Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
About the Book
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Release Date: July 31, 2018 | Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher via Netgalley
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.
Yes this quote is from the dedication, but it really sums up what this book is all about in 18 words. This was one of my top anticipated releases for July because we all know that I love strong female characters and political intrigue, but unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me.
“For every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet…and has stood up anyway.”
Grace and Fury is young adult fantasy told in the alternating perspectives of two sisters: Serina and Nomi from Lanos.
➡️ Serina is 19, classically beautiful, trained in dancing, music lessons, etiquette; think aristocracy leading up to a girl’s debut to society kind of training. She has been told all her life that the way to help her family is to become a Grace for the Heir.
➡️ Nomi is 17 and has been trained to essentially her family’s maid. Because she doesn’t share her sister’s good looks, she was raised to become her sister’s Handmaiden. She has a fiery temper, a love of reading that is forbidden in Viridia, and all she wants is freedom from the oppression women are subjected to.
We are introduced to them during the announcement of the town’s candidate for Grace consideration, and they embark on a journey on a journey that one sees as a choice and the other sees as a sentence.
“Nothing should be beyond our reach. That’s my whole point.”
I wish that the book had opened up with more of home life for Serina and her family in Lanos, what it means to be a Grace, and the selection process to send candidates because I had trouble connecting with Serina and the story. I think this would have provided more background on the world and would likely have built the characters up a bit because I feel like other than the feminism dialog between Serina and Nomi there isn’t much else there about them.
“A yes doesn’t mean the same thing when it’s the only answer you’re allowed.”
This is a fast-paced read, but I had a lot of questions about the world! It isn’t a secret that I love reading fantasy because I enjoy being brought into new and fantastical worlds; worldbuilding is a crucial component for my enjoyment, and I wanted a lot more about Viridia. It was halfway through the book before we learned more about the history of Viridia, but I think that revelation would have been more impactful had we known more about the world previously. Things started to pick up for me around this point and the whole ‘who do I trust’ aspect was interesting, if not easily guessed for me.
The messages of this book – feminism, oppression, choice – are important ones, but I found the execution lacking. Instead of being told about oppression through thoughts and dialog, I wanted to be shown examples through storytelling and the biases of the characters. To the author’s credit, I think that Banghart tried to do this with Serina’s character arc; however, the narration style of telling rather than showing missed the mark for me.
I really wanted to love this book of strong women fighting for themselves and a better tomorrow, but for me, it fell short. This felt like a book about feminism and oppression… and everything hinges on that. Unfortunately, this results in a heavy-handed feminist narrative with one-dimensional characters in a story that is likely meant to be character driven and worldbuilding that left me wanting much more than provided. As this is intended to be a duology, it is possible that things could be expanded on in the next installment, and HOW DO YOU END A BOOK LIKE THIS. I think in the right hands this book will be adored, and you can see Vicky’s glowing review here for a differing opinion on this book. 😊
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher, Little Young Books, for giving me an advance electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Quotations were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.