Cover Image: The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal

The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal

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Member Reviews

*I received an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review 

Grayson Daly's writing can be surprisingly immersive, and her characters are charming, if a little underdeveloped. Untimely is definitely worth reading, and this is an author whose books I will read in the future. 

I'm struggling with how to rate this book. The  themes never quite come together, there are massive plot issues, and the book never quite figures out what it's trying to accomplish. A book with such a long list of issues should earn three stars at best, but I *liked it* too much to only give it three stars. This is an actually GOOD book. But it's got some problems, most of which boil down to the author's indecision about what kind of book she was writing.

The sex scenes are largely glossed over, which is good, given that one of the people in the sex scenes has been dead for a year, is leaking ectoplasm from the gaping wound that flexes open when she isn't careful about how she moves her shoulders, and she was in a crypt for a year without any way to bathe- and Imogen only bathes once in the book. Add to this the repeated descriptions of Imogen as cold, descriptions that make it sound like she's rotting, developing liver mortis, etc., and it was hard to find the kissy bits charming. Imogen's bodily state is an ongoing continuity problem that clashes hard with the romantic subplot. 

There's also the issue of Imogen's voice. The muscles that control the tongue form the front portion of the throat wall, so a cut deep enough to sever vocal cords would also sever the muscles controlling the tongue. Imogen would not have been able to articulate, kiss with tongue- which was definitely implied, if not explicitly stated- or make a number of faces that she produced during the story. 

At times I found myself half cringing and half laughing at scenes that were supposed to be romantic, but...ick. The author (and the editor- this is trad pubbed!) needed to have made a clear choice about Imogen's body and how that was going to be handled. This seemed like the effect of multiple rewrites that were not quite thorough enough, and a bad case of hit-or-miss copy editing.

The book is billed as adult fiction, but the simplicity of the characters and the cutesy bits read more like YA takes on romance that the typical adult fiction exploration and growth through changing emotional arc, changing thought processes, and interpersonal tensions. In a sense, this is nice, as the normal plot issues of romance are avoided. But this introduces another aspect of Untimely's identity crisis. 

The mystery aspect of this book doesn't pull its weight. This should have been the  driving force throughout the book, especially as the practical aspects of the romance didn't pan out. But the investigations are minimal, just one trip to the library, and a visit to Imogen's ex. Far more time is spent on costumes and make up, trying different kinds of tea, and angsting over an inexplicably angry nun. 

Then there's a weird bit where an injured person who is not in their right mind goes running off, and the person who supposedly loves them decides to sit down and have a big emotional conversation with the person who did the injuring, and then went someplace other than where the injured person was heading. Why? To borrow a ball gown. Then, once kitted out, they go in search of the injured party. This entire sequence was tough to slog through. 

<spoiler> The antagonists are obvious from the beginning, and the "mystery" is solved when they confess, in the course of trying to kill Imogen again. They actually discuss that they have no further use of Imogen, but then it turns out that she has to die because it will cause them problems if she learns who she "really" is. But if the antagonists had just left her alone, she never would have learned this, and never would have found out who had killed her. Further, they knew that she didn't know what had happened to her. This non-mystery was both over the top and underwhelming. 

The theory behind the  fractured spirits also doesn't make sense. If Imogen's pain was causing the holes in the spectral veil, there should have been correspondences in time and location between Imogen's pain and the hauntings. And the fracturing thing was never addressed in any way. 

Unfortunately, the denouement was the result of the nun performing a large magical working- something that had never been discussed as part of her repertoire before this- to save the day. This came out of left field. </spoiler>

I read the first two hundred pages in one sitting, and then had to force myself to slog through the next 100 over the course of several days before the pace finally picked up for the last few scenes.

And yet, at the end, I still really liked it. Four stars. Read it, let me know what you thought.

An original take on hauntings with charming characters, pacing issues, and some massive plot holes.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sister of Good Death Maeve's life upends itself upon meeting not quite dead, not quite alive poet Imogen Madrigal. With the sisterhood struggling, Maeve will do whatever it takes to get them back on their feet. With Imogen's life (or, perhaps, un-life) hanging in the balance, she will use any means necessary to discover the truth of her murder. When the two girls' paths cross, they form a mutually beneficial bond to solve both of their problems. 

