Art: Don Kramer
Meet Calexa Rose Dunhill. She’s not really sure of anything before she was left for dead in a cemetery – but she’s got some very interesting talents…
The combination of Sookie Stackhouse creator Charlaine Harris with Peter Octavian’s Christopher Golden gives us a character who would easily fit into worlds created by either author, and it really is impossible to say which parts came from which writer. Both are known for juxtaposing the real world with the more outré in their work, and that continues here.
“Calexa” (the reason for the quote marks will become apparent as soon as you start reading the story) is a young lady who is understandably damaged by her experiences, and amidst her self-loathing over some of the things she’s forced to do to survive (and we’re talking the basics here, rather than anything overtly horrible), she has to try to find a way to learn to trust again. As the story progresses, she gradually grows more comfortable with a couple of people, both of whom treat her as you would a stray animal that you want to help, not forcing the issue more than necessary.
That character development would make this first volume interesting enough in itself before you add in the supernatural elements: living in a cemetery, Calexa has a lot of exposure to dead bodies and funerals, and she discovers an ability to see things that others can’t. There are hints dropped that this might be something she’s always been able to do – she has amnesia, so we don’t yet know – or it could be linked to a memory she has of a serum being injected. Either way, the talent develops further, and adds an extra complication to her life.
Don Kramer’s art, coloured by Daniele Rudoni, uses the page layouts to give us a clear indication of Calexa’s state of mind – you’re never in any doubt whether this is a flashback/nightmare or real events – and brings the graveyard to vivid life (if that’s not a contradiction in terms!).
Although some plotlines are wrapped up in this, there’s a great deal more to learn about Calexa by the end of the book, and hopefully this is the start of a long line of stories featuring the Cemetery Girl.
Verdict: A case of talents multiplying rather than simply adding to each other, The Pretenders is a suitably spooky start for the series. Recommended. 8/10