.

I also really needed a little bit more time at the beginning to introduce us to the world and how it worked. I think the author was leaning into the cozy fantasy vibes with the slower pace and not wanting to get into too complex world building but it was also a mystery. I needed more information, more tension, and a slightly quicker pace to grab hold of my attention a little more tightly. I think this would have also made the emotional beats hit a little harder later on.

Overall I did enjoy more about this book than I didn’t, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more by this author.

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I love when a book toes the line between sci-fi and fantasy! This is an atmospheric tale of a death nun who meets undead Imogen and agrees to help her find out who killed her. The world building and uniqueness of the premise is what caught my eye for this book! I was expecting this to be a bit more about the mystery but I would consider the mystery the sub plot and the main plot is the developing relationship between the characters. The characters are all very interesting and I related to Maeve's inner fight between what she believes and what she's learning as she ventures outside her convent. I really enjoyed the first half of the book but though the second half really lost the plot and I didn't understand the point of a lot of the side characters. It was still a really unique read and would definitely recommend for anyone who enjoys gothic/sci-fi atmosphere in their reads

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Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher Nosetouch Press for the digital ARC, it has not affected my honest review.

TW: murder, death, religion, horror, ghosts, hauntings

"The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal" starts with the murder, exactly one year ago, of Imogen Madrigal- a rising star in the world of poetry- in a back alley. Her throat is slit and she is buried with much fanfare, but over a year later her grave lies forgotten. Sister Maeve, who works for a group of nuns who help to exorcise ghosts and bring them to rest, discovers the abandoned tomb and finds herself fascinated by the woman who was the same age as Maeve when she died. Poets and nuns are natural enemies because of the chronic hedonism and seances held by poets that the nuns see as disrespectful. While drawing at the cemetery, Maeve meets a strange woman who can't talk, only to discover it's Imogen Madrigal herself, who has risen from the grave and doesn't know why. As Maeve and Imogen work together to solve her murder, Maeve finds herself thrown into the world of poets- only to realise that she hasn't been as happy in the convent as she once thought. Working alongside Imogen's former mentor Orion and some of the sisters from the convent, Imogen and Maeve find themselves tangled up into a web of complicated history and hurt feelings; at the same time, they start to fall in love, with Maeve wondering what will happen when Imogen finally finds her killer and goes to rest in peace.

I loved this book, it was the perfect combination of horror and mystery with a dash of queer romance and a discussion around the connections of science and religion. I loved Maeve's journey from feeling obligated to the convent for taking her in after the death of her grandmother to realising that she could want more from life, she wants to be an artist and the life of a nun doesn't match her as perfectly as she thought. Imogen, meanwhile, is introduced as a mystery but as the story went on it became clear why she was so beloved in life. I especially liked the way that Maeve and Imogen communicated due to Imogen's throat injury and how that was never treated as hinderance or as different; this kind of accessibility in the story really mattered to me. This story had a lovely mixture of severity (it does deal with a murder) and humour as well as some lovely romantic moments between Imogen and Maeve. Sometimes the pacing felt a little slow but that didn't matter because the characterisation was so strong and well established, while the world building was incredibly imaginative. I really enjoyed this book and I could definitely see my re-reading it when I'm in the mood for a great queer standalone.

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This book is my newest obsession! I was hooked from the first line. The book opens with absolutely stunning prose, with amazing gothic academia vibes, that continues throughout the entire book. On top of the fantastic prose were fantastic, unique, lovable characters. I loved Maeve so much. She is so sweet and caring and witty and tough. She also underwent amazing character development, learning more about what she wanted in life and gaining the confidence to go after it. Of course, I also loved Imogen because how could I not. She was a fabulous caricature that became a unique individual. The mystery around her death was so clever. I loved the amateur sleuth investigation, and definitely did not see the final twist coming. My only critiques are that the ending was a little too fluffy for my tastes, and the setting and mythology could have been developed a bit more. Overall, this book has everything I could possibly want: fantastic plot, amazing characters, vibrant prose, and on top of all that, its so very queer. I highly recommend.

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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read an early copy of this book!

On the island city of Lenorum, Maeve serves the Sisterhood of Good Death, a convent whose purpose is to shepherd lost souls from one world to the next. But her life of devotion to the unquiet dead is upended by an encounter with the haughty poet Imogen Madrigal, who has mysteriously returned from beyond the veil not in spirit, but in the flesh--and determined to obtain justice, whatever the cost. Maeve agrees to help Imogen solve her murder, which propels her headlong into the hedonistic and heretical world of the extravagant and influential Poets' Court.

I wasn't sure what to expect when starting the book. The summary certainly piqued my interest. After finishing it I am very pleased that I was given an opportunity to read it. Having just recently enjoyed the London Seance Society from a different author I was definitely in the mood to delve into this kind of world again and I was not disappointed at. all!

We follow Sister Maeve of the Sisterhood of Good Death as she finds herself questioning her faith in a world where having a good death is just as important as having a good life. The nuns of this order dedicate their lives to help troubled spirits resolve their unfinished business so they may move on to the peaceful rest they deserve. Maeve's structured world is turned upside down and her faith is in question when she meets Imogen Madrigal, a poet of renown and recently troubled spirit following her tragic murder. Maeve and Imogen are hurtled through a world of science, magic, faith, and love with a great cast of characters that you'll fall in love with immediately. Am I the only one that picked up on elements that loosely remind you of the movie Ghost?!? One could also even say Maeve and her fellow sisters are their own brand of Ghostbusters! I would definitely read more about this world. Grayson Daly deserves all the kudos for this beautifully written dark and romantic mystery!

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The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal was everything I wanted, based on the premise. There was a little paranormal mystery, a debaucherous Poet’s court, and a sapphic romance all tied into one. Just be aware going in that this is more a story about the joy and meaning of life than it is a mystery novel. I think if you go in with that expectation, you’ll be disappointed.

Instead, the bulk of the book is about the the budding relationship between Maeve and Imogen, and the lessons they both learn about life. I won’t spoil what those lessons are, but I found it really satisfying for them to discover what they’ve been missing from their respective existence.

Throw in a fantasy backdrop with paranormal death nuns and a society that reveres the poets, and I’m sold.

This book also has a wonderful cast of side characters, including a devilishly handsome disaster bi who steals every scene he’s in.

For me there were a few plot inconsistencies, unless I misunderstood something, but I also read an early copy so those could be fixed in the final print. Overall, they didn’t take away from my enjoyment, but they did leave me scratching my head.

All in all an enjoyable story with characters I’ll be thinking about for some time.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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