"Grave-Climbing" continues from where "Surviving Sanctuary" left off. The mastermind behind decades of extortion and murder is finally imprisoned, and the citizens of Sanctuary go back to their normal lives. There is a growing movement for social reform, including the relaxation of laws regulating marriage and assets ownership. Traditionalists fear this will lead to their society’s disintegration and counter with greater restrictions. As tensions rise, a university professor is suspected of destroying historical records, a father is pressured to cut ties to a beloved daughter who has eloped, and an otherwise rational young man worries that his new wife’s seizures are of a diabolic origin. Violence erupts once again in a land that has forbidden it. A bloody coup attempt at the palace is put down, but more insidious threats remain as shadowy organizations take root.
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Excerpts from Goodreads reviews:
"Just as in PJ O’Brien’s first book of the Sanctuary series, the second book, Grave-Climbing, somehow manages to weave comedy, tragedy, romance, and drama into a plot that includes: an almost feral teen’s first exposure to school; a bizarre palace coup attempt where even those involved have no idea what’s going on; political conspiracies involving marriage entrapment, university professors, and EEG labs (seriously); an argument about the Wizard of Oz and terrorism, typical coming of age dilemmas in very atypical settings; a mass murderer’s backstory; a world-weary photojournalist and his estranged cloistered wife; witch hunts (literally), and a suspicion about doughnuts.
"At any given point, there could be very funny dialog, touching confessions of love, or arguments within arguments (one of them nearly provoking me to scream, 'Just shut up and get married already!!'). For those who’ve read the first book, there are cheerfully helpful tips when you can skip if you know the characters and culture. (And if you do know them, I’m happy to say that most are back, though the perspective has shifted to the next generation.) Despite the name, this is isn’t a horror book about zombies. The title refers to the apparent royal heirs who stubbornly keep coming back after being physically threatened and politically buried. This sad lack of the Undead almost cost the book one star..."
"..In this book we're introduced to a bunch of new characters, there is a coup attempt in the palace, and a whole host of other events and relationships are woven into the tale, including a trial that gives us a glimpse of the Sanctuarian legal system in action, murder, attempted assassinations, kidnapping... As expected this isn't exactly a cliffhanger, but it ends somewhat in the middle of a very long overarching story that is continued in the next volume, even though the immediate 'danger' is resolved. Also, if you start reading this without having read volume one you will be lost, so when packing for your desert isle excursion, be sure you have all four volumes handy. This series, actually more like a single four volume novel, is so monumental and fabulous that I had to invent a whole new category for it in the Rat of Approval program."
In 2014, PJ O'Brien's "Surviving Sanctuary" was given the Smashed Rat on Press "Rat of Approval" designation for Indie authors who pass their standards for grammar, punctuation, formatting, and general coherence. Grave-Climbing earned their mysterious "Great Golden Rodent of Shangri La" award, which they cheekily describe as: long considered a mythical creature, is so incredibly rare it is almost never spotted in the wild.