Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

About the Book

Publisher: Margaret McElderry Books  |  Release Date: September 18, 2018  |  Pages: 389
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  |  Format: eARC  |  Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?

Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

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My Review

This is such a weird and beautiful book. Friends, I am struggling to find the words to articulate how much I adored this book. While the premise of hundreds-year old pacts that provide prosperity to a town in return for sacrifice isn’t new, I found Strange Grace to be refreshing and captivatingly written. It is one of the best witch stories I’ve ever read.

Three Graces is an idyllic town: there is no disease, the weather is perfect, injuries heal overnight, and crops grow in abundance. Provided that the bargain is upheld every seven years on the Slaughter Moon, everyone is safe. Everyone except for the town’s best boy, who volunteers for the honor of being named the next saint and ensuring that the bargain continues. Everything has gone smoothly for two hundred years, but something is wrong with the bargain and the Slaughter Moon has come four years early.

“He will live or die on his own mettle, and for his sacrifice the devil blesses Three Graces.”

The book is told in the alternating perspectives of our three main characters, each of whom are tied inextricably to the bargain as well as each other. Their love for one another, as well as their town, is absolutely endearing.

Mairwen Grace is the daughter of a Grace witch and a saint. She loves deeply and practices her craft differently than her mother. She feels a deep responsibility for the well being of the town and those she loves.
Arthur Couch was raised as a girl, Lyn because his mother didn’t want him to be named saint and run for the bargain: “to have a son in Three Graces was to live in terrible fear.” Unfortunately, his secret was discovered, and he’s made himself hard to prove his “manliness” to the town, wanting to be named the saint but no one really taking him seriously.
Rhun Sayer comes from a line of two saints and has almost been raised with the expectation of his fate, to the point that he assumed that he has no future after his run. He is good, pure, and kind — just the characteristics that would make him the best boy and saint.

The ways that the book tackles the society’s expectations of gender is nuanced, from Arthur’s genderfluid identity to the gender reversal of the “sacrificial lamb.” Three Graces is not without its gender roles, and it was heartbreaking to watch Arthur struggle to fit into either of the worlds but falling in-between. My favorite character is by far Arthur – watching his arc and coming into himself was such a breath of fresh air. I struggled a bit with his internalized homophobia and transphobia early in the book, but that was as much about himself than a product of the society – there are a number of queer relationships in this book, including a polyamorous one, and the representation is heartwarming.

I truly adore books where both the plot and characters drive the story forward, and I can say that this is the case here! The characters bring a heart to the story and humanize it, but the lore of Three Graces and the bargain are interesting on their own. The prose gripped me, the characters tugged at my heartstrings, and the plot had me devouring the words – I read this book in one day because I was absolutely engrossed by it. I do wish that the magic system was explained a bit more; we do not learn how it works or what the limits are. It seems to be rooted in historical practices of witchcraft, but I don’t have enough knowledge to have been able to fully understand. This will not likely be an issue for every reader, but it was a noticeable gap in my enjoyment because I almost felt like I was supposed to know about this stuff already rather than have it built into the world and story.

Gratton’s writing is poetic, descriptive, and absolutely captivating. The characters are full of life and each experience development, and I truly enjoyed reading each of the perspectives. Often times multiple perspectives wind up being jumbled, but the way that the story develops it just flowed. Melanie said to me that reading this book is like reading a lucid dream and I cannot think of a better way to describe it. It’s weird, and you will likely be a bit confused in the beginning with the character relationships, but I sure you will settle in and fall in love.

Overall, Strange Grace is an amazingly atmospheric and poetically written story that celebrates the found family, the love people feel for one another, and the sacrifices they are willing to make for the people they love. While I was left a little unfulfilled with the ending, this is a lovely standalone and I totally wholeheartedly recommend this book and I hope that you pick it up.

Content Warnings: animal death, bullying, death of a parent, gore, human sacrifice

🤝 Buddy read with Destiny from Howling Libraries!

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!