This book was phenomenal-- as a queer reader, I've dedicated 2023 to finding the perfect sapphic novel, and I might have just found it. The characters are well-constructed, charming, smart, and so genuine. I found their development very well paced and loved that the romance had the perfect amount of slow burn. There was enough time for their relationship to develop without feeling forced, but it didn't feel dragged out either. 

Though the novel deals with a lot of rather dark themes, I never found it overly heavy. There was a beautiful balance between dark and light, and I think that came from both the witty dialogue and from the author's natural voice. I will absolutely seek out more books by Daly in the future because of this.

The plot and overall genre of The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal is fascinating-- I've never read a book quite like this. It was a unique mix of fantasy, science fiction, with some paranormal aspects as well. Despite the mish-mash, it didn't feel overwhelming in the slightest. All of the pieces seemed to fit together really well and I think we can attest that to Daly's talent as an author.
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I was scrolling through the list of books on NetGalley when the cover caught my attention.

Murder mystery, paranormal, and scitech? All were perfectly blended.

The Untimely Undeath of Imogen Madrigal tells the story of Maeve of the Sisterhood of Good Death as she helps Imogen solve the mystery of her death while discovering the true meaning of living.

Ack!!! Where do I even start? This is such a fun read that made me laugh, cry and anxious from the beginning until the end. Maeve is the perfect example of a character who has her flaws but still likeable. Who wouldn't love her for the first time as she carefully—and thoughtfully—picked flowers for the dead?

--She selected a white lily, and headed back over, her boots crunching on the gravel path. There—she placed the lily down carefully, said a quick prayer, and then took her broom back up and headed onto the next. This headstone was much smaller, with curly carvings, and a glance at the name and dates revealed it to be the resting place of a twelve-year-old girl. A daisy, maybe? Maeve swept off the stone, considering, and then made her way back over to the bucket. Perfect. A pretty yellow daisy, sitting right on top.--

Even to the extent of doing the exact opposite of what she'd grown to believe in, Maeve proved to be selfless—a quality which was both good and bad. Nevertheless, change is the only constant thing in the world. For once, she did the most selfish thing she'd ever done her life and it might be the one of the many paths that would lead to a meaningful and happy life.

--Mother Superior patted her back and leaned back out to face her. "I'm torn, dearest. As your abbess and as your guardian—I want you here. I want to keep you close and try to repair this. But it sounds like you've found something out there. As much as I want to hold you, I'd only be holding you back from it."--

Really, it's a tough choice to make, to choose something and to let go of the other. At some point in our lives, we've been in that situation. And I can relate with Maeve's struggle and somewhere deep in my heart was touched. This was the most emotional part of the story as this was the turning point in her life. I love how Bethel was more of a parent/guardian here than a Mother Superior. Instead of preaching about the Sisterhood's vows, she supported Maeve in this decision and that counted as something.

Imogen, on the other hand, was that one tough cookie but a soft dough on the inside. Her strength and resilience brought an impact to this book. I loved the chemistry they made together even before the romance started. I honestly didn't want them to be lovers. I wanted them more as a formidable duo or the bestest friends because I could not quite wrap my head around the romance idea. Thought it would be instant love because that would be the worst decision ever made by the author. But Maeve and Imogen treaded that water in a smooth pace. Maeve was given time to sort out the feelings she constantly denied, especially for someone who never experienced such romance before.

And Orion? Haha, I thought I would hate you forever! You're arrogant to no end and so full of yourself, but not once did you ever fail to make me laugh in each and every appearance you made in the book. Orion was another imperfect character (despite his claims of being a perfect and talented man), but managed to redeem himself in the latter part of the book.

Meanwhile, I saw myself more in Frances, mainly because of her being a worrywart and attentive to her friends' needs.

This is such a fun read and I plan to reread this book SOON! My guess on the murderer's identity throughout the book was either Camille or Marlene, so it didn't come out as a shock but the complicated story behind that murder was something I never thought of.

--"I think maybe sometimes we're quick to judge others who do things differently from us. But I imagine we could help each other."--

And to get rid of the villains, they all must set aside their differences just like how Maeve sought the help of a poet and the Academy.

