The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne Book Review

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 28, 2015

Thomas Mardsen and his father are grave robbers, going out each night to London's many cemeteries and digging up the riches of the dead. One fateful night, Thomas's father lets him pick the grave. As they turn the dirt over the last thing Thomas expects to find is himself, but there he is, down to the smallest detail. And the dead boy in the ground has left a note for him. Following the clues left behind, Thomas stumbles across a world of death and faery folk, where fairies are forced to work until they eventually die. Thomas may be able to help, but only if he can find the magic inside of himself to save them.

Riveting from the very beginning, this quick-paced middle grade novel had just the right amount of high-stakes and pathos to suck a reader in and keep them there. Thomas is a smart character although never more than the average twelve-year-old would be in his circumstances. Despite his dubious beginnings and the line of work his father is in, Thomas was raised to be kind and even generous. At first, I was put off by the whole grave-robbing thing, but as the story progressed I realized that this is probably what the author wanted. She wanted the reader to be dubious about the virtue of both Thomas and his family. To doubt them and their motivations, just as the faery folk do.

The other secondary characters were not nearly as complex and their motivations were a bit more on the shallow side, yet there was also a deep sense of loyalty among them. Charlie, Thomas' best friend who also happens to be a thief (or whatever gets him some money) cannot be so easily dismissed as "just a thief" because he also is deeply loyal to Thomas. I liked this complexity.

In the end, the story is simple, moves along at a great pace, and although there are a few twists and turns none felt gimmicky. Trevayne carefully weaves together a story that is one part Oliver Twist, one part fairy tale, and one part The Graveyard Book.