34 Comments

  1. Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams

    September 13, 2018 at 9:14 AM

    Wonderful review, Kaleena! ☺️💛

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this, and it sounds amazing—I’m such a sucker for beautiful prose, and characters are one of the most important aspects in a book for me, so I sometimes don’t mind all too much, if other aspects end up falling a bit short.

    I can’t wait to read this now. 🙂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:10 AM

      Thank you Lily, and I hope that you love this one as much as I did!

  2. thebookprescription

    September 13, 2018 at 9:23 AM

    I can’t wait to read and review this, I think it needs more attention and hype as I have seen many positive reviews!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:11 AM

      I know!!! I was surprised to see there are less than 100 reviews on Goodreads… it is so good! More hype! Also the cover is stunning!
      I hope you like it, Hamad!

      1. thebookprescription

        September 14, 2018 at 10:19 AM

        Thanks Kaleena
        reading it for sure 😀

  3. pinotandpages247

    September 13, 2018 at 11:15 AM

    I’m so glad you loved it! 💕

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:15 AM

      Me too! It was so beautiful and reading it was honestly such a unique experience!

  4. aboutabookclub

    September 13, 2018 at 3:59 PM

    Beautifully written review, and the book sounds like a must read! Will it be available in the UK on this date do you know?

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:16 AM

      Thank you so much, and it DEFINITELY is a must read & perfect for spooky fall vibes! It is also being released in the UK on the 18th!

      1. aboutabookclub

        September 14, 2018 at 11:20 AM

        Brilliant! Can’t wait to read it! 😁

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          September 15, 2018 at 6:57 AM

          And I can’t wait to see what you think!

  5. booksandblends

    September 13, 2018 at 5:27 PM

    Wonderful review Kaleena! I can’t wait to read this one when it comes out. 💗

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:16 AM

      Thank you Kayla, and I hope you love it as much as I did!

      1. booksandblends

        September 16, 2018 at 7:45 PM

        I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

  6. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    September 13, 2018 at 8:32 PM

    Amazing review! I loved buddy reading this with you and can’t wait for our next read together. <3

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:18 AM

      Thank you sweets!
      Excited to dive into our next read soon; PRIEST OF BONES CANNOT COME SOON ENOUGH!

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  8. Tammy

    September 13, 2018 at 8:45 PM

    I don’t think I’ve read a bad review of this book. I love strange so I’ll have to give it a try😀

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:20 AM

      Thank you so much Tammy, and yea I have seen nothing but positive reviews from everyone I know that’s read it. I found it to be such a unique and mesmerizing reading experience, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  9. facingthestory

    September 13, 2018 at 11:06 PM

    Very thoughtful and well written review, Kaleena! I also love books where both the plot and characters drive the story line forward 🙂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 14, 2018 at 10:21 AM

      Thank you so much, and I agree! This book was the best of both worlds!

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  11. betweenfoldedpages

    September 14, 2018 at 5:42 AM

    Great review. I’m so glad that you loved it 🧡

  12. Tessa

    September 16, 2018 at 1:29 PM

    Love this review, especially how you mentioned how the story treated gender roles and sexuality!

    Anyway, I have been eyeing Strange Grace to read October for a spooky feel (since I don’t really do outright horror books or movies). This seems to have more depth than most witchy stories, with great characters and a great plot.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 17, 2018 at 7:32 AM

      YES this would be a perfect spooky October read, especially if you don’t do horror! The characters and plot are great, but I should warn you there is a tiny bit of body horror described.

  13. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    September 17, 2018 at 9:06 PM

    You pretty much nailed it, Kaleena! “Rooted in historical practices of witchcraft.” I’ve wondered about that too! Like those old pagan rituals and whatnot. My worldbuilding-loving half of my brain was like, “I need to know more,” but the other half was like, “Eh, it’s a fairy tale story. I don’t need to know all the ins-and-outs of the world,” and that one won in the end. 😀

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      September 18, 2018 at 8:02 AM

      You are totally right, and I didn’t fault the lack of expanding on the witchcraft practices in the end either. This book is so magical and special.

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