This Vicious Grace (The Last Finestra #1) by Emily Thiede (2022)
YA Fiction | Fantasy
Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?
Emily Thiede’s exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!
Expected Publication Date: June 28, 2022
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!
I have this dislike for books with people on the covers (I just do, okay? haha), but when I read the book’s blurb I added it to my ‘to read’ list because something about it caught my attention and made me hope. It’s been a while since I’ve really read YA fantasy, or even YA in general, because I somehow kept choosing books that were so wholly unoriginal or trying way too hard that I simply couldn’t persevere. When the publisher offered a copy for me to review I jumped at the chance and though I had my hesitations as soon as I sat down to read it I ended up binging the entire book in two days. Is this book super original? No, not really, and yet there was just something about the execution that made it un-put-down-able. Or perhaps it was Dante. 😉
The plot is a bit dystopian in a very fantasy way. There are people with powers, people oppressed, battling gods using people as pawns, villains turned heroes and heroes turned villains, a rebellion against tradition, power, and government, and of course there is a romance. If I’m being truthful, I don’t know if I ever felt truly surprised by anything that occurred, the story really isn’t totally unpredictable, and yet it was thrilling and filled with my favorite tropes. Actually, there was a bit of comfort rather than boredom in the predictability, I think, which means Thiede chose all of the good tropes to include. I binged this book and enjoyed almost every minute of it. Just when I start to lose hope with YA Fantasy a book comes to its rescue and this time it was This Vicious Grace which kicked off The Last Finestra series with the most swoon-worthy, epic, fantastical, binge-worthy story. Look, all I really know is that it hit the sweet spot when I read it and refused to let me walk away until I’d read every page.
The main character, Alessa, was revealed to be the next Finestra when she was just 13 and immediately became sequestered for training. She was ordered to sever all ties to her family, friends, etc. and embody the role as the goddess’ chosen. This also includes her eventually choosing a Fonte to marry and partner with in battle to protect the island (a nightmare of Biblical proportions that apparently occurs every five years). The problem is that Alessa’s power is to hurt/kill anyone who touches her skin which obviously is a problem since she’ll need skin contact to magnify her Fonte’s powers and unite to defeat the evil monsters the cranky god sends in retaliation to the goddess. She’s now 18, tired, lonely, and at the last dregs of her self-confidence, which is only understandable considering that she had to abandon her old life, can no longer touch anyone, everyone is terrified of her, she’s accidentally murdered three people, and the fate of the entire island rests on her shoulders. Instead of rising to the occasion she keeps accidentally killing the dwindling number of potential Fontes and the pressure and guilt are taking their toll.
Dante is the grumpy, cynical one who ends up falling for the noble, hopeful, sort of sunshine one and I loved every minute of it (an absolute favorite trope of mine and I’m not ashamed to admit it haha). Dante has his own secrets (which I won’t spoil for you though you might guess on your own) but we meet him as a marked criminal fighting in seedy bars for money. As the first person to not show fear in Alessa’s presence, and a few other decent reasons, she convinces him to work as her bodyguard since her failures have led to some, um, unrest in the city. It’s a typical “two people forced to live together/work together end up falling in love” trope and I didn’t mind it at all. He’s snarky, clever, bilingual, an excellent fighter, and a marshmallow on the inside no matter what he says (at least a marshmallow for her). How could I not love him?
Honestly, Alessa and Dante made an excellent pairing and I actually think Thiede did a good job of not going too overboard with either character and their woes. They have rough lives, but there’s enough humor and not simply endless monologues of brooding so it was fun and sweet. They strengthen one another which is what a good pairing is supposed to do. They’re individuals who can stand on their own two feet just fine but together they become even stronger. Neither was pathetic or useless without the other, it just becomes easier to face the world with a hand to hold.
Okay, I had to talk about them first because honestly they take a front seat in this book. It’s not completely romance driven, there is quite a bit of plot surrounding the ticking clock counting down to the god’s next attack on the island, but it’s very prevalent and permeates every page so if you’re not into that then this book might be annoying to you and you’d rather it focused more heavily on the looming battle and world-building which is totally fair.
This book really could have chosen to be more action-oriented, but as it was the romance was well paced and swoon-worthy and the action scenes that were included were pretty cool. If I were to rate this book for the romance plot line then I’d give it 4.5 stars out of 5. If I were to rate it for the looming annihilation plot line however then I’d give it a 3 because honestly I sometimes almost forgot about it or at least didn’t feel the appropriate urgency. I wouldn’t have minded getting to know the Fonte candidates better, more about their powers and how all of that worked, I dunno…there’s a lot of world-building in this Italian/Spanish vibe fantasy world that I’m curious about and was brushed over. That being said, it might have seriously dragged if the author chose to offer more time to those things and I think overall it was probably a good call to just dedicate the story to Alessa and Dante with an epic world and high stakes as their stage. I, for one, did not mind at all.
I’m sorry I can’t talk too much about the setting, magic, side characters, etc., but we really don’t get enough for me to blab on about. Or maybe we do and I just didn’t care haha. Perhaps it paled in comparison to the leads. In fact it’s entirely possible that the world-building was masterfully executed and packed to the brim and I’m simply too blinded by Dante to think of anything else (lol). What we do get, however, was pretty cool and served as an excellent stage for Alessa and Dante to shine and shine they did. If you rely on world-building to enjoy a book then again maybe this one will leave you wanting, but I personally rely more on characters and so I was totally hooked. We do get to know the Fonti a bit more later on in the story and the time we spent with them I really loved because they all seem different and great with at least some growth in their arcs, but I do wish for more (which I’m sure we may get in book 2) because I’m all about a squad.
Hmm…this is truly a rambling post haha. Just know that the set-up is interesting, the main characters are ride or die, the plot is not unpredictable but still totally enjoyable, I’d like the cover better sans person, and you should really consider picking up this book.
Emily Thiede has debuted with a thrilling fantasy filled with battling gods, unlikely heroes, heart-burning romance, unyielding hope and humor, and an ending that will have you in a frenzy for more. This Vicious Grace is a must-read that ought to take the summer by storm and I am in agony that I will have to wait so long before the sequel.
P.S. I know I rarely write these long reviews anymore, life simply got in the way and, ya know, I sort of had to prioritize my ability to earn money for food over my love of blogging about books, but it does feel nice when I can pop back on and ramble about a new read to my heart’s content. I don’t even really know if you like these long reviews anyway haha but if so then I’m sorry for not being able to write them as often!
Meet Emily Thiede!
Emily Thiede is the author of THE LAST FINESTRA (Wednesday Books/MacMillan, summer 2022.) She grew up dreaming of becoming a dragon rider and now writes fantastical tales about magic, mayhem, and characters who flirt with their enemies while the world crumbles.
Born in New Jersey, Emily moved across state lines in high school like a true YA heroine, and now calls Virginia home. When she isn’t writing, you can find her fostering kittens, mentoring, and hosting writer social events.