Unique premise. Well-written characters. Exquisite worldbuilding. Heart-gripping plot.

Solid 5 ⭐ and a bonus HEART 💖!!!
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Thanks to the author and netgallery for providing an arc.

Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me. I doubt I would have finished the book  if it wasn't an arc and I wasn't stuck in a intercontinental flight without much to do(it is much more long winded than it needed to be, though if you needed to kill 7-9 hours, it might do the trick). It had a really interesting premise and has very interesting ghost-focused world building. However, I didn't expect this to be primarily a romance. That isn't an issue in itself, but I didn't really feel much chemistry between people Imogen and Maeve, so it resulted in the most important aspect of the book to fall flat for me. Aside from that, the mystery plot starts off strong, but really stagnates in the middle and ends up more like a scooby doo episode by the end. 

I don't want to nitpick, but the overabundance of em dashes in the prose was very distracting as well. This book seemed interesting, but I don't really have many good things to say about this book outside of the world building.
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*Received as a free ARC*
I wasn't totally sure what to expect from this book, but I was ultimately delighted by it! There was a healthy balance of spooky supernatural mystery and sweet romance. Maeve and Imogen's dynamic was fabulous. The magic/paranormal system was innovative. It felt like a stand alone, but I'd love to read more in this world, even if it wasn't about the same pairing. I'd absolutely recommend this for fantasy and sapphic romance lovers.
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3.5 stars, but as I can’t give half stars, this is sadly going to be a 3.
And I say sadly because I actually did like the book. Maeve, a nun of the Sisterhood of the Good Death, agrees to help in the investigation of Imogen Madrigal’s death (or rather undeath). It explored not only the relationships between characters and their conflicts, but inner conflict as well – Maeve for example carries a lot of guilt throughout, balancing her religious devotion and the new side of life bought about through Imogen. The plot itself was (fairly) straightforward, but well-paced.
But for me, there was something that just made reading it a slog. I wanted to fully submerse myself into this world, and the mystery surrounding Imogen and her (un)death, but something about the writing style just didn’t sit with me and I had to keep on coming back to finish it. Maybe it’s a bit too YA for my normal fully submersed read (the book is tagged as Adult, but other than death, mention of adult relations and some reference of drugs, I wouldn’t really categorise it as Adult)
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The atmosphere of this book is truly brilliant. It reminds me of gothic Classics of the 1800's while mixing in modern tropes, language use, and pace of current spooky reads. This reminded me instantly of The London Seance Society which was a 5 star read for me. This novel is 5 stars for me as well, and I knew I would love it from the first paragraph. The descriptive language immediately immersed me within the story.

I will be ordering a physical copy for myself on release day so I can further promote on my Tik Tok and Instagram.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this advanced copy!  Daly manages to perfectly combine sci-fi, thriller, religion, and romance, with arts and the occult to tell the story of sister Maeve and poet Imogen Madrigal.  The writing style is elegant, with descriptive imagery that easily creates a world the reader can get lost in.  With fully formed characters, an interesting blend of themes, and a heartwarming queer romance, The Untimely Death of Imogen Madrigal is a uniquely compelling story that will appeal to readers of any genre.
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This book was captivating ! I really liked it ! All the themes present here were mixed perfectly for me. 
I had so many questions during my raeding and I cannot put it down in hours !
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Unfortunately I DNFed this one halfway through. I wanted to love it, and started off really enjoying it, the further I went through the more bored I got, and ended up having to force myself through to 50%. I will say the writing style was absolutely beautiful and the premise was interesting, it just wasn't for me
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I could not make heads or tails of this book. A chapter in, I have no idea what is going on. It needed a lot more explanation and exposition at the beginning for the reader to find their feet. Please discard the rating due to my DNF in the first chapter.
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I absolutely ADORE the premise behind this book. 

The worldbuilding was top notch, and I felt that it was given to us without beating us over the head with big worldbuilding dumps. 

