Title: Grace & Fury
Author: Tracy Bangheart
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
Pub date: July 26th 2018
‘In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.
Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace – selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.
But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.
Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?
I intended to sit down and start Grace & Fury… and several hours later hadn’t put it down, but had finished the whole book. I loved this novel and greatly look forward to the next instalment in the series.
The story is told from the points of view of sisters Serina and Nomi, one seemingly content with the expectations of her, and the other quite openly unhappy about her ‘place’ in the world. The sisters live in a society where there is a limited number of options for women in terms of their futures, for they are not permitted even to learn to read and write, such is the power that the male leaders wish to maintain over them. This frustrates Nomi, while Serina is more cautious and has spent her life trying not to step outside the rules that have been set for her, in the hope that she will one day be able to make life ‘better’ for both of them – but it is her variety of ‘better’ that she believes is the best path, whether her sister likes it or not.
The narrative alternates between point of view chapters from each character, and while I often find myself drawn to one character over another when reading books written in this fashion, I have to say that I grew to love both points of view and wasn’t at all tempted to skip a chapter to get to a different part of the story. Each of the girls goes through a transformation, with Serina’s perhaps slightly more compelling, though the far more violent of the two, while they struggle with the worlds that they find themselves in.
There are some elements that have been seen before in YA novels, such as the use of the two brothers as devices to move along one path of the story, and some slightly stereotypical instances of romance, but, on the whole, the plot is sound and engaging. The narrative is focused on the exploration of women’s place within society, with some plain reminders that it was not so long ago that our female ancestors found themselves in similar situations to the women in the society of Grace & Fury. With this in mind, there are several effective instances of women supporting other women in the story, but there are also moments when I found myself disappointed that it seemed a female character was being ‘rescued’ by a man, given the overall tone of the novel. However, the story does belong to the women in the narrative, who share the most interesting facets of themselves only with each other (with one or two exceptions), knowing full well that they cannot be themselves around any man – or any woman too eager to please the ruling class.
Grace & Fury is a well-crafted novel with rich worldbuilding and compelling characters. Serina and Nomi are obviously at its heart – and they have heart, but they are also fragile, fallible and frightened while simultaneously being brave, daring and rebellious. A pleasure to read.
I received an ARC of Grace & Fury from NetGalley and the publisher.