Great World Building, But Does The Plot Work? Reviewing "The Mortician's Daughter"

§ I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. §

On Aria's 22nd birthday, her whole world is turned upside down: it turns our that she has inherited a gift to see dead people, and as such she is not expected to become part of a cooperation that helps dead people to cross over. This takes a lot of training and devotion.This moment has also shattered the trust she had felt towards her family as she learns more and more about what had been kept form her. On top of this, a ghost demands Aria's help and goes to extreme measures get it ... 

The Mortician's Daughter 	by Nan Higgins
"The Mortician's Daughter" is the first book in the "Death Singer" series, and as such a lot of time is spent building the world. The readers learns the ins and outs at the same time as Aria does - who had been clueless about this part of her life. And I love the idea! I like that they would have those small supernatural elements which are not fully explained, and that over time - as the world become more industrialized, so did the organisation. They ended up with front desk jobs, back office jobs, really weird but necessary jobs, judges and attorneys for ghosts, as well as school system for the rookies. It sounds a little absurd but at the same time, it works perfectly with the story and it becomes a believable idea in the urban fantasy genre. 

While this seems a little ridiculous at the beginning of the book, the book plays a little with self-deprecating humour. After all, helping ghosts to cross over to the next plane of existence must be Serious Business In Capital Letters. At the same time Aria calls her training "ghost school" and never stops using that term. It always made me chuckle a little.

While I do not mind a little bit of humour stewed in between the story, Aria did not feel like a 22 year old woman. Yes, she faces a big change but reacted to it like a 16 year old girl. She never considers what her parents' thought might have been, and when she wants to talk to them, she is clearly out for confrontation. There is also the fact that she does not want to get help "form an adult" despite the fact that she herself is 22 and as such an equal! 

One could argue that this stems from the fact that nothing in her life has ever gone wrong - despite the fact that she was not allowed to drink orange juice - but in the end, it was frustrating to read. Especially so because Aria never reflects on that behaviour and unlike characters in YA literature, she has no growth in that regard. 

This also means that the conflict with her family was never really solved. In the epilogue the result is briefly mentioned but I would like to see it, thank you. Instead the book focuses more on how her relationship with Sloane has developed. 

Actually, the love story between Aria and Sloane felt natural, and it is enjoyable to read. They start as awkward besties, and it starts to develop into more as the story progresses. They have cute little moments and work together to get through this mess. Despite this being a queer relationship the story never treats it as such, which was refreshing to read. Everyone already knows that Aria is queer and cool with it. 

So as much as I liked seeing a happily ever after for these two, the ending felt rushed. The whole story was resolved within 50 pages or less. On top of this Sloane throws in a different possibility and instead of pitching these option against each other, it is simply accepted. The fallout afterwards and what the first theory caused is not looked at again. Furthermore, there are some plot holes left: such as why Aria could see priors despite not being released ... and a few more unanswered questions. 

The ending felt like Higgins was writing a story for an exam and realised in the last half hour that she needed to finish it, and that was the result. Which was a bit frustration because, while I know deadlines in the publishing world exist, there would have been enough time left to explore all those issues! 

In the end, "The Mortician's Daughter" has a great concept and idea which is let down by a weak plot and execution. 

The Mortician's Daughter by Nan Higgins
Published2020by Bold Strokes Books
Series:Death Singer #1
Goodreads:Add to shelf
Content warnings:explict sexual content, violence

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