Grace and Fury (Grace and Fury #1) by Tracy Banghart (2018)
YA Fiction | Fantasy
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
Hmm…here is an example where experience can get in the way of enjoyment. I’ve been writing book reviews on this blog for over three years and I’ve been reading YA for far longer. Back when the Young Adult genre was relatively new and I was just aging into it I loved every book I could get my hands on. Whenever my parents found time to drive me to the library or bookstore I would spend ages browsing the shelves and anything I chose usually thrilled me. But as time goes on and as I’ve grown older the number of YA books I’ve read has grown significantly. On the upside: YAY BOOKS! On the downside: trend spotting.
If I still lived a life where I could only get my hands on the occasional book then I have no doubt that I’d love this book better. But because I’ve read hundreds of YA books by this point I can’t say it thrilled me whole-heartedly. Was it bad? No, it had some really great and unique moments. But overall it was like another cookie-cutter YA Fantasy being churned out by the industry. From start to finish I felt like I’d read it before or at least something similar.
And I’m so bummed by that! I love reading but I try to mix up the genres, mix up the authors, etc. to avoid this issue but I can’t change the fact that YA Fantasy was (is?) my favorite genre so I’ve read a lot of it and because of that I can’t help but notice how many of those books are disappointingly similar to one another.
SO to get that out of the way, no this book didn’t knock my socks off and yes it did feel like it was a variation of the same old YA fantasy plot outline.
But now that that is said I can move on to specifics!
The idea to me wasn’t original but I did enjoy reading it mostly (I admit two-thirds of the way through I just resided to mostly skimming…). It was certainly a fun read for fans of YA. Set in a glittering Venetian-inspired fantasy world, the book is told in alternating POV chapters between Nomi and her older sister, Serina. The chapters featuring life in the palace were honestly only interesting to me because of Nomi so clearly not belonging there. But overall they were the most cliché. Serina’s chapters I liked because they posed a nice contrast to Nomi’s life as a Grace yet both are equally imprisoned. Serina’s dark fate actually reminded me of the Children of Icarus series by Caighlan Smith and Nori’s storyline reminded me of the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard.
The twist in the sisters’ fates comes very early on only for another twist to tear them apart and from that point on each is desperately trying to balance surviving with their need to be reunited. While Nomi’s life is suddenly smothered with dress fittings, royal politics, and constant oppressive surveillance, Serina faces a world where the darkness wears no mask and the blood is there ruthlessly on display.
I wish the plot twists weren’t so obvious and I wish Nomi’s chapters didn’t reveal her plans so openly for the reader because whenever a character is so willing to show the reader their hand it’s almost guaranteed that that plan will never come to fruition a.k.a. “plot twist.” Same goes with Nomi’s narrowed mindset with regard to her opinions and who she believes because once again that’s only another obvious way of loudly whispering “a plot twist is coming where everything will be turned on its head and she’ll realize she’s wrong but it’ll be too late!” I won’t spoil details or anything but this technique isn’t uncommon and it’s used more than once in this book alone.
Furthermore it was just a bit too short. I would’ve liked it to have been longer if only to better develop the characters, their relationships, their unexpected lives, and these big plans the sisters are determined to cook up.
But hey, don’t mind me. If you’re looking for a cool YA fantasy to pass the time then this might just be what you’ll love. It was fun and tinged with darkness. A book with great potential that admittedly fell short for me but might be a favorite to you.
As I said, overall this was a fun read for people who are fans of the genre, but it wasn’t entirely original. I felt like it could’ve been, but it didn’t want to be too different and thus settled for mediocrity. And I feel awful saying this, but it’s true and I honestly don’t blame the author because there was a lot of potential in this story. I just think whoever guided the book from draft to completion had their eye on playing it safe in a tough market rather than take a risk to make a splash. Which is fine, I suppose. I fully believe that there will be many many people who fall in love with this book and swoon for its twists. And I’m glad for that! I just wish more publishers would take a bit more risk.
Shock me. Please. Someone. Burn their molds and formulas and surprise me.
Grace and Fury is a safe and likable read for fans of YA, fantasy, sisterhood, and heroines revolting in a man’s world. Feminist dreams set within a split backdrop of glittering courts and volcanic nightmares, this book settles comfortably on the shelf for those looking for a quick but entertaining read.
P.S. Not to judge a book by its cover (although that is literally a book cover’s JOB) but I feel like they could’ve put more effort into the design just like I think they could’ve pushed the story itself further.
Purchase Here: Grace and Fury
Meet Tracy Banghart!
Tracy Banghart grew up in rural Maryland and spent her summers on a remote island in northern Ontario. All of that isolation and lovely scenery gave her the time to read voraciously and the inspiration to write her own stories. Always a bit of a nomad, Tracy now travels the world Army-wife style with her husband, son, cat, and sweet pupper Scrabble.