Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review: Grace and Fury

Title: Grace and Fury
Author: Tracy Banghart
Genre: Young Adult | Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
Source: ALA
Format: ARC

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.
Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace--someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.
Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything (goodreads).  

Grace and Fury started weak but had a stronger second half. 
Plot: Grace and Fury can be described as a feminist story of two sisters trying to find their stations in a world where they can either get married and have children or work in factories or similar jobs. Serina chose the former but aimed a bit higher - she wanted to become the Grace (aka concubine) for the Heir (aka crown prince). Nomi always had a fiery side and wanted a world where she had actual choices. This all sounds good but this story fell flat in the execution. First and foremost, the summary hints that Nomi had a secret that could have gotten her killed. I'm all for secrets, but I was surprised that the secret was revealed around the 50-page mark. By acknowledging it so quickly, it removed the mystery that I was anticipating. Secondly, this book was soo easy to fly through, which is great for those who like to finish a book in a day, but not so great if you're looking for fleshed out characters and worldbuilding.

There was a considerable amount of telling instead of showing which made Grace and Fury seem more preachy than I would have liked. Yes, it was terrible that these women were only there to be bred, yes it was terrible that women couldn't own anything, but SHOW me how this affected our characters instead of "this isn't right!" Of course, sexism isn't right, but I would prefer more personal stories than a blanket statement. 

Those complaints aside, the second half got me invested. One of the storylines took an unexpected turn which I honestly didn't see coming and ended on a cliffhanger. While there isn't a sequel listed on GoodReads, I would be surprised if it didn't get one. 

Characters: Grace and Fury was told from the perspectives of Serina and Nomi, both sisters with different attitudes toward their stations and different approaches to getting what they wanted. Of course, I was attracted to Nomi, the rebel who questioned the ways of the world, but I found her to be bland, Serina as well.

I also could have gone without the romances. For a novel about sexism and sisterhood, I was surprised that Banghart elected to write romantic arcs for the both of them. It seemed counterproductive for a book detailing how women were more than the husbands that they married. 

Another nitpick regarding the female empowerment in Grace and Fury was that the book equated masculine strength with absolute strength which I disagreed with. Serina, the pampered lady who was ready to become a Grace, had to go to a fight camp to toughen up. Something about the assertion that a woman had to be a warrior to be considered strong rubbed me the wrong way.  

Worldbuilding: Grace and Fury had Italian roots which were seen in the language and geography. The two landscapes were the royal palace and the dangerous volcano prison camps. Just as a reader, I preferred the palace setting over the prison camps, but I appreciated how clearly Banghart laid out the camps and the varying cultures. 

Short N Sweet: Grace and Fury didn't meet my expectations, but I'm known to nitpick. You do you.


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