Review #6: Grace and Fury
I hope everyone is doing well! Today we are going to Viridia, the fantasy world of Grace and Fury, by Tracy Banghart. It's a place where women have no social relevance and are condemned to difficult unfair lives in service of men. The greatest aspiration for some of the women is the role of a Grace, a glorified concubine to the Superior ( the king) and his heir, and it's exactly the role Serina Tessaro has been preparing for her entire life. Serina is sweet, mild, gentle, a perfect woman and complete opposite of her rebellious, angsty sister Nomi. But once the girls get to the palace, something happens: Nomi finds herself a Grace amongst court intrigues, betrayals and dangerous passions while Serina is accused of treason and shipped off to Mount Ruin, an all female prison island where the inmates have to fight for survival.
I have contrasting opinions on this book. The language is fast paced and clear, which makes for an easy enjoyable read but the characters lack depth and the story is more action than anything else. The plot has every possible clichè trope ever and is extremely predictable, especially if you read a lot of young adult, and I figured out how it was going to end about 100 pages in. The cliffhanger that ends the story and anticipates the next book in the duology was definitely not a surprise. Nomi and Serina have some good character moments throughout it and I genuinely did like them but a lot of the other characters where pretty dissapointing and ended up seeming unimportant and plain, including the love interests.
The book is written in chapters focusing alternatingly on Nomi's and Serina's experience. While the Nomi's days in the palace are a dull replay of every other royalty young adult ever written, Serina terrible life on Mount Ruin was much more engaging to me. We see a young girl who has grown up learning etiquette and submission having to face a reality where if she wants to survive and earn food for her team she'll have to kill someone else. Her development is great and she gradually learns to stand up straight for herself, despite the hardships she has to deal with.
Throughout the story we slowly learn more about the history of Viridia and how it came to be the oppressive monarchy it now is. There were some good elements, I liked that no magic was involved (usually very common in young adults) and contributed to making the story more grounded, which I think is important for a book that wants to talk about such real issues such as female oppression. As sad as it is, the condition of so many women in the world is not so different from the one Nomi and Serina were forced to live in. Even the world building though ended up being vague in more than a few aspects and by the end of the book I still couldn't fully picture Viridia.
Grace and Fury has a good concept behind it and it's a great way of talking about very real problems. It's a relaxing read, like its sequel Queen of Ruin, great for someone just getting started to the young adult genre, but a more experienced reader will finish it feeling a little annoyed by all the flaws in the plot.