Reviewing: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

“In the stories, women give up everything…We are always supposed to give. We are never supposed to fight. Why do you think that is?”

“Because they’re afraid of what will happen if we do.”

Grace & Fury follows two sisters, Serina and Nomi, as Serina attempts to be chosen as a Grace – the epitome of beauty and femininity, chosen essentially as wives to the Superior (or King) of Viridia. In a country where women are forbidden to work in certain roles, wear certain things, have certain haircuts, read, write or love other women, Serina has been trained to be meek, obedient and entertaining. Nomi has not, and having watched her sister being trained to dance and smile on commend, being poked and prodded and searched for imperfections in her shift before the whole town, and having watched her twin brother be given every opportunity she has been denied, she’s a danger to herself and others for thinking the system is broken.

I went into this expecting it to be a courtly YA story with some political intrigue and perhaps a coup.

It went from ballgowns and dancing to brutal, bloody murder VERY FAST. And I am 100% here for that.

Because Nomi makes a mistake, and the sisters are separated as their worlds spiral rapidly even further out of their control. As Viridia fights to belittle and control them, Nomi and Serina are forced to adapt and play by the rules in order to challenge them, to allow themselves closeness to the men around them in order to affect them. With an ocean of space between them, the sisters fight to find each other – and to stay alive long enough to succeed.

Being a Grace is presented initially as a chosen, wonderful life. You dance and sew, wear fine gowns and abstain from hard labour for the rest of your lives. Sounds pretty idyllic, right? Slowly, however, we see the dark sides of the system. Graces are chosen as human statues to stand still and elegant for hours on end, are summoned to the chambers of the Superior without the option of refusing, are watched constantly by guards and spies and are subjected to acts of violence – and then punished harshly if they defend themselves. Trapped within their chambers and unsure of who to trust, even amongst themselves, they live lives of opulent isolation. Viridia is a stifling, oppressive place where a woman can be thrown into prison for life, just for trying to feed her family.

But it wasn’t always like that.

And sometimes, if you treat people like they are worth nothing, they fight back.

This book was an unexpected gem for me, I went into it expecting it to be good, I’d seen good things after all, but I found myself really enjoying it and eagerly awaiting the sequel. There were elements of this that really took me by surprise, and the characters had their own hidden complexities – from the Grace who loved a woman, to the mysterious gift giver who left a book for Nomi to find. I’d highly recommend this to any fan of YA who firmly believes that women are people worthy of safety and respect in a world constantly telling us we aren’t.

Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5

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