I had to give this book a couple tries before I was able to finish it, but that’s no fault of the book’s.
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Thank you for NetGalley and Booksgosocial for allowing me to read the arc of this great book. Grayson Daly made us all a world where death goes to reside and the island city of Lenorum sounds like a place full of surprises. Imogen is this poet and I have never read a book where a character goes out her way to expose her killer and it was quite the adventure. There’s so much humor , great world building , and we are introduced to so many amazing characters. I was for sure on the edge of my feet near the end. I will keep my eyes open in hopes there is a second book and that’s my only con. I need more of Orion for sure. If only a world like what Grayson built was real
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Ahoy there mateys!  This was described to me as a cozy mystery where the focus was not the romance.  In the beginning this was true.  I really enjoyed the character of Maeve and the holy Sisters who perform exorcisms and rites for the dead.  I enjoyed Maeve's friends. The world building was not deep but was highly enjoyable.  The set-up for the novel was fun and I really enjoyed the introduction to Maeve's world and thoughts.

The mystery was pretty predictable and convenient.  The plot also went into a rather weird tangent when the mystery was supposed to be investigated.  There wasn't much action in trying to figure things out.  The story got bogged down by the romance subplot and the ridiculousness of Maeve learning about the sexy, selfish real world.  I enjoyed the first half then the story lost its way.

The majority of the problems stemmed from the romance.  I didn't have any faults with the same-sex aspect.  I didn't find the romance to be believable.  Some lust perhaps but not the deep attachment the book tried to portray.  The idea of Maeve being in love with the undead woman really didn't work for me.  I thought the sex aspects were boring.  I didn't like that Maeve gave up everything she was at the beginning (and that I loved) for the relationship.  I do not feel that she changed for the better.  Plus how the love interest was eventually saved didn't make sense.

Not sad I read this but wish it had played out a lot differently.  Arrr!
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a beautiful haunting novel, very well written.
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This book surprised me - I initially wanted to read it because it the LGBT-content, but then the worl building surprised me in a good way! The characters are so well-written, they take you through the plot (which is ok, ie a bit predictable and convenient). More of this, please!
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OMG this was absolutely amazing, I was blown away, I did not think I was going to enjoy this as much as I did but I flew through this and couldn't put it down. This legitimately had everything and more: supernatural elements, ghosts, magic against science, nuns, LGBTQ+ and a murder mystery. This was such a fun book to read, I loved the world-building and especially the characters - I just wish there was more I was so sad it had to end. The romance was beautiful written and unravelled greatly as the murder gets investigated more and secrets get revealed. If you love a darker mystery mixed with romance this is the book for you and I highly recommend this I don't have a bad word to say about it.
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Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I went racing into this book. Everything about it was ticking boxes for me: death, fantasy, bards, magic vs science, LGBTQ+... But I found the book started a little slowly. Though Maeve and Imogen were easy to connect with, and the world painted vividly, the story wasn't dragging me through it the way that I anticipated it would.

I don't know if this was because there was a little too much going on or if it is simply a slow burning book. Regardless, as I worked through the novel, I was entranced by the world and its characters. The uniqueness of the setting, the romance, and the murder mystery made it worth the effort and I would recommend this to fantasy fans who like things a little only the darker side.
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Another book that caught me by surprise. Blending faith with science in a paranormal reality where ghosts are real and no one blinks at two women in love... Sign me up!

Took me reading about a third of the book to really start getting into it, but one I did I could not put it down. As you progress, Imogen's past gets more in focus and Maeve challenges herself in ways that change her for the better.
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A beautiful story of love, friendship, and finding yourself along the way (with a little murder-mystery thrown in). A very solid 4/5 stars. 

Maeve is a Sister of Good Death, always doing for others. Imogen is a undead poet, back from the grave looking to solve her own murder. The two come together and embark on a dangerous journey, full of politics, debauchery, and self discovery.

The characters were so easy to fall in love with. The story itself was perfectly paced and, while I had theories as to who the murderer was, I was pleasantly surprised when their identity was revealed. 

My only real issues with this novel is that i am a visual person, so I feel as though I would have benefited from a map of the island.  My other issue is that I wanted more world building. The people take the last name of whatever profession they’re in (except for poets and the sisters that just seem to do away with surnames entirely). You have Grave, Whaler, Fisher. What other names are there and how did that system come about? Was it always that way?  I also found myself longing for more history of the Sisterhood and the Poets and their seeming rivalry. 
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. Such an amazing debut novel for Daly